Seward, Alaska

Camping on the Seward Highway in Alaska

 

The Seward Highway has garnered a triple threat of designations: National Forest Scenic Byway, All-American Road, and Alaska Scenic Byway. This beautiful highway travels 127 miles from Anchorage to the community of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. The first 9 miles are within the city of Anchorage and it is called the New Seward Highway.

In this article, I will be listing all of the camping sites on the Seward Highway (Alaska Route 1 & 9) that I know of and what I know of them. Some will be RV capable and some may be primitive; however I will not post RV park businesses unless there is a special circumstance and I will post that circumstance. For a complete, mile-by-mile, listing of this highway and all of the RV parks and much more, I highly recommend The Milepost (www.themilepost.com). I will include some points of interest near each camping site whenever possible too. I will start this list just outside of Anchorage and continue down the Seward Highway to Homer.

For the ease of writing, I will only post the mileposts heading South (S). I will also put a (+) sign if it is within the mile marker; for instance, if the location is at mile 44.4, I will put 44+. You can assume that all campsites have a firepit and table, unless I claim that it is primitive. Please watch for bears in the campgrounds and moose along the highway. So come along and go camping with me!

Mile S 101+ Bird Creek, Chugach State Park: There is a parking area to the east for day-use with interpretive signs and 20 overflow spots. To the West is the campground with 28 campsites, toilets, water, and payphone. There is a paved bike trail from Indian to Bird Creek that runs about 3 miles and goes through the campground. **Warning: Do not go out on the mud flats as it is like quicksand.

Mile S 90 (Side Trip) – Girdwood – Alyeska Highway: The 3 mile Alyeska Highway heads into Girdwood which is known for the skiing and hiking in Alyeska. There is an Aerial Tram and a restaurant on the mountain.

Forest Fair Park – has 20 walk-in campsites available off of Egloff Drive. I have seen people camping there and there is a playground nearby. It is pretty full during certain times of year, especially during the Alyeska Blueberry Festival.

Crow Creek Mine National Historic Site: At mile 1.9 of the Alyeska Highway, you turn down Crow Creek Road and travel 3 miles down to the site. There is a trailhead for Crow Pass Trail at mile 6.

Return to Mile S 90 of the Seward Highway.

Mile S 78+ (Side trip) – Portage Glacier Access Road/Whittier: This road is your access to both the Glaciers, campgrounds, and the port town of Whittier whose only access is through a 2.5 mile shared train/vehicle tunnel. The Portage Glacier area has a visitor’s center, a lake cruise to the Glacier, campgrounds and some awesome scenery. One thing you may want to know is that you can camp pretty much anywhere along the Portage Glacier Access Road. The port town of Whittier is fairly small with a winter population of 159 souls. They grow quite a bit during the summer due to all of the cruise ships and tunnel traffic. The tunnel charges round trip tolls depending on the vehicle size.

At about 3 ½ miles in, you will see the Black Bear USFS Campground; which has 12 campsites, toilets, and it is a nicely wooded area. Watch for bears in this and all areas of this road. I have seen them cross very near here.

At a little over 4 miles in, you will see the Williwaw USFS Campground. This campsite is very near the Middle Glacier and has 60 campsites with some pull-through sites, water, and lots of trails. There is a fish viewing platform nearby. Again, watch for bears.

As you go through the tunnel and enter into Whittier, you will come across a road on the left before coming to the Whittier Creek. It is a beach access road (not sure of the name of the road) with parking, bathrooms, and no other services. I have seen people camping in this beach area.

Just past Whittier Creek, you will see Whittier Street on the right. This road will take you to the paid parking and there is a campground nearby with basic accommodations but no services for RVs.

My 3 kids at Portage Lake. You can see the glacier in the background. When I was a child, the glacier was in the lake near the bank. (photo 2012)
My 3 kids at Portage Lake. You can see the glacier in the background. When I was a child, the glacier was in the lake near the bank. (photo 2012)

Return to mile S 78.9 of the Seward Highway.

