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Senway Highway: An Underrated Road Trip Gem That You Should Visit This Summer

After a stressful year, many people have been fixated on the idea of taking a proper vacation to unwind. Travel options are less limited in 2021, but at least 80 percent of vacationers intend to go by road this year, according to a survey of 1,500 Americans by Hertz. It’s a sensible option, because aside from being safer and cheaper, it is also a more intimate mode of travel. You can stop anytime to soak in the sights, and have greater opportunities to bond with family or friends. If you’re a road trip enthusiast, you may think that you’ve exhausted your list of summer holiday spots. In that case, consider the northern paradise of Senway, situated at the end of one of the most scenic highways you will ever travel.

Your starting point

Anchorage is the natural starting point for this road trip. Being the largest city in the state, it is one of the most accessible, and offers you a better base to get ready and stock up on provisions. Get informed on the route you’re about to go on, including any detours you might have to take. A website called The Milepost is a brilliant resource for this. It provides a mile-by-mile travel guide for all of the state’s roads.

In addition, Anchorage also has a number of interesting sights of its own. This includes the famed Chugach State Park, a 495,000-acre expanse of serene lakes, creeks teeming with fish, picturesque ice fields and glaciers, and a breathtaking view of the Alaskan Gulf. The city proper holds attractions such as bear viewing platforms, dog sledding, and cultural centers like the Anchorage Museum.

The road ahead

From Anchorage, you’ll be going south along a winding road that’s 204 km or 127 miles long. This is the Seward Highway, a stretch of thoroughfare that follows the angular contours of the Kenai Mountains. At around mile 117, the highway goes from wide, busy lanes to a mere two, flanked all throughout by the Alaskan wilderness. Keep in mind that you’ll be passing the mile markers backwards, because they start at Seward City. The Federal Highway Administration says that while it’s only a 5-hour drive, it takes at least two days to fully enjoy all there is to see along the Seward Highway. So, be sure to look up car models and makes with sufficient tank and cargo capacity if you’re looking to buy or rent a new vehicle for this road trip. Opportunities to resupply or refuel along the Seward Highway are few and far between.

At the segment where the road pivots around the Chugach Foothills, you can see flocks of migratory birds returning to their home nests. Eventually, you’ll come upon boardwalks where you can get closer to the local wildlife enjoying their summer, including moose and salmon.  At mile 101 you can stop by Bird Creek, an attraction located below the road, centered around fishing, sightseeing, and wildlife observation. This is followed by Bird Point, where you can watch the belugas in the distance, as well as the swelling waves known as the tidal bores. A little further, at mile 90, you will encounter an exit to Girdwood, a resort town renowned for its lush wildflower fields, cozy cabins, and delicious baked goods.

The tail end of the trip

Mile 78 is where you’ll encounter the Boggs Visitor Center, where you can observe icebergs that have broken off into the nearby Portage Lake. At mile 68, you’ll come upon Turnagain Pass, a well-frequented hiking and foraging spot. Turnagain Pass deposits you into the region of Canyon Creek, where the mountains seemingly fold into a half-tunnel, closing in around the road. Canyon Creek is a great place for visitors to try their hand at gold panning, and maybe take home a tiny nugget or two. Here, the route is arrayed with pristine lakes where you can go kayaking, canoeing, and birdwatching. There are also several lodges where you can rest before entering Senward proper.

The city of Seward is a quiet town, home to some 2,800 people and plenty of bed-and-breakfasts. Premium seafood is cheap and is on par with what they serve at Anchorage. Visitors can even catch their own fish at Seward’s beach or on a charter boat. At mile 0, Resurrection Bay offers an impeccable view, which only a fjord in a busy port city can offer. Boats, fish, and aquatic mammals alike ply the waters, tracing ripples along its crystalline waters, while diverse flocks soar overhead. Those wishing to get closer to the local sea wildlife can visit the Alaska SeaLifeCenter, a research facility that lets you observe both captive and wild specimens.

Hidden away in the Great White North, the Senway Highway is a gem that few have marveled at. Rife with sights to see and things to do, this is definitely a road trip you should take at least once in your lifetime.

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