The Seward Highway
The 127-mile Seward Highway—a National Scenic Byway—connects Anchorage with Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. Mileposts are numbered from the Seward end; subtract these numbers from 127 for the distance to Anchorage. The Seward Highway has passing lanes, wide shoulders, and a 65 mph speed limit much of the way, but take the time to enjoy the scenery. Keep your headlights on at all times, and watch for moose.
Near Portage at Mile 48, the Seward Highway banks sharply to the west along Turnagain Arm before turning again southward as it climbs into the Kenai Mountains. At Turnagain Pass (Mile 69, elevation 988 feet), the west side of the road has a big pullout with portable toilets. Stop and stretch in this pretty alpine area where the snow remains until late June. In the winter the snow is often 10 feet deep.
The west side is popular with snowmobilers, while the east side is reserved for those on skis or snowshoes. Turnagain Pass can be deadly at certain times of the winter, and a number of snowmobilers have died in avalanches here while riding on the dangerous upper slopes.
At Mile 64 is the northern trailhead for the Johnson Pass Trail, which goes 23 miles over relatively level terrain and emerges at Mile 33 of the Seward Highway. Two in-the-trees Forest Service campgrounds ($14) are nearby: Bertha Creek Campground (Mile 65) and Granite Creek Campground (Mile 63). The paved Sixmile Bike Trail parallels the highway from the Johnson Pass Trailhead south to the junction with the Hope Highway.
At Mile 59 the highway crosses a staging area along Granite Creek for rafters and kayakers down Granite Creek and on to Sixmile Creek. This is one of Alaska’s premier white-water areas. Check out the action from the footbridge that crosses Sixmile Creek, accessible via a short path from the parking area just east of the Canyon Creek bridge.
Two companies lead white-water trips here: Chugach Outdoor Center (907/277-7238 or 866/277-7238, www.chugachoutdoorcenter.com) and Nova Riverrunners (907/745-5753 or 800/746-5753, www.novalaska.com). Three-hour trips ($99) are in Class IV water, while the five-hour trips ($149) include some intense Class V sections of the narrowly constricted lower canyon.
Nova is the original company on the river, and both companies have offices near Hope (Chugach Outdoor Center has a hot tub to warm up in after your adventure). Chugach Outdoor also offers family-friendly 2.5-hour Turnagain Pass float trips ($80 pp) on the scenic East Fork of Sixmile Creek.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition