Prince William Sound (PWS) sits in a calm, well-sheltered inlet on the Gulf of Alaska. It hugs the state’s south coast, cradled between the Kenai Peninsula and the Southeast panhandle and protected by three large barrier islands.

Kenai Fjords National Park covers much of the eastern Kenai Peninsula, west of Prince William Sound. This is one of the few areas where you'll frequently have cell phone service and access to services like outhouses, established trails, etc.


Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound & Kenai Fjords NP highlights

Kenai Fjords National Park's star highlight is the 700 square mile Harding Icefield, from which almost 40 glaciers flow. You can complete a challenging 4-mile hike (almost all uphill) to views of the top of the icefield (8.2 miles round-trip). This is not a technical hike or climb, but it is a gruelling hike that any visitor can be proud of completing, including the hardcore folks.

A traverse of the icefield--which can take up to 2 weeks -- is popular; mountaineering skills and/or a competent guide are very much required.

Also popular is Exit Glacier, found within about a 1/4-mile walk of the road on established trails, with markers showing how far the glacier has receded over time.

There is extensive paddling throughout the Kenai Fjords National Park coastline. These waters are exposed to the Gulf of Alaska, so inexperienced paddlers should always travel with a guide. Landings involve surf, and afternoons are usually windy. Beware the fast, extreme tides in all of Alaska's coastline.

The park abuts on the western side of Prince William Sound and is excellent for wildlife watching, although there's usually more wildlife in the eastern portion of Prince William Sound.

One of Prince William Sound's biggest highlights: 150 glaciers, 17 of them that meet the ocean (they're called tidewater glaciers).

Both Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound offer excellent ocean fishing, including salmon, halibut and other oceangoing fish. Kenai Fjords National Park offers plenty of inland fishing opportunities too.

How to get to Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords NP

Key communities for accessing Prince William Sound are Whittier (60 road miles from Anchorage including a one-way tunnel, about an hour and a half); Valdez (a six-hour, 300-mile drive from Anchorage) and Cordova (accessible by Alaska Marine Highway ferry or commercial plane; 45-minute flight from Anchorage on Alaska Airlines, or 60 minutes on Ravn Alaska).

Key access for Kenai Fjords National Park is through Seward (125 miles, 2.5 hours from Anchorage by road). The Kenai Fjords National Park visitor center is at the Seward boat harbour; the park also runs the Exit Glacier visitor centre.

Weather in PWS and Kenai Fjords NP

Prince William Sound enjoys a mild maritime climate, with average summer highs around 15 C (60 F). The region receives a lot of rainfall--approximately 60 inches of rainfall annually, and some 30 feet of snow.

Kenai Fjords National Park Weather has a generally mild maritime climate, with unpredictable, quickly changing weather. Summer temperatures range from 5 to 20 C (mid 40s to low 70s F) and are often overcast and rainy. Winter temperatures range from freezing down to -30 C (-20). Rainfall is year round with the rainiest in June and September.

Land-based activities are usually best May to October.

Wildlife in PWS and Kenai Fjords NP

There are more than 220 species of birds in Prince William Sound, and an estimated 200,000 birds summer there.

Common aquatic species include Stellar sea lions, seals, sea otters, Dall's porpoise, a variety of whales including orca, humpback, minke, fin and migrating grays.

Common land-based species you'll see in Kenai Fjords National Park Weather include moose, bears (both black and grizzly), lynx, coyotes, wolves, mountain goats and even the occasional wolverine or stray caribou.

Prince William Sound & Kenai Fjords facts & figures

  • Kenai Fjords National Park was established in 1980 and covers 601,839 acres. Sixty percent of the park is covered by snow and ice.

  • Prince William Sound covers 3,800 miles of Alaska's rugged coastline, including part of the Chugach National Forest.

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