Definitely don't pass up the Kenai - even if the "crowds" scare you. It will be a big part of your Alaskan experience. It's really not that bad, except for July 4 weekend - we go after the holiday. There are so many places to stay so folks are spread out. We stay at Willawaw Creek national forest campground - an absolute beauty, Quartz Creek national forest campground, Seward City Park - right on the water and Homer Spit and love its quirkiness! Be sure to go to the Pratt Museum there and if a clear day take a drive up on the ridgeline for some beautiful views of Homer. Moving around makes it so much easier for checking out areas. Trying to do it all from one base camp would be difficult. We didn't need air conditioning on our whole Alaskan trip! The only reservations we had were for July 4 weekend in Palmer and Denali's Talkeetna campground. Both were made just a few weeks prior. Have a good one!
Full-Timers for 16 Years
.... Now Seasonal
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Couple of comments have mentioned the traffic, and aggressive driving, I have to agree. In well over 100K miles of towing a trailer, I think that the run from Anchorage to Seward, on a Friday night, was probably the most dangerous driving I have ever seen. Unfortunately, some idiots are convinced that any RV is going slowly, and must be passed, no matter who gets killed. We were passed, while travelling with the flow of traffic, several times in places where it was dangerous and illegal. At one point a young lady barely squeaked out of a head on, because she had to get by, and then promptly ended up in a line of fifteen vehicles that were holding us up. That same evening another young female on a Harley killed herself with a failed pass, in a no passing zone.
The Kenai is a magical place, and I can't wait to go back. That said, there are lots of idiots from the ANC area that are willing to do incredibly stupid things to get there a few minutes faster on a weekend. Be careful.
In 2009, we witnessed a head on, on the straight stretch by Potter's Marsh. Two motorcyclists had to hit the ditch to avoid the cars flying everywhere and both of those bikers received broken bones. Never heard what happened to the drivers of both cars. It was a passing situation again that caused the wreck. Of course many people stopped to "help" and I couldn't believe the number of drunks that crawled out of cars to help. When someone shouted, here come the police", the drunks trying to get back into their cars and leave, looked a bit like, I think of rats, leaving a sinking ship. I would say, as a former law enforcement officer, that close to half of the people that stopped could have been booked for DUI violations. Not all were drivers but many were
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The secret to driving the seward highway is to drive during the daylight. which is a lot of the day. Avoid driving around during the rush time of the day. I live in Homer and I know when the reds are in at the russian I want to be past there before 8:00am so I would leave the house at least by 5:30 am. The same with the charter boats on cook inlet The line to the tractor launch in deep creek and ninilchik keeps me away from 5-8 am and mid afternoon. Expect traffic problems with construction and sport fishing.
The seward highway has two or three different methods of getting the slower traffic out of the way "the passing lane" "the turn out" and "the pull off/view area". My favorite is the traffic avoidance method. If I get behind too many vehicles I pull off and wait a few minutes then get back on. If you get behind more than two motorhomes passing is almost impossible so I back off and wait.
I commuted to Anchorage from Homer for over 16 years weekly. The difference between a fast trip to anchorage and a slow one is about an hour. a little less then 4 hours with light traffic to 5 or a little more if heavy.
As others have said, traffic can be brutal. I found that if I did most of driving during the week it was fine. You can't go wrong staying anywhere on the Kenia, it's all great!
The spit at Homer is great, just don't stay in the RV park that has all of the little lighthouses ($$$$$$$) we stayed one night then moved across the road to a little campground, and were able to almost park in the bay for $25.00 a night.
Willowah campground near Portage glacier is great also, then you can do the tunnel drive to Whittier for some of the best sea food chowder you'll ever have! Just take your time and ENJOY God's creation!
We have spent 10-20 days each summer as a family (kids 7/10) in Alaska and primarily on the Kenai, but have covered much more. As much as we like other places in the state we increasingly want to spend the limited time we have between Seward, Cooper Landing and Homer.
Homer is one of our favorite places on the planet. We have stayed everywhere from a friend's front yard to the campgrounds on the Spit. Other than our friend's yard, my personal favorite is the city of Homer campground on the spit. While it doesn't have services it is cheap and the location is great. Second choice would be the commercial campground on the end of the spit. It has services. A caution - camping on the Spit is not much different than a WalMart parking lot with sand as opposed to pavement. The location is fabulous, the environment is wonderful, but the lots are basically flat, bare sand/gravel. We always do a 1/2 day halibut trip (Rainbow Tours) with the kids which, besides halibut, generally provides whale watching. Ditto the ferry over to Seldovia (a great sunny day boat ride).
Cooper Landing is our second favorite place. I don't recall whether you are wedded to commercial, full service lots. If not, Russian River Campground (#1) and Quartz Creek Campground (#2) are where we like to stay. Russian River is great because if you fish you can either hike up to the Falls or down to the mouth without moving your vehicle. Other than mid-June you can generally get a place, but if not Quartz Creek will likely have a open site (other than major Holidays). Both are on Recreation.gov. If you need a shower and laundry then a quick trip up to the Princess Lodge RV park will take care of those...
Love Seward, but we always just drive over from Quartz Creek. Take one of the Glacier cruises on a sunny day. A little spendy, but might be the best day you spend in Alaska.
A sense how much we enjoy Alaska, this year my wife leaves Oregon on July 5 with my cousin and 4 kids in a crew-cab Ford and Bigfoot camper destined to our friend's in Anchorage. They will spend 2-3 weeks on the Kenai, probably a week in Homer alone, before the trip home.
Missed the travel with dog question. We always travel with our Chesapeake and have never had a time on the Kenai when heat would have been an issue (she has been the last 5 years). Because we have flown up in the past and either rented or borrowed an RV/trailer we always have a crate. When we go out Halibut fishing for the day the dog stays in the crate. Otherwise she goes everywhere the kids go. I looked, the record temp in Homer is 81deg, but the average is 61. Seward gets a bit warmer, but averages the same.
I think the traffic is vastly over-rated. Avoid leaving Anchorage on Friday afternoon or going back to Anchorage on Sunday evening. Not much different than any city and especially one where the road out of town is one lane...
Best place for provisions on the Kenai is the Fred Meyer in Soldotna. We often don't even bother to buy groceries in Anchorage if we are driving straight to Homer. It is convenient, well priced, and they have just about anything you could need. The also have fuel, so easy to knock everything out in one stop.
Pick up one of the Fred Meyer customer cards at any store. It is good for a fuel discount and is tied to the dollars you spend. Last year in Fairbanks, we were getting a dime a gallon off the posted price. Safeway is also a good store card to have.