Kenai Peninsula, Alaska ~ Things to Do

The Kenai Peninsula in southcentral Alaska is 16,000 square miles of wilderness consisting of state and national parks offering opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing and birding, mountains, rivers, lakes, ocean, whale watching, flightseeing, glaciers, and world-class fresh and saltwater fishing. The Kenai is on the road system and is referred to as the Alaskan playground.

The vast river infrastructure allows for some of the best salmon fishing in the world. The Kenai is abundant with lakes and rivers both salt and freshwater. Many are from glacier runoff and are a unique shade of turquois. Opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and stand-up paddle boarding exist along with a lazy day on the beach with a fresh fish bar-b-q for dinner. Experienced guides are available for all activities.

The Kenai River is 82 miles long and runs from the Kenai Lake through the center of Soldotna, 12 miles north of Kasilof, and empties into the Cook Inlet in Kenai 18 miles north of Kasilof. Both Kenai and Soldotna offer parks and fish walks along the river with activities year-round. There are museums, visitor centers, galleries, cultural centers, shopping, breweries, and restaurants. Both are unique and have a different ambiance. Soldotna has a population of 4,600 and can be very busy as it is situated on the Sterling Highway.

Turn right from the Seward Highway, 90 miles from Anchorage, to connect to the Sterling Highway which follows the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula 142 miles to Homer. It is a paved mostly two-lane highway. Cooper Landing is 48 miles south of the junction and is where the Kenai River originates from the Kenai Lake. The upper Kenai River runs from Cooper Landing to Skilak Lake and is considered Class II and Class III white water and does not allow motorized boats. This is prime brown bear habitat so keep an eye out for grizzlies.

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There are year-round activities and something for everyone in both Soldotna and Kenai. Soldotna offers Music in the Park with free concerts Every Wednesday from June to August. The Kenai River Festival in Soldotna Creek Park attracts over 10,000 people during the middle of July, the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, also in Soldotna, offers interactive displays, wildlife films, historical cabins to view, and guided and unguided tours. There is information about berry picking and places to forage for mushrooms. The Donald E. Gilman River Center offers books and information about the cultural and natural history. There are chainsaw demos at the town of Living Trees just north of Soldotna. Kenai and Homer offer 4th of July celebrations. There is a community parade with arts and crafts vendors and food kiosks the fourth weekend in July. There are many salmon fests and fishing derbies throughout the peninsula and if you enjoy running street and trail races from one mile fun runs to ultra-marathons. There are diverse, amazingly beautiful hiking and biking trails from easy to extreme.

In late November Kenai hosts a Christmas bonfire, fireworks and parade. In December through March there is a free movie at Soldotna Creek Park. Christmas in the park in early December in Soldotna has a tree lighting ceremony for the community tree with hot chocolate, cookies, and music. Of course, there is a visit from Santa. The New Year is rung in with outdoor ice skating at Soldotna Creek Park. The annual Frozen River Fest defies the cold with music, bonfires, food vendors, and a beer garden to showcase Alaskan Breweries. Homer hosts a winter carnival in February.

The Tustumena 200 is the only Iditarod qualifier on the Kenai Peninsula and takes place the last weekend of January. The race starts in Kasilof and crosses Tustumena Lake and runs through the Caribou Hills. Dean Osmar, Iditarod champion, founded the event in 1983 for mushers to log required miles. There have been a few cancellations for lack of snow, and organizational issues but hope is for the race to continue. There are opportunities for winter and summer dogsled tours all along the Kenai Peninsula.

If Nordic skiing is your passion explore the 15 miles of groomed trails in Soldotna at Tsalteshi or the Kenai Nordic Trail system in Kenai. The Kachemak Nordic Ski Club in Homer has over 40 miles of groomed trails. The ice fishing at both Centennial and Johnson Lake near the cabins are hot spots for the locals and Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna sponsors an ice fishing derby during the month of February. Of course, there are many opportunities for snowshoeing.

A winter get away to the Kenai Peninsula would not be complete without viewing the northern lights or Aurora Borealis. The Aurora Borealis is Latin and the name is believed to be coined by Galileo. The sun emits energy from solar winds and interacts with the earths magnet and collides with gases creating the dancing colors that we see. Pictures do not do justice to what can be viewed. There is nothing like this unique display of dancing lights.

GET TO KNOW THE LOCAL TOWNS

kenai alaska by Jonesey

Kenai is the largest city on the Kenai with a population of 7,700. You can view three major active volcanic peaks in the Alaskan range from the shore: Mt. Spurr (11,100 ft) which last erupted in 1992, Mt. Iliamna (10,016 ft.), and Mt. Redoubt (10,197 ft.) which erupted in 1989 and 2009. The area is rich in history. Kenai was a Dena’ina native community where people fished, hunted, trapped, farmed and traded.

The Russians tried to develop a settlement but were defeated by the Dena’ina. The first Alaskan gold was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula on the Russian River in 1848, the Army established Ft. Kenai in 1869, and a post office was established in 1899. In the 1950’s oil and natural gas were discovered. Oil, tourism, fishing, and fish processing are the major industries.

view from homer alaska

Homer has a population of 5709, is 60 miles south of Kasilof and is known as the halibut fishing capital of the world. The Homer Spit is a 4.5-mile gravel strip with a major dock facility and a small boat harbor. You can catch water taxis to explore Kachemak Bay or enjoy the galleries, shops, and restaurants offering amazing views of the bay where it meets the ocean, glaciers, and mountains.

There are many smaller villages along the Sterling Highway with unique offerings. Kasilof is located in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula and the cabins are a quiet retreat at the end of the day. Kasilof has a population of 750 which makes for a peaceful, less-crowded get away and a convenient home away from home for exploring and partaking in the many activities the Kenai has to offer. Please call and I will help you plan your dream vacation.

soldotn chamber of commerce logo

While staying at Kasilof Creekside Cabins, consider a visit to the bustling town of Soldotna, a 30 minute drive to the north. Here is “seasonal” advice from their Chamber of Commerce, of which we are a member!

Summer Months
Berry picking, boating, camping, canoeing, clam digging, world-class fishing, hiking, hunting, kayaking, sightseeing, rafting, swimming, mountain biking, bird watching, rodeo grounds, movie theaters, athletic clubs, golf course, museums, live music, and festivals.

Winter Months
Cross-country skiing, hockey, snow-machining, sightseeing, hunting, photography opportunities, movie theater, ice skating, skijoring, snow-shoeing, bird watching, sledding and snowboarding. Plus, Soldotna’s official Winter Festival, Peninsula Winter Games!

kenai chamber of commerce & visitors center