Mile S 75Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula! It is fair to note that most any pull out or gravel pit allows primitive camping on the side of this highway, but I will mention the ones that I have seen used the most. Just make sure it is not private property and does not have any “no fires/camping” signs. Be careful of any wildlife in the area.

Mile S 68.5 (West) & 68 (East)Turnagain Pass Recreation Area: (elevation 988 ft) Parking areas with bathrooms and picnic tables on both sides of the highway. This area is a favorite for snowmobilers (west side) and cross country skiers (east side.) Snow often reaches 12 feet and might last well into June. There are some great trails here but the camping will be mostly in your RV or farther in on the trail and very primitive if you walk into the trails. It was worth mentioning this area though.

Mile S 67+Primitive gravel camping area. On the west side is gravel access to some informal camping.

Mile S 65+Bertha Creek USFS Campground: This small campground has 12 sites with water, toilets, and bear proof food lockers. It is in a wooded area by a creek so be watchful of bears.

Mile S 62+Granite Creek USFS Campground: Take the gravel road nearly a mile to the campground that has 19 sites with toilets, water, firewood, host (usually), interpretive signs and fishing. Pretty nice area and you must still watch for bears. Yes, it requires repeating it often.

Mile S 56+ (Side Trip) – Hope Highway Junction: This paved highway is nearly 18 miles long towards the small community of Hope, which is an old gold rush mining town from the late 1800’s. With a population of 151 and some buildings still in good shape from the gold mining days, you can really enjoy this small oasis that is preserved so well.

At about 16 miles in, you will find a junction with Resurrection Creek Road. This road leads to the airport and some trails, but at about ½ mile in you can take Palmer Creek Road which gives you a gravel access into Chugach National Forest. If you go 7 miles down Palmer Creek Road, you will find the Coeur d’Alene USFS Campground with 6 walk-in primitive campsites. (No fee) Watch for bears and I do not recommend this road for RVs or trailers. Return to Hope Highway.

At nearly 17 miles down the Hope Highway, you will find the center of Hope towards the beach. There is access to the Seaview Café and Bar and campground. I do not know very much about this camping area so I am just mentioning it as an option.

At the end of the highway, about 18 miles in, you will a nearly 1 mile loop road that runs through the Porcupine USFS Campground. This campground boasts 24 paved campsites with outhouse, water, firewood, trails, and some overlooks with great views of the Turnagain Arm. I highly recommend this campground and the Hope area for those that want to see Alaska in depth. Watch for bears, once again.

Return to Mile S 56+ of the Seward Highway.

Mile S 46Tenderfoot Creek USFS Campground: About ½ a mile in on a gravel road, you will find a nice campground that is located at the back of Upper Summit Lake. There are 35 sites with water, toilets (wheelchair accessible), boat launch, and fishing. Please be bear aware here. There is a lodge nearby with food and lodging. It is a very beautiful area and they ice fish at this lake during the winter too.

Mile S 39+Devils Creek Trail: There is an expert trail that runs 10 miles into the hills and starts at 1,000 feet and runs up into 2,400 feet. There are camping options available (very primitive) at miles 2.3 and 5.3 along the trail. There is also a public-use cabin (must be reserved in advance).

Mile S 37+ – Southbound exit for Sterling Highway (Alaska Route 1): To continue to Seward, continue straight ahead on Alaska Route 9. For the Sterling highway and its campgrounds, click here.

Mile S 37Tern Lake Junction (Sterling Highway 2nd junction): You can turn here to access a second junction with the Sterling Highway (Alaska Route 1) if you want, but I mention it because you must turn here to access Tern Lake USFS Wildlife Viewing Area. There are not campsites here but I have seen people do primitive camping in the parking area corners. This is a great spot to see nesting birds and other wildlife. Return to Alaska Route 9, the Seward Highway.

Alaska Route 9: Heading toward Seward. Travel slowly through Moose Pass (at mile S 28) and stop in and visit a few places here.

Mile S 24+Trail River USFS Campground: There is a side road that leads 1.2 miles in to this gorgeous campground. I highly recommend this campground which has 91 campsites with day-use picnic sites, shelter, volleyball net, playground, and host. This is a great place for berry picking in the fall.

