Kachemak Bay – Alaska’s First State Park
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
Kachemak Bay State Park is located on the scenic Kenai Peninsula, which has been known as Alaska’s playground. Not only is this cherished 400,000 acre area Alaska’s first state park, but it is also the only official wilderness park in the Last Frontier. Visitors who make the journey to this remote park will be in the midst of snow-capped mountains, glistening glaciers, and precious land and marine wildlife. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you won’t be able to get enough of the vast trail system, saltwater fishing, and endless camping spots featuring utterly breathtaking views.
Head to the sweet little seaside town known as the halibut fishing capital of the world (Homer)—your jumping off point to explore this true treasure trove of beauty.
With no roads leading into Kachemak Bay State Park, visitors that wish to access the park’s rugged coast and endless recreational opportunities will need to hop on a boat or airplane. Air charters, water taxis, and boat rentals are available from Homer. To view a complete list of service providers, click HERE.
Halibut Cove Lagoon inside Kachemak Bay State Park also has a public dock where visitors can take their private water crafts (up to 26 feet long) and tie-up to the 80-foot-long floating marina. Step off your personal boat and enjoy access to the ranger station, public restrooms, public-use cabins, trailheads, and more. Space is very limited and available on a first come, first serve basis only, so be sure to have a “plan B” in mind if you can’t anchor up for the day/night.
Kachemak Bay State Park is located on the eastern side of Cook Inlet near its mouth and is part of the southwest end of the Kenai Mountain Range. The park and wilderness area, with its many coves, lakes, glaciers, and mountains, forms a unique medley of geographical features. Evidence of the region’s intense geological history, such as movement of the earth’s crust, can be seen in the rock formations.
Prized attractions in the area include Grewingk Glacier, Poot Peak, China Poot Bay, Leisure Lake, Halibut Cove Lagoon, Tutka Bay, and Humpy Creek.
Saltwater fishing is one of the most popular activities on the shores of Kachemak Bay. Visitors enjoy reeling in massive halibut and delicious king salmon.
Boating, kayaking, windsurfing, and even stand-up paddleboarding are other popular methods to enjoy the salty shores of Kachemak Bay.
When the mountains are calling, Kachemak Bay State Park is the perfect place to go. Skiers and hikers can enjoy getting above the timberline to soak in endless views of beautiful glaciers and snowfields.
Hikers that seek out this special area have the ability to explore every inch of the backcountry with over 80 miles of clearly marked trails providing access into the rugged wilderness. Climb a mountain peak and experience epic panoramic views.
Overnight camping is allowed in most of the park. Many spots even have picnic tables, firepits, tent platforms, area information, outhouses, and food caches. If you choose to overnight in the remote wilderness of Kachemak Bay State Park, it’s important to be bear-aware and to always store your food away from where you’re sleeping.
If you don’t want to go the standard “pitch-a-tent” route, rustic public-use cabins can be reserved in advance if you plan on overnighting in places such as Halibut Cove Lagoon, Leisure Lake, Moose Valley, or Tutka Bay. There are also yurts scattered around the park which are available to rent.
As a critical habitat area, Kachemak Bay is home to the most superb marine life on the planet. There are frequent opportunities to observe otters, seals, porpoise, and whales.
Area land mammals include moose, black bear, mountain goats, coyotes, and even wolves.
The birding opportunities are also incredible in Kachemak Bay State Park. Look up and it’s likely you’ll see bald eagles soaring majestically in the sky. Other bird species that inhabit the bay include gyrfalcons and puffins.
While a trip to Alaska’s first state park is one wholly worth embarking upon, it is vital to remember that the coastal area is notorious for ever-changing weather patterns that can be very unforgiving. Anyone making the trip to Kachemak Bay State Park should plan accordingly to assure that they are properly prepared for even the most unexpected of circumstances. Be aware of navigational hazards, and be advised that Kachemak Bay’s tides are the second largest in the entire world. Strong and rapid water forces combined with harsh weather can create a very dangerous, deadly situation for even the most seasoned watercraft operators. It’s always a good idea to consult with the local ranger station or Fish and Game office before traveling to this (or any) remote paradise.
Looking for more where that came from? Be sure to check out this up close and personal view of a day inside the alluring town of Seldovia. Also, check out why Homer, Alaska was named one of America’s happiest seaside towns.