Anchorage to Soldotna (Kenai):

 

The drive from Anchorage to Soldotna (Kenai) is approximately 150 miles and takes about 3 hours if driving with minimal stops. I suggest you take your time and enjoy this scenic drive rated by National Geographic as one of 50 ultimate road trips. As you leave Anchorage, you start this adventure along the beautiful, sometimes turbulent, Turnagain Arm Turnagain Arm  explored by Captain James Cook in 1778 while looking for the Northwest Passage. If the timing is right, you might see an incoming bore tide bore tide , majestic, snowcapped mountains, mountain goats, and an occasional Beluga whale making its’ way up the inlet in search of food.  (continued below)
The Bird Point rest area at milepost 99 (not shown on the map) is a great place to stop with loads of information on tidal activity and local interests.


Girdwood, approximately 35 miles out of town, is a scenic place for a lunch stop at Jack Spratts but there are other good places to eat places to eat including the Double Musky.


After lunch, it’s a short drive (10 miles) from the Girdwood turnoff to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Wildlife Conservation Center on the right side of the highway. The entrance fee is $12.50/adult or $35/car. Although an open zoo setting, it’s the most Alaska wildlife you’ll see in one area and worth the time and money.


From there, you might want to cross the Seward Hwy and take the Portage Highway to Whittier Whittier. It’s about a 9 mile drive (one way) including a drive through the second longest tunnel (2.5 miles) tunnel in the US. The fee for the tunnel is $12/car roundtrip. You will pass several glaciers including Portage Glacier. It’s quite spectacular.


Up for a little Alaska history? Consider taking another side trip into one of the first gold rush towns in Alaska, the town of "Hope" Hope. The drive is about 16 miles one-way and takes you through scenic mountains and streams to the other side of Turnigain Arm. You might enjoy seeing early gold rush artifacts and photos of Hope at the Hope Historical and Mining Museum.

 

Continuing your drive south while keeping right at “Sterling Junction”, also called the Seward “Y”. A left turn instead would take you to Seward (37 miles) however, consider exploring Seward when you have a full day. Seward is only 95 miles from “A Cabin by the Pond” and would make a perfect day outing or stop by on the trip back to Anchorage if you wish. (continued below)

Tern Lake at Sterling Junction

In another 8 miles, you’ll encounter Kenai Lake Kenai Lake snuggled up to the Kenai Mountains. This zigzag, 22 mile long lake has a vibrant, aqua greenish blue color, is 540’ deep and is fed by the Snow River off the Sargent Icefield. After a few more scenic miles, you will cross the Kenai River Bridge, the headwaters of the world famous Kenai River which was voted the “#1 fishing hotspot in North America in 2004” by Field & Stream. It runs 82 miles westward from Kenai Lake through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, through Skilak Lake and into the Cook Inlet near Kenai Alaska. The record king salmon, 97lbs, was caught in the Kenai River near Soldotna in 1985.

 

You will immediately pass the small residential area of Cooper Landing Cooper Landing. Originally a small gold rush town, it is now an area of numerous water rafting companies.  On the left, a couple more miles up the road, is the access to the Russian River Falls Russian River Falls trail. North end of the trail can be accessed at mile 52.5 of the Sterling Highway. Turn into the Russian River campground and you’ll see the trailhead parking about 1 mile further in the park. The trail is pretty easy and about 2.3 miles one way. Best to hike it when the sockeye salmon are running and watch them jump the falls. It's lots of fun but make plenty of noise and watch for bears! If you want to back track from Soldotna on another day, it’s about a 45 mile drive.


From there, you will cross the Kenai River again and travel about 1 mile to Sportsman's Landing Sportsman's Landing and the Russian River Ferry, at milepost 54.8.  If you are into "combat fishing" for red salmon, this is a good place to fish. This is a fee area and you will need to take the ferry across the Kenai River. You’ll know when the fish are running, as anglers will be lined up elbow to elbow across the river.


From here, Soldotna center is about 40 miles more at milepost 95. Once in Soldotna, continue to “A Cabin by the Pond”, by driving straight ahead toward Homer. Stay in the left lane as you cross the Kenai River bridge (about 1½ miles). Immediately on your right, is the Soldotna Visitor's Center Soldotna Visitor's Center. This is a “must see” when you have a little time to explore. The friendly staff will provide lots of material and ideas for your stay in our beautiful area. Make a left at the next light onto Funny River road. Continue 1 mile and turn left on Airport Heights road.  If you drive by the Soldotna Airport, you’ve gone too far. “A Cabin by the Pond” is about 1 block up Airport Heights road and on the right just before the intersection of Oehler road. You can’t miss the big brown shop with white garage doors. This is the back driveway, but pull in there to register and for parking instructions. Call a few minutes ahead (907-262-4728) and we’ll watch for you! See you there!