Anchorage to Homer Road Trip
Anchorage to Homer is the ultimate in Alaska road trips. Every year, thousands of tourists take the drive starting in Anchorage, going around Turnagain Arm, and down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer. Homer is at the “end of the road” where the world’s largest natural sand spit stretches into Kachemak Bay. The end of the road is known as “Lands End”, a perfect name for one of Alaska’s most incredible natural features. What’s not as well known are all the stops you can take along the way. There are endless days of small towns, beautiful vistas, and fishing opportunities waiting for you. If you’re planning a road trip from Anchorage to Homer, make sure you don’t miss the hotspots laid out here.
Anchorage is the easiest city to fly into and the drive to Homer is the perfect road trip to experience a little bit of everything in Alaska. From Glaciers, to bears, and even salmon and halibut fishing, this road trip offers highlights to satisfy anyone’s Alaska adventure qualifications.
Starting Your Alaska Adventure in Anchorage
You will most likely fly into Anchorage and rent a car here. It’s a good city and there is a beautiful park to help you gather your bearings before starting the road trip.
Kincaid Park Beach access – trail head.
Easy parking, this park offers an amazing view of the city of Anchorage. Walk along the Cook Inlet and cityscape, just like the locals do! Fall in love with Alaska and enjoy your last taste of the urban landscape before you embark down the Kenai Peninsula.
Jumping onto the Seward highway south, the road traces Turnagain Arm, named by Captain Cook during his third voyage; the shape of the bay made him turn his ship around, again, and did not connect to a larger waterway.
On a clear day, the steep snow capped mountains will take your breath away. Keep a lookout for Dall Sheep along the cliffs on the highway. In the spring and fall, beluga whales may be spotted in the ocean.
Getting to Girdwood, Alaska
Home of the world Famous Alyeska Ski Resort, this small town offers some incredible hiking opportunities. It’s also home to restaurants, gas stations, and coffee houses. Take advantage of hotels and Airbnbs if you want to stay the night.
The best hiking trail is the Lower Winner Creek Trail
Here, you will experience the most northerly temperate rainforest on the planet. Old growth trees tower above your head and beautiful, crystal clear water flows out of the mountains. The trail is only about 3 miles and is perfect for beginners. It’s a gorgeous hike and a recommended stop for your road trip from Anchorage to Homer.
Getting To Whittier Alaska
If you have time, you may want to drive to the small town of Whittier, Alaska. Getting here requires the use of a one lane railway tunnel, this means all traffic and trains share a single thru-way. There is a schedule you can view on the Alaska DOT website here
On the way, I recommend stopping at the Begich Boggs Visitors Center, located on Portage Lake and offering views of the lake. The best glacier views are had at the Portage Lake Overlook
For the adventurous souls/if you have a canoe or kayak, floating Portage Creek is a great way to spend the afternoon.
The City of Whittier, Alaska
There are restaurants and campgrounds in Whittier. It’s a popular cruise ship destination and you will not be the only tourist in town. The seafood is particularly fresh and I highly recommend getting some halibut or cod fish and chips. The shrimp is also a fantastic choice and is caught from the seas surrounding the town.
There are rental companies that offer charters and tours of the ocean. Depending on your schedule, this town might be a destination in itself.
Pan for Gold in Hope, Alaska
South of Girdwood and Whittier, the Kenai Peninsula begins. Take a look at the wetlands along the highway and look for the migratory swans nesting here.There is also a sign welcoming you to the Kenai Peninsula where many tourists stop to get a photo with it.
At the halfway point between Anchorage and the Kenai River, there is the little town of Hope. It’s about a 30 minute detour from the main highway, it has a restaurant and some nice hiking trails. There is also a campground here. Hope offers public gold panning opportunities and it’s well known by prospectors. Resurrection is known for its rich gold deposits, who knows, you might be able to pay for your entire Alaska Trip here.
Getting to Seward, Alaska
Getting to Seward, Alaska is as easy as following the signs! Route 9 begins here and turns due south, to the beautiful town of Seward, Alaska. The road follows a natural canyon through some awe inspiring mountains that will make you feel tiny. There are plenty of small shops and restaurants along the highway too, feel free to take your time and enjoy the views. If you’re here in late August to early fall, the salmon migration will be in full swing. There is a nice pullover spot just north of Moose Pass that will let you view the salmon as they spawn.
The town of Seward has plenty of lodging and restaurant opportunities, and there are ample tour guides offering all types of expeditions from the town. The road itself splits in two and you can drive along both the east and west coast of Resurrection Bay where campaign is available at either end.
Kenai Fjords National Park
A great hiking opportunity here is walking to see Exit Glacier. An easy hike that gets you up close to a glacier. There are plenty of trails here for longer hikes as well, it’s the only part of the National Park located on the road system.
