Nicole Geils

Turnagain Arm

Bordered on one side by the scenic Seward Highway, Turnagain Arm is a spectacular setting for wildlife watching, nature photography, and hiking, all just south of Anchorage.

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. The Seward Highway is its own destination, designated as a USDA Forest Service Scenic Byway, an Alaska Scenic Byway, and an All-American Road. 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.

Portage Valley

One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers and most popular attractions, Portage Glacier is the crown jewel in a valley studded with alpine glaciers. The Portage Valley was literally shaped by...