Michael DeYoung

Turnagain Arm

Witness to famous sailors in the age of exploration, Turnagain Arm remains enticing to modern day adventurers of all stripes.

The arm draws its name for British explorer James Cook, who was forced to “turn again” when the waterway didn’t hold the fabled Northwest Passage during his 1778 voyage.

There’s no path through the continent, but there are plenty of reasons to go down the arm. Recognized as National Scenic Byway, the Seward Highway is a drive that is a destination too. Turnouts at Beluga Point, Windy Corner or Bird Point are perfect spots to view the Kenai and Chugach mountains and spot beluga whales and Dall sheep.

The bore tide, a wave of water that rushes down the arm and can top six feet tall, is an unusual, unforgettable sight. Formed by the area’s huge tidal range and focused in the narrow channel of Turnagain Arm, the bore tide tops speeds of 20 mph and even draws a few adventurous local surfers.

The highway also means plenty of access points into the mountains for hiking. A laundry list of trailheads – McHugh Creek, Rainbow and Bird are among the favorites – all branch off from day-use parking along the road. From streamside walks to challenging ascents, the terrain is varied but always enjoyable.