The community of Seward, Alaska may be home to only a few thousand people, but what it lacks in population it makes up for in scenery, recreation, and access to Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage. A one-time terminus for steamships dropping passengers bound for Anchorage, Seward is a historical and geographical cornerstone of Southcentral Alaska since its settlement in 1903. The Alaska Railroad still runs north and south along busy lines; the Alaska Marine Highway ferries used to call in Seward; and sled dog teams once ran mail given to their mushers. But driving a car from Seward to Anchorage and beyond? That’s only been available to residents and visitors for the past 68 years.
The Seward Highway
The Seward Highway, completed in 1951, is 127 miles of breathtaking mountains, chilly waterways, and unfettered access to some of Alaska’s best outdoor recreation. One could rush from Seward to Anchorage and vice-versa in under three hours, but why do that? It’s a road well-traveled but the journey is often missed, so visitors should definitely make time to explore.
The most comprehensive way to drive the Seward Highway is by using The Milepost, an annual publication that outlines every mile marker, roadside attraction, restaurant, and pullout. It’s also a great way to learn more about the land on either side of your vehicle; from Chugach State Park to Chugach National Forest (https://www.fs.usda.gov/chugach/), acres and acres of public land beckon for hiking or camping, and it’s worth pulling over for both. Try the Turnagain Arm Trail in the state park, just a few miles south of Anchorage; or the Trail of Blue Ice in Portage, a level bike or walking trail that offers great views of distant hanging glaciers.
Don’t miss a stop in the Girdwood, a short 40 minutes from Anchorage, where Alaska’s largest ski area, Alyeska Resort (www.alyeskaresort.com), dominates the landscape. Grab a coffee and fresh bread at The Bake Shop, then hop aboard Alyeska’s aerial tram for a birds-eye view of beautiful Glacier Valley and the famous hanging “Seven Glaciers.” Alyeska also rents skis and mountain bikes seasonally to take advantage of exceptional terrain, be it boards or wheels.
Summit Lake at Milepost 46 of the Seward Highway offers a serene respite from driving and is at about the midpoint of the Anchorage-to-Seward drive. Find a lodge with accomodations, dining, and coffee and ice cream treats for weary travelers. Like to camp? Tenderfoot campground is located on the other side of the lake and is perfect for fishing, canoeing, or relaxing by the shoreline.
The tiny town of Moose Pass looks like it would be a mere “pass-through” community, but savvy drivers know to stop here for a glimpse of beautiful Trail Lake, or to stop for a cup of coffee and homemade fudge at the local trading post. Founded in 1912 to serve as a railroad construction camp, Moose Pass now sits on both sides of the Seward Highway, only 29 miles from the city of Seward. It is popular with hikers, cross-country skiers, and paddlers.
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Stop at Stoney Creek Zipline Tours just off the Seward Highway near town, and be prepared for a treetop adventure. Stoney Creek gives visitors eight zips through a dense Alaska rainforest; three suspension bridges above glistening creeks and lush valleys; and two rapels for a finale like none other.
Seward is located at Mile 0 near the end of Resurrection Bay and the start of the famous Iditarod National Historic Trail. Stop by Milepost 0 and gaze out upon the smooth water of the bay, knowing that you’ve traveled as so many before you have; hearing, seeing, and tasting the real Alaska.
Don’t forget to check out Seavey’s IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours for that once in a lifetime Alaska adventure.