Following the Kenai River West
Leaving Seward behind, the road becomes narrower and follows a faultline through the Kenai Peninsula. Tracing the Kenai River, this part of the drive becomes arguably the most scenic road in all of America. Along the way there are dozens of potential hikes and points of interest. I’ve listed only a handful and it’s easy to spend countless days along this stretch of highway.
The most popular areas are listed below:
The most popular destination in the area, this easy hiking trail offers bear viewing from a platform overlooking waterfalls while salmon jump up the pools. The best time to see the bears is early morning or late evening.
If hiking is your mission, this is the best trail to get a good view of the peninsula. It goes up the mountain, and is not for beginners.
Skilak Lake Road
If you have time to burn, I highly recommend driving this road instead of the pavement. It’s a dirt road that winds through glacial lakes and offers countless opportunities for photography, hiking, fishing, and camping. Get outside and do some car camping here!
Getting to Soldotna
Sometimes forgotten by the “Homer or Bust” crowd, this is my favorite town in Alaska. It’s home to the world’s best salmon fishing and offers scores of opportunities for experts and beginners alike to catch their limit of fish. Some people spend the whole summer here catching salmon and the town’s livable appeal makes it home for many Alaskans. There are grocery stores, restaurants, and lodging. With amazing hiking trails and publicly accessible fishing holes, this town might make you stop for a day or two.
Soldotna Creek Park
This city park has a public walkway along the river and provides some fine salmon flossing opportunities.
Kenai River Beach
Located in the town of Kenai, this beach is a dipnetters paradise. It also provides some of the best views of Cook Inlet and the volcanoes that line the western shores. That big one is called Mt. Redoubt.
The only hotel that is located on the banks of the Kenai river. Plus, it has a local hangout bar with an amazing view of the river.
Fishing Guides For The Kenai River
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the best way to experience the salmon run is to use a guiding service. Explore Kenai is the best outfitter on the peninsula.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
A nearly two million acre wilderness area that protects 2/3rds of the Kenai Peninsula. From swamps, to mountains, to lakes, and glaciers, this is truly the last frontier. Stop in the visitors center to get a taste of what lives beyond the road.
Soldotna Wednesday Market
Every Wednesday in the summer, Soldotna has live music, and an open air farmers market. Filled with local vendors and breweries, get some food, buy original Alaskan made wares, and try local food. It’s fun for the whole family.
Along the Road to Homer
It might only be 2 hours from Soldotna to Homer but the highway offers some amazing stops along the way. This stretch of highway hugs the eastern shores of the Cook inlet. There are dozens of beaches where you can stop and enjoy the views. These beaches are popular with agate hunters and people have recorded finding mammoth teeth and other ice age animal bones here. Coal is also known to wash ashore. Even more appealing, most of the beaches allow for halibut fishing off the shore.
Here are two excellent beaches you can park and camp at to witness a beautiful Alaskan day.
Clam Gulch State Recreation Area
There is a daily parking fee and there are campsites available.
Anchor River State Recreation area
There is camping here at Halibut Campground, also a state run park.
Things to do in Homer, Alaska
Homer, Alaska, Lands End, the end of the road, congratulations, you made it to one of the most beautiful places in the world. I highly recommend stopping for a view (and a bathroom break) at the parking lot atop the best viewpoint in town.
On your way into town, it’s tempting to motor directly to the Homer Spit and enjoy the myriad of boardwalks and restaurants that abound here. However, there is a town on the mainland, and the views and wildlife here are some of the best in Alaska. Driving these roads will give you a more authentic feel for the town.
Wynn Nature Center
Offers some incredible hiking and bird watching. It’s highly interactive and you will learn about the biome of the area.
This really is one of the biggest tourist hot spots in Alaska. Known as the halibut capital of the world, most fishing charters leave from here. The spit is packed with bars, restaurants, and lodging. People camp along the beach and the waves even offer surfing opportunities for those brave enough.
The Best Bear Viewing in Alaska
Are you looking for an off the road adventure? Snug Harbor Outpost provides the best bear viewing and wilderness experience in Alaska. Leaving from the Homer Spit, take a boat across the inlet, and spend the night on a remote island inside Lake Clark National Park. It’s an excellent way to end your Alaska adventure and it will be the highlight of your Anchorage to Homer road trip.
Homer to Anchorage Road Trip
If you’re in a hurry to get back to Anchorage, driving there from Homer is easily accomplished in a single day. Expect delays due to heavy traffic and road construction but you will most likely make it. In the summer months, the road has been shut down due to mudslides following heavy rains, be sure to check for road closures before embarking north from Homer.
Enjoy your trip to Alaska, and remember, takes lots of pictures!