Go north to