One of the most popular and best ways of traveling around Alaska is with an RV, as you’ll have the independence of going wherever you want with a a bedroom, a kitchen and a shower. This was my first time driving a full size motor-home, and while I was a bit apprehensive of how difficult it would be to keep all wheels on the road and make turns around tight corners it ended up being much easier than what I thought. Our RV would be a 42 ft motor-home, with all the comforts one might expect. Sure, it was not brand new, but frankly I didn’t care. While looking around for brands and providers I learned that they’re quite expensive to rent, and did not stop until I found a company that seemed to offer a good variety of sizes and models at prices that would beat most competitors. We’d have the RV for five days and during that time we decided we’d make our way to check out Denali and then head South the Kenai peninsula and hopefully make it all the way down to Homer. We were very excited about the trip as it reminded us about our camper van trips in New Zealand and Australia a few years ago which we’d enjoyed so much!
Renting an RV in Anchorage
Perhaps one of the best ways of seeing Alaska is by renting and RV. They come in all sizes and shapes, can be brand new or older, and may allow for more or less passengers, but at the end of the day being able to carry your home with you wherever you go certainly has many advantages.
When I started looking at RVs online I was initially surprised to learn that they are not cheap to rent at all- specially during the high season- as they can be over 200 USD a night or more. After plenty of browsing I eventually found www.alaskafamilymotorhomes.com , a family run company in Anchorage that has many models available at some of the best rates I was able to find. Sure, they’re not new, but they are in good shape and you’ll be able to get a larger one for what you’d pay if you want a brand new model. Ours was 34 ft long, had a shower, bedroom, kitchen, dining area and plenty of storage place (there was just two of us).
Anchorage to Seward
The trip to Seward becomes interesting soon after you leave Anchorage, once you reach Chugach State Park and the Highway 1 takes you right along the shore overlooking Turnagain Arm (Cook Inlet) and the mountains behind. On a clear day you’ll see green mountains (maybe covered with snow ) that reach the ocean and a deep blue sky that contrasts with everything. On colder, rainy days you’ll still see the dense water and the wilderness surrounding the road, always worth a picture. There are in fact many viewpoints you can pull over to take a nice shot, and should you be tired you can always spend the night there too (consider that cars driving by could be noisy enough to bother your sleep). One of the nicest capes along the way in Beluga Point, from where you may be able to spot some belugas too (if lucky).
As you continue driving East you’ll leave Girdwood and Alyeska resort to yoru left (worth visiting if you have the time to head up to the mountains with the Tramway at Alyeska Resort) and soon after you’ll find on your right the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center , definitely worth stopping if you’re traveling with kids or if, as adults, you want to see large animals conveniently.
The road will slowly turn South once is reaches the end of Turnagain Arm and will take you to the mountain range you’ve been seeing to your right across the Arm all this time. You may be lucky enough to spot moose and other wildlife, but even if you don’t the views are still great.
Beyond this point there are no real highlights worth mentioning, and the beauty of what you see will largely depend on the time of the day and season you’re driving in. It was cloudy and rainy most of the time we drove so we didn’t stop much. Keep an eye open for lakes, moose and great vistas you may encounter and pull over to take a picture if you can.
Abot 20 minutes before reaching Seward you’ll see a sign on your rite pointing to Exit Glacier. Turn right here and follow the trail with your vehicle all the way to the end and park at the public parking. There are a few trails that lead to the glacier from here and picking any will eventually lead you up to the glacier. You won’t be able to touch but you will get close enough to be able to hear sounds of the ice melting and take great pictures too.
From here you’ll have to make your way back to Seward Highway and continue to the end of the road, where you’ll reach one of Alaska’s oldest and most scenic communities. Sandwiched between Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Mountains Seward is known as the “Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park”. It’s a small village with an aquarium (25 USD/ adult), quaint shops and galleries, a bustling harbor and an abundant offering of Alaskan adventure tours into the surrounding areas. Note that most of these tour operators close during the first week of September, and because of this we weren’t able to join any.
Where to Park Overnight and RV in Seward
Whenever I use an RV or a camper van when traveling there are two rules I always follow:
- The spot has to be free.
- It has to have great views.
With this in mind there are hence two spots I would recommend. If you only have a night to spend in the area then you’ll have to pick, but if you have more than one I would stay at both. The first overnight parking spot I would recommend would be the area just besides the small bridge when heading to/ from Exit Glacier, which is where we stayed and you’ll have the view seen in the black and white picture above. The other spot would be at the end of Seward, where the road literally ends. There’s quite a long stretch of parking space and even some are allocated for overnight parking, which may require payment. others are non marked and you can spend the night there too (at least not during the high season). You may also want to know that right between the soccer field and parking area there’s an RV station where you can dump and refill water in your RV.
While the drive was not very inspiring because of the constant rain and gray sky, we did enjoy most of it as the landscape is fascinating all the time. When the sun did pop out for a few minutes the colors would pop up and make everything much more beautiful, though it wouldn’t last long. Fortunately on our way back through this same road a few days later the sun was out most of the time and we got too see the first snowfall of the season. I recommend you take your time when driving (it took as more than 3 hours instead of the 2.5 Google maps says), don’t be in a hurry and enjoy the trip- and remember to take pictures when you have a chance!
Continue reading: Seward to Homer in an RV
While I did get a discount from Alaska Family Motorhomes the reasons I reached out to them mentioned in the post are real and accurate. Browse around and I don’t think you’ll find anything more affordable. I was offered discounts from other companies as well, but preferred to work with a family owned business and stick to more affordable RVs too.