One of the largest coastal parks in Alaska and in the nation, Kachemak Bay State Park spreads for 200 miles along the southwestern edge of the Kenai Peninsula. Within the park’s 400,000 acres are glaciers, high mountains, lakes, islands, beaches, and a scenic rocky shoreline. Highlighted by constantly changing weather patterns, the park’s outstanding scenery is a backdrop for high-quality recreation. Hiking and camping along the shoreline and in the surrounding forests and mountains are excellent. Above tree line, skiers and hikers will find glaciers and snowfields stretching for miles.
Almost three-quarters of the land is wilderness; it’s officially called Kachemak Bay Wilderness State Park. Land mammals include moose, black bears, mountain goats, coyotes, and wolves. Kachemak Bay supports a rich diversity of marine life and is famous for its halibut and salmon fishing, plus the chance to view sea otters, seals, porpoises, and whales. Five very popular public-use cabins are available ($45-70), along with over 80 miles of hiking trails. A major spruce bark beetle outbreak in the 1990s left massive stretches of dead trees within Kachemak Bay State Park, but new trees are gradually moving into these areas, and most of the dead trees have fallen.
Homer’s Kachemak Bay State Park office (907/235-7024) is staffed intermittently, so you may need to contact the district office in Soldotna (907/262-5581). The Kachemak Bay Water Trail is a 125-mile boat route connecting the bay’s many sites; pick up a helpful map at the Homer Visitors Information Center or the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center.
In addition to the daily summertime boat tours of Kachemak Bay, Homer-based water taxis provide hiker or sea kayaker drop-offs within park waters. The roundtrip cost is typically $75-80, but can be a bit higher for longer trips. Local operators include Bay Excursions (907/235-7525), Bay Roamers Water Taxi (907/399-6200), Mako’s Water Taxi (907/235-9055), Ashore Water Taxi (907/399-2340), Red Mountain Marine (907/399-8230), and Homer Ocean Charters (907/235-6212 or 800/426-6212). You’ll find water-taxi offices on the Spit, though some do not have an office. There is no extra charge for kayaks or bicycles, but bikes are not allowed on state park trails. They are, however, okay on beaches outside the park boundary and places such as Jakolof Road. Rent mountain bikes or fat tire bikes from Cycle Logical (907/226-2925), which has an office on the Spit.
For an outstanding day (or overnight) hike, have the water taxi ($80 pp round-trip) drop you at the Glacier Spit Trailhead, where an easy and very scenic two-mile hike leads to a lake in front of picture-perfect Grewingk Glacier. You can camp nearby and return via the one-mile Saddle Trail, which takes you over a small ridge to Halibut Cove for the water taxi back to Homer. A multitude of side trips are available along this route, including ones that take you high into the alpine area over the glacier, and a delightful beach walk. Contact the park for many other hiking options.
Guided sea kayak tours to Grewingk are available through Three Moose Kayak Adventure (a.k.a. Hideaway Cove Lodge, 907/299-1075 or 888/503-7160, $199 pp). These all-day adventures include a guide, water taxi from Homer, hike to the lake, and inflatable kayaks to paddle up to the glacier. A variety of other trips are also available, from guided hikes and to glacier ice trekking.
True North Kayak Adventures (907/235-0708, $250 pp with lunch) has an all-day Glacier Lake hike and stand-up paddleboard trek that includes a round-trip water taxi from the Homer Spit to the Saddle Trailhead, followed by a 45-minute hike to Grewingk Lake. Once there, you’ll hop aboard a stand-up paddleboard to cross the lake and paddle among the icebergs at the towering face of Grewingk Glacier. Afterward you’ll hike back and return to Homer by water taxi.
This challenging all-day hike begins at sea level, climbs steeply into the alpine, and then drops down the opposite side to another bay. You can hike up and back the same way or over the top and down for more variety. Access is by water taxi ($80 pp round-trip) from Homer to trailheads at Kayak Beach or South Grace, with campsites and yurts at both trailheads. Starting from Kayak Beach at the mouth of Sadie Cove, the trail climbs steeply through old-growth Sitka spruce forests to an overlook at 2.3 miles, continuing into the alpine to the 3,100-foot summit of Grace Peak at approximately 4.5 miles. There are 360-degree views of Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountains, and a mix of coves, islands, glaciers, and forests. From the summit you can return the same way, or drop down to South Grace Trailhead along Tutka Bay, a total distance of nine miles. Grace Ridge Trail is equally fun from the other direction, too. If you have more time, book one of the yurts (907/299-6879, $75) at Quarry Beach, Kayak Beach, or Tutka Bay.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Anchorage, Denali & the Kenai Peninsula.