Mile S 23+Ptarmigan Creek USFS Campground: This is a cozy campground with 16 campsites featuring water, toilets, and fishing in the creek or in Ptarmigan Lake (hike in 3.5 miles). There will be salmon spawning in the creek in the fall.

Mile S 16+Primrose USFS Campground: This campground is located about a mile down Primrose Spur Road (past private homes) on the Kenai Lake. It is a dirt road and may not be great for larger RVs or trailers. The day use area is located on the lake and has a sizable beach that many use for access to the Kenai Lake for winter snowmobiling. The campground has 8 sites in a heavily wooded area with toilets, boat ramp, firepits, and water. There is a trail that is used for hikers in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter which runs 6.5 miles and connects with Lost Creek Trail (7 miles).

Mile S 3+ – Exit Glacier Road via Herman Leirer Road: Turn to the west for Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park. This road travels nearly 8 ½ miles to reach Exit Glacier. I will warn you right now, there are a lot of bears in the area!

Right after turning onto the Herman Leirer Road, take a right onto the Old Exit Glacier Road loop. Travel about 1 ½ miles in and you will enter the Glacier Road Special Use Area with semi-primitive camping and an 8 day camping limit.

If you don’t take the Old Exit Glacier Loop junction, and remain on Herman Leirer Road, you will enter the Kenai Fjords National Park at about 1.3 miles in. This road is closed in the winter to vehicles but open to skiers, snow machines, and mushers. You are now entering Exit Glacier Road Special Use Area (Alaska DNR) with recreational tent and RV (no services) camping at designated pullouts along the next 2.2 miles of the road. There is an 8 day limit, outhouses, and you must pack out your garbage. This is a fairly primitive area with gorgeous views of the river and surrounding areas.

At about 8 miles in you will find the turn on your left for a walk-in tent campground with 12 sites. There is a bathroom, picnic shelter with bear proof food locker, and no fees. I personally have seen pictures of cars that have been broken into by large bears in this area and they open them up like a tin can. Please be careful and aware. Just past this camping area is the Exit Glacier Nature Center, which is a must-see for anyone visiting the area.

Bear warnings
Bear warning sign found at the Exit Glacier campground in 2013.

Return to the Seward Highway at mile S 3.7.

Mile S 2+Forest Acres Municipal Campground (At Hemlock St.): You will find wooded sites on a gravel loop with flush toilets and RV hookups.

Mile S 2+Seward Military Resort/Seward Air Force Camp (via Sea Lion Dr.): Both vacation facilities for active and retired military. There are camping sites available as well as cabins and RV services in both areas. This area is beautiful and well kept. If you or someone is your party is active or retired military or a federal employee, you will gain access to this coveted camping area.

Mile S 0 – Two more areas to mention that are not on the Seward Highway but are accessible. The Waterfront Park Municipal Campground is located literally on the waterfront in Seward (between the docks and downtown) and they have some RV hookups, restrooms with coin-op showers, and a dump station. (Owned by the City of Seward)

Another area to mention is Lowell Point Recreation Area that is located past Seward on Lowell Point Road (3 miles). There is the Lowell Point State Recreation Site with many trails available, but be sure to take a tide table book with you as much of the trails require low tide access.

In Lowell Point, down Pinnacle View Road, you will find the Lowell Point State Recreation Area Beach Parking with a trail to the beach. The beach is beautiful and a great area for photographs. Throughout this community, you will find private campgrounds, cabins and other lodging and kayaking businesses. The two that I am aware of are Millers Landing and The Silver Derby Campground & RV Park.

Alaska Sealife Center with my 2 boys in March 2009. Seward, Alaska
Alaska Sealife Center with my 2 boys in March 2009. Seward, Alaska

Don’t forget to visit the Alaska Sealife Center while you are in Seward. I also find that a short cruise can take you to see Fox Island, a multitude of glaciers, and tons of sea life. Halibut fishing is a definite perk and don’t forget to walk through downtown Seward and the docks to get a closer glimpse into the locals world in beautiful Seward. This area is one of my favorite weekend vacation spots.

Seward, Alaska
This is downtown Seward. March 2009
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