While a 4.5-hour drive might be a bit daunting for an average road trip, the journey from Anchorage to Homer is anything but ordinary. It’s well worth your time to take what’s often named as one of the most scenic in the world.
We suggest taking it slow and consider making these stops that are the ideal ingredients for a road trip of a lifetime.
Just south of Anchorage, Potter Marsh offers what’s been called the state’s most accessible wildlife viewing spot. Part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Reserve, it stretches for almost two miles between the New Seward Highway and the foot of the Chugach Mountains, with viewing points from boardwalks and highway pullouts.
The wetland labyrinth may be relatively small, but it contains a surprising number of diverse habitats attracting over 130 migratory and nesting bird species. In addition to the many birds, including bald eagles, watch for beaver, moose, and spawning salmon.
A slight detour (less than nine miles south-east of Portage Glacier Road) will bring you to Whittier and the Portage Valley, a 14-mile isthmus connecting the Kenai Peninsula to mainland Alaska. While it’s possible to get close to Portage Glacier, you’ll need to take a boat or kayak across Portage Lake. Hiking Portage Pass Trail is the easiest way to get a glimpse.
Just two miles each way, the trek crests at Portage Pass and then drops through glacial scrub before reaching the wide, gravelly shores of the lake, directly across from the glacier.
Turnagain Arm is a narrow waterway that branches off the Cook Inlet south of Anchorage, a place that’s impossible to miss with its dramatic views. The Seward Highway clings to the coast of Turnagain Arm for about 40 miles, with the trail (formerly referred to as the Johnson Trail) accessible from multiple points along the way.
Located in Chugach State Park, the Rainbow Trailhead is an easy 3.8-mile out-and-back trek just off the highway, yet it’s less likely to be crowded than the others. Abundant wildlife can be spotted, including moose and bears. Dall sheep are often seen in the rocks above Windy Corner.
Just two miles further down the highway, Beluga Point Lookout provides impressive views of the sparkling waters of the inlet and mountains, along with the chance to spot beluga whales or harbor seals that come in with the tide. Turnagain Arm is known for its second-highest bore tide in North America, with the right conditions bringing waves of up to 10-feet high that rush up the waterway for an unforgettable sight.
This scenic pullout is also one of the Upper Cook Inlet region’s earliest archeological sites, visited by Alaska natives for thousands of years.
About 6.5 miles south-east of Beluga Point, discover more about the history of the region at the Indian Valley Mine, which played a key role in its early settlement.
Founded in 1910 by a nomadic traveler who’d run away from home at just 12, joining the circus before heading to Alaska during the gold rush, the buildings here are on the National Register of Historic Places. They include three collapsed mine shafts, a hand-dug gully, a log assay office, and a log cabin.
Visitors to the mine can tour the historic buildings, pick up gifts or souvenirs, and even try their luck at gold panning.
Once you’re back on the road again, the Bird Ridge Trail is only minutes from the mine. A moderately strenuous hike climbing 3,500 feet in a little over a mile, it delivers big rewards: panoramic views of the fjord-like Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Mountains.
About a 25-minute drive from Bird Ridge, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center offers guaranteed animal sightings. In the unlikely chance you haven’t seen much in the way of wildlife yet, you can always stop here for a close-up look at many different creatures that inhabit Alaska.
The center rescues sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife, including musk ox, bears, wolves, bison, moose, reindeer, lynx, and elk, among many others. Covering over 200 acres, the animals have lots of room to roam, providing an excellent replication of their own wild habitat.
About 100 miles further into your drive, you’ll reach the town of Soldotna. It’s the perfect place for a break and mouthwatering baked treat at the Moose is Loose Bakery. Whether you’re craving something sweet or savory, you’ll find it here, from apple strudel and baklava to pizzas.
Just before you reach the town of Homer, a little over 71 miles from the “Moose,” you’ll reach the Homer Baycrest Overlook. The magnificent views are something that never gets old. Even the locals enjoy this spot as it reveals the beautiful waters of Kachemak Bay with dramatic mountains and glaciers in the backdrop. Take time to savor this magical moment with your drive nearly finished.
The Best End Destination
After your journey, you’ll want the perfect base for enjoying Homer. Land’s End Resort offers the only accommodation right on Homer Spit, the very best place to be. Located at the furthest end, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the bay and the mountains right along the water’s edge. Select from a wide range of accommodation options from historic to luxurious. And, with a restaurant that includes a menu of the region’s famously delicious halibut, oysters, salmon, and more, you won’t have to worry about heading into town to dine.
While the views are a definite highlight, many guests rave about the service with the staff who treats everyone who stays like family. It’s the perfect place to end one of the world’s best road trips.