Alaska – Anchorage highway 1 South and Russian River
What? : Highway 1 from
Anchorage south (Sterling Highway) lead all the way to Homer at the far end. This road is one of the most traveled roads in
It leads to the
Kenai Peninsula with all the popular destinations like Seward, Whittier, Homer
and Soldotna. It also offers many amazing viewpoints and many attractions and
side roads along the 220 miles….
This region of
Alaska was first explored by Russians in the late 1700s. However, a little over
150 years later it was purchased from Russia along with the rest of the Alaskan
territory. Even today you can still find remaining of the Russian cultures in
the small towns of east Kenai Peninsula.
Highway 1 is
well maintained good condition road; high traffic, for most part is single-lane
road so passing may be difficult, drive slowly, stop at roadside parking and
enjoy the scenery around you.
As you drive
south of Anchorage on highway 1 to your end destination (to Witter, Seward or
Homer) the road itself should be part of your trip planning.
You will have
many things to see and explore as you drive south, some activities can be a short
stop at a viewing point, animal watching, short or long hikes, fishing and even
staying in one place for few days and explore it surrounding even more.
I will divide
my description of highway 1 road-trip into 3 road segment and provide
interesting locations and short description, the ordered of locations from
north to south.
The 3 road sections
1. Anchorage –
Portage Glacier Road (the turn to Whittier)
Glacier Road – Sterling
3. Sterling –
1. Anchorage to Portage Glacier
Road (the turn to Whitter)
section starch south of the city of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm bay narrow waterfront,
on one side you can see the bay waterfront and the mountains on the other sides
the bay and on your left side high mountain of Chugach State Park.
Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk:
to a viewing platform over the marshes.
Hwy 1 roadside
parking. From this viewing point you may spot the Beluga whale in the bay, we
did not manage to spot them.
you can see here is the unique phenomena of Bore Tidal Wave. This happens at
this bay because it is long and shallow, incoming high tide water that are
getting into the bay collides with previous tide cycle of outgoing low tide
This creates 5-10f
high tide wave that moving across the bay upstream at 10 miles per hr, local
surfer time the best date to come (max diff between low/high tide) and manage
to surf the wave for long distance.
Ski site and
place to hike at the mountain top as also the Virgin Creek Falls Trailhead for
hiking to the waterfalls.
Located on the
junction of hwy 1 and the road to Whittier. At Alaska Wildlife Conservation
Center, like an open zoo. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to
conservation, research, education, and animal care.
Here you can
see many local animals in relatively small open area.
We did not stop
2. Portage Glacier Road to Sterling
section is heading inland, far from ocean bays. It finds the way into the
mountain ridges, crossing them to the other side in relatively low pass.
Probably the main road section attraction is the Russian river, prime location
for fishing, hiking, rafting and many other outdoor activities.
This is a very
beautiful mountain pass, no need to hike here, this is an excellent stopping
point along the road to watch the open landscape view, snow covered mountain
ridges, waterfall and lakes.
Small town located
off the beaten road on the south shore of the Turnagain Arm bay. There is no
major attraction here, its beauty come from being remote and with few tourists
around. We did not visit hope but this is an excellent option if you want to
park your RV for the night at less crowded place.
Turn to Seward,
there is a nice pound near the southside of the junction so if you are going
to Seaward you can stop for bird viewing.
Campground (Old Cooper Landing Boat Launch):
An option to
camp near Cooper Landing
Makes for an
excellent basecamp to explore the Russian River area. Some of the most popular hiking
trails are nearby (easy/moderate intensity and distance) include the Russian
River Falls and Juneau Creek Falls.
NOTE: This area,
as most of Alaska, is bear country so carry bear spray with you.
The town offer
many adventures opportunities for rafting and fishing along the Russian river.
This area is
very popular for salmon fishing so it can be crowded during salmon run season.
famous Russian River salmon falls where you can see up in close salmons jump
over the waterfall boulders, you might be lucky and see a bear catching the
salmons as they jump up the falls (we were not lucky …).
Falls Trail is 5.1 miles out and back hike.
For RV: you
should add 2 miles for parking at the RV parking lot at the park entrance and
walk along the road to the trail head small parking.
This is by far
the most popular hikes in the area (thus busy) but it worth it!
The trail moderately
clime the woods cover hills up it high point and then it drops to river gorge
and to the viewing platform above the waterfalls.
falls rushing cascading water and watching the salmons jumping over the
waterfall was incredible view.
There is an
an-official side trail around the back right of the observation decks that leading
down to the river level for a better view, be careful not to fall into the
rushing cold water.
the time of the year and whether the salmon are running campgrounds in this
area can be incredibly busy and you might have to camp elsewhere and make day
trips into the region.
We did not plan
to sleep here so we have no problem with that.
Start at Resurrection
Pass Trailhead South Parking on hwy 1, the Juneau Creek Falls is a 7.1 mile
moderately trafficked out and back trail that end at the falls or the falls
for Russian river Salmon fishing. Parking lot can be full mid-day (even more challenging if you are with RV) so if you plan fishing from here come early.
Even if you are
not fishing this is the place to watch all the fisherman catching salmon when
they run upstream, hundreds of fishermen standing on the bank of the wide river
trying to catch salmons...
Side road trip
- Skilak Lake Road:
On our way back
from Homer we took this sideway drive and visited Skilak lake.
The road itself
is not paved but rather well-maintained wide gravel road. We did it with our RV
so it was possible, but we drove slowly.
There are few
places to visit along this road (I listed them from east to west):
- Hidden Lake
Campground and Boat Launch
Lookout Trailhead: a nice trail that will take you to a hilltop lookout over Skilak
- Upper Skilak
Lake Campground: this is the preferred place to access the Skilak lake, the
short road is going near the small Lower Ohmer Lake and soon after it reach the
shore of the Skilak Lake, many campground and boat ramp.
- Lower Skilak
Lake: another lake access with Campground and boat ramp.
3. Sterling to Homer
We did not
spend much time in this section of the road although it has some interesting
places to visit, because of time shortage we decided to skip them.
“Russian” towns of Soldotna and Kenai for fishing and sightseeing.
traditional small fishing town with a small unique Russian Orthodox Church (Built
This is a great
place to explore. Only 15 miles before reaching Homer, the area is a nice,
quiet alternative to the busier Homer Spit.
During low tide
you can walk several hundred yards to the water’s edge and look out over the inlet
at the mountains far on the other side across the bay.
Bald Eagles can
be found all over Alaska but here they congregate in such large numbers that
you are sure to see them (as well as at Homer).
You can stay at
Anchor River State Recreation Area Campground.