There are few scenic road trips on earth more spine-tinglingly dramatic than the Alaska Seward Highway. For just over 125 miles the road winds through a medley of starkly contrasting environments, where cobalt waters shimmer with the ripples of whale schools and soaring mountain peaks glisten brilliantly in the sun. Along the way, a wealth of cultural, historical and, of course, natural hot spots await, from old Native Indian settlements and ex-Russian trading posts, to wide fjords and sprawling sections of fir and birch forest. If anything, the Seward Highway is an absolute must for travelers looking to experience the wildest navigable sections of America by car, and visitors are rarely disappointed with the rugged outback that awaits.
Photo by lovingshiva/Flickr.
Photo by D&S McSpadden/Flickr.
A long term contender for the title of Alaskan capital, the city of Anchorage is not only the state’s most populous, but also it’s most politically and culturally loaded. While complete with all the ubiquitous wilder pursuits of a northern city, Anchorage also has a fair smattering of museums, art galleries, and even something of a thriving nightlife. But, for those looking to kick their road trip off with a bout of adrenaline-heavy fun, skiing, snowmobiling and an array of other extreme sports opportunities means there’s plenty of action on offer all through the year.
While located in the city itself, this one is the perfect first stop for travelers making their way south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway. It offers a truly enthralling and encompassing introduction to the rich natural history that’s emerged from scientific endeavours in this wild and far flung corner of the continent, displaying everything from dug-up animal skeletons to historical impressions of ice age living in Alaska. Don’t miss the chance to touch a genuine woolly mammoth bone, or to examine the fossils of some of North America’s oldest dinosaurs!
Located just 20 minutes from Anchorage, this family-owned fun centre is a great stop off on the highway. Kids and adults alike will love the hands-on gold panning and mining workshops that take place in the creek where Native Indian settlers first made their home hundreds of years ago, not to mention the striking 360s of the Turnagain Arm, where it’s possible to spot whales and salmon colonies depending on the season.
The Chugach State Park is a rich patchwork of soaring glacial peaks, deep, water-filled valleys, and wide open vistas of sprawling pine forests; a place of pure natural drama perched neatly on the edge of the Seward Highway route just east of Anchorage city. As one of the largest protected nature reserves in all of North America (covering just under half a million acres of land!), it’s perhaps not difficult to see why outdoorsy types and nature-lovers are drawn here en masse all through the year.
The Chugach National Forest hugs the rugged fjords of the Prince William Sound in southern Alaska, adding vast swathes of deep green vegetation to the lowlands between the soaring Pacific Coast Mountains and ranging its way eastward into the Wrangell-St Elias Park and Reserve. It’s an area of natural beauty so vast and varied that visitors enjoy perhaps the best array of outdoorsy activities and extreme spots on the continent, from glacier skiing to freshwater fishing in the bay.
Located just at the northern tip of the Chugach National Forest, it’s perhaps fair to say that this mountaintop eatery is one of the highest in all of America. It’s perched more than 600 metres above sea level and enjoys stunning 360-degree panoramas of the Girdwood section of the Cook Inlet; a truly dramatic swathe of mountain peaks and rolling valleys to behold. What’s more, the in-house Chef Aaron Apling-Gilman is a veteran of the American fine-dining circuit, cooking up locally-sourced meals that mirror his own love for the earthy and honest ingredients of nearby Kenai and Prince William Sound.
Once a humble bastion of the old American fur trade, the city of Seward is now a veritable hub of nature tourism in the very depths of beautiful Resurrection Bay. Visitors come here to enjoy the laid-back charm of a remote Alaskan town, along with the number of adventure activities made possible by its rugged location. Biking, hiking, fishing and wild swimming are all on offer in the backcountry that surrounds town, while the unrivaled panoramas that dominate on all sides – from the Kenai Fjords National Park to formidable Mount Marathon – make it a worthy finish for any road trip on Alaska’s most magnificent highway.