How to Plan the Best Drive from Anchorage to Seward

The drive from Anchorage to Seward is one of the most scenic Alaska road trips you can take.

Yes, the Alaska Railroad is all kinds of bucket listy. If you drive yourself, though, you can stop wherever you like, especially when you come across Alaska wildlife along the way.

Are you ready to plan your Anchorage to Seward road trip? I’ve put together a detailed guide to everywhere we stopped on our own trip with a few additional stops for travelers with more time.

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What is the driving distance from Anchorage to Seward?

The driving distance from Anchorage to Seward is about 125 miles. That doesn’t seem like it’ll take much time, but there is a lot to see in that relatively short Anchorage to Seward distance.

A man checks out a glacier on a drive from Anchorage to Seward.

How long does it take to drive from Anchorage to Seward?

It takes about two-and-a-half hours to drive from Anchorage to Seward if you’re driving straight through. 

I’d recommend setting aside a full day if you’d like to fit in a hike or two and take your time at scenic view stops. We tackled everything I’ll list here on the drive to Seward and then the route back on a Seward to Anchorage drive. 

If you have time on the return trip, feel free to play around with the order of your stops, especially if you’re dealing with limited daylight.

Is it easy to drive from Anchorage to Seward?

It is easy to drive from Anchorage to Seward when the weather is nice. For much of your drive from Anchorage to Seward by car, you’ll travel down Alaska Route 1 and the Alaska Seward Highway. 

Just make sure to download any maps you may need before you leave Anchorage. You may get spotty service in some of the state parks along the way or along hiking trails.

The drive from Anchorage to Seward in winter can look quite different vs. the summertime. I’d caution against it unless you’re well-equipped to drive with potential snow and ice. Be on the lookout for moose in the road no matter when you plan your Alaska road trip.

What is there to see between Seward and Anchorage?

There is so much to see between Seward and Anchorage. Once you leave Anchorage, you can hike Flattop Mountain or see the waterfall at the McHugh Creek Recreation Area. Marvel at the vistas of Beluga Point and Bird Creek. Get up close and personal with glaciers at Byron Glacier and Exit Glacier.

If you’re interested in a map of all of the stops we made along the way, follow the Google link below:

GIMME MY DRIVE FROM ANCHORAGE TO SEWARD MAP!

Anchorage

A man looks down a bridge for a better view on a drive from Anchorage to Seward.

The best drive from Anchorage to Seward includes time in Anchorage. Hear me out. You’ll likely be there anyway as it’s a base for travel in the state. Tack on a day or two on either end and you won’t regret it. 

I have a guide to the perfect day in Anchorage that you should check out in that case, but here are a few of my favorite activities in Anchorage:

  • Downtown Anchorage: If you have limited time in Anchorage, stick to the city’s walkable downtown. Prioritize Resolution Park and the Captain Cook Monument for a possible view of Denali.
  • Snow City Cafe: With limited time, grab some sticky buns or cinnamon rolls from this yummy breakfast spot. It’s a favorite of President Obama.
  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail: Choose a piece of the 11-mile trail that’s easiest for you to access, or bike the full trail if you have the wheels. Our favorite part was the branch that connected to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

Flattop Mountain

Flattop Mountain on a drive from Anchorage to Seward
Photo courtesy of bpperry.

Tackle one of the most climbed mountains in Alaska at this scramble in Chugach State Park. It was much too muddy for us to do it safely, as it involved 1,300 feet of elevation gain. If you’re luckier than we were, wear shoes with good traction anyway. The last bit of the three-mile trail can get slick in the morning dew and after a good rain.

McHugh Creek Recreation Area

McHugh Creek Recreation Area on a drive from Anchorage to Seward
Photo courtesy of Daniel Mark Robertson.

We planned to tick off the McHugh Creek Trailhead on our return trip back to Anchorage, but it was closed for construction by then. I’d recommend pulling over even if you don’t hike. There’s a pull-off here with a lovely 20-foot waterfall to kick off your trip.

You’ll need to pay a $5 day use fee to park in the lot.

Beluga Point

Beluga Point on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

You’ll enter one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery from here as you travel Turnagain Arm, a narrow branch off the Cook Inlet. Stop whenever you like, but the Beluga Point lookout is a must. 

This is a quick photo stop with some whale-watching potential if you’re lucky. Beluga whales like to hang out here from mid-July through August as they pass through the inlet. We didn’t see any on our own trip, but it was still a lovely stop. 

It’s also a great spot to watch the bore tide, a rush of water with waves up to 10 feet high. Just don’t do something silly like cross the railroad tracks for better views on the other side. It’s not worth it, and, more importantly, not allowed. 

You also don’t want to get stuck in the mudflats here. These aren’t the salt flats. Stick to the Anchorage roads that you’re used to or risk getting stuck out there and losing your pants. It’s a thing that happens, apparently.

Bird Creek

Bird Creek on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

Enjoy great mountain views and watch folks try their luck at fishing in these waters at Bird Creek. There are a few trails that branch off from here, but they’re not super well-marked. The Blue Ridge Trail is the most popular but it’s aggressive.

You’ll climb about 3,200 feet of elevation across 4.4 miles of alpine fields and what I imagine are some incredible mountain views. We didn’t have the energy, but it looks like it might be worth the effort!

Girdwood Brewing Company

A woman sits at a brewery on a drive from Anchorage to Seward.

You’ve earned some beers here whether you’ve done any hiking or not. Girdwood is a great stop to make that happen. 

Girdwood Brewing Company is well-situated with a backdrop of the Alyeska Resort. You won’t be skiing if you’re here in the summer as we were, but you will enjoy great beers and an on-site food truck if you’re hungry.

Fun fact: With more time in Girdwood, you can ride the Alyeska Aerial Tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska at 2,300 feet.

Byron Glacier 

Byron Glacier on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

If I can hike 2.3 miles in the rain to check out a big ol’ glacier, so can you. The hike itself is pretty easy. It’s just over a mile to the glacier’s tip (or tongue?), so if you arrive on a sunny day, it’s all quite nice. 

That said, the rain just made it all more atmospheric. If it’s drizzling when you get there, I’d recommend hitting the trail anyway. Just be careful. It can get slippery out there, especially as you get closer to the glacier. 

Note: You can touch the glacier if you’d like. We saw some travelers crossing the rapids to get to the other side, but I wouldn’t recommend this without the appropriate gear, as they did have to get ankle-deep in icy water. I’m not against water crossings if it’s a sanctioned activity.

Portage Lake Overlook

Portage Glacier on a drive from Anchorage to Seward
Photo courtesy of QUILLE.

It was way too overcast for us to see anything resembling Portage Glacier from this vantage point on our drive, but it sure looks spectacular from the photos I’ve seen. Access this one from Portage Glacier Road on your drive to Seward or back to Anchorage. 

If you’re lingering in Chugach National Forest, pop by the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center nearby. On top of exhibits about the glaciers in the region, this is where you can learn about booking cruises and boat tours to Portage Glacier.

Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

Pay $13 to drive through North America’s longest tunnel. While the drive is only about 10 minutes, budget at least half an hour for the trip. You may have some wait time on either side as this is one-way traffic shared with regional trains. Check online schedules if you’re pressed for time.

You’ll get dropped off in charming Whittier on the other side, another opportunity to relax and linger if you don’t mind adding to your Anchorage to Seward drive time.

Whittier

Whittier on a drive from Anchorage to Seward
Photo courtesy of stockphotos01.

We arrived at Whittier on the other side of the tunnel in such crappy weather that we didn’t hang around too long. It definitely looked like a cute place to explore for a bit and as a great base for adventures along Prince William Sound.

Note: If you want to stretch your legs, the two-mile Horsetail Falls Trail is just south of town. You’ll climb a little over 500 feet of elevation on this one to a platform with views of the waterfall.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

A bear at a refuge on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is home to injured or orphaned animals who wouldn’t otherwise make it in the Alaskan wilderness.

On our visit, we met bald eagles with one wing and black bears that were rescued out of septic tanks. While we got lucky with wildlife spotting in Denali National Park, one of the best national parks for wildlife, it was fun to learn more about the animals here. 

You can walk or drive the 1.5-mile loop. I recommend walking if you’re able. You’ll be getting in and out of your car anyway for better views of the animals and access to their bear boardwalk, a viewing platform for the park’s brown bears.

The highlights for us were the howling coyotes and the playful wolf pack. I have never seen wolves this close before, or so many porcupines in one place for that matter.

Tern Lake

Tern Lake on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

This is a quick stopover for a lovely lake view. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, but this is a popular spot for bald eagles, arctic terns, and a variety of other shorebirds. Beavers, river otters, and muskrats also happen to like this lake.

You’ll be near Moose Pass from here. Moose Pass is a town on Upper Trail Lake known for recreation. It’s best explored if you have time to hit some of the more aggressive trails here. 

The 23-mile Johnson Pass Trail is a popular trek, but again, that’s 23 miles we’re talking about. The Carter Lake Trail, Lost Lake Trail, and Ptarmigan Creek Trail are all scenic options if you’re looking for more athletic Seward Highway stops.

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

This easily accessible glacier within Kenai Fjords National Park is reached via Exit Glacier Road and an easy 2.2-mile loop.

Fun fact: Stand at the end of the trail long enough to hear an ice fall. It sounded like a dynamite explosion in the distance.

This was one of the most moving experiences we had near the Kenai Peninsula. As you walk the trail to the overlook, you’ll pass by posted signage to show how far the glacier has retreated over the years. Climate change has dramatically accelerated the glacier’s fate in recent years.

The Exit Glacier Nature Center is a great stop to learn more about climate change and its effects on the park. You can talk more about it with the knowledgeable guides inside.

You can also access the Harding Icefield from here. That trail is 8.6 miles long with nearly 3,200 of elevation gain. That’s not just something you decide to do on the day of your visit to the glaciers here, so plan ahead if this sounds like something you’d like to do.

Seward

A harbor in Seward on a drive from Anchorage to Seward

Seward is your last stop on this Anchorage to Seward drive. We had a few days for a cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park and some general tourism in town and had a lovely time. 

It definitely felt like a place that caters to summer tourism, so expect things to feel more expensive here, even by Alaska standards.

Here are a few options for your time in Seward:

  • Alaska SeaLife Center: This aquarium and marine mammal rehabilitation facility is a great place to get acquainted with what you may see out on the water in Seward. The adorable puffins are worth a visit alone.
  • The Cookery: Many folks consider The Cookery the best eatery in Seward. It was definitely delicious, but expect a super long wait if you don’t roll in with a reservation. Try the halibut carnitas if they’re available on your visit.
  • Seward Brewing Company: We waited out about an hour of our wait time at The Cookery at this brewery. I had a smoky cider that was really good and was tempted by the food that kept coming out if we’re being honest.

Once you’re done with Seward, you’ll likely have to drive from Seward to Anchorage for any return flights. Return the same way you came or add side trips to the incredible Matanuska Glacier, Cooper Landing, or stops of intrigue north of Anchorage like the Eagle River Nature Center.

Driving from Anchorage to Seward: FAQs

Is the drive from Anchorage to Seward dangerous?

The drive from Anchorage to Seward isn’t dangerous if weather conditions are good for driving. You also need to be alert about potential wildlife crossings on the road, especially when it comes to moose in the summer months.

Exercise additional caution in the winter months as you travel the distance from Anchorage to Seward, as you should expect snow and ice on the roads.

Is the drive from Anchorage to Seward scenic?

The drive from Anchorage to Seward is very scenic. You’ll enjoy coastal views, breathtaking mountain scenery, glaciers, and the dramatic Turnagain Arm. It’s one of the best ways to experience the natural wonders of Alaska.

What is the best way to get from Anchorage to Seward?

The best way to get from Anchorage to Seward is by car. While the Anchorage to Seward train is quite scenic in its own right, a self-drive option allows you to plan your own stops based on your interests, even incorporating hiking trails along the way.

How long is the train ride from Anchorage to Seward?

The train ride from Anchorage to Seward is about four hours long. Check the Alaska Railroad schedule online to help you plan your trip if you’d like to take the train.

How is the drive from Anchorage to Seward?

The drive from Anchorage to Seward is one of the most scenic drives you can take in the state of Alaska. It boasts numerous opportunities for scenic pullouts, hiking trails, and unplanned wildlife spotting.

I’d love to come back to tackle some of the longer trails, especially while the glaciers are still visible. Unfortunately, time is ticking on some of our most impressive natural treasures.

Ready to Drive from Anchorage to Seward?

Your Flight: I use a variety of tools to find cheap airfare, but if you’re looking to book during a particular period of time, you should use Skyscanner. It’s a great tool for when you’re more flexible, too, as it allows you to compare travel based on length of travel, departure date, etc.

You’ll start at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for travel from Anchorage. Deals at that airport aren’t super common, especially during the summer months, but it pays to monitor flights for potential dips from your base.

From there, rent a car using Hotwire or Priceline to find the best deals.

For adventurous folks who travel on the reg, I also subscribe to Going, formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights. You’ll get cheap flight deals from your home base straight to your inbox.

Your Accommodations: I usually use Booking.com and Hotels.com for our hotel needs. Both offer loyalty programs and now offer listings that are more of the home or condo rental variety, which is great. Vrbo is my preferred Airbnb alternative. 

Seeking even more wallet-friendly accommodations? Try Hostelworld. Their picks are heavily vetted and reviewed to offer you a safe experience on a budget.

Etc.: For general travel goodies, visit my Favorite Things page. For more information on planning your travel, visit my Travel Tools page.

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Agnes Groonwald

Agnes Groonwald is the creator of Travel on the Reg, a travel/humor blog for regular people who travel in a regular fashion. She has been to 50/50 U.S. states and explored 30+ countries, most often as a digital nomad. She's all about sharing the honest truth about travel, real experiences, and all the quirky stuff about her favorite (and not so favorite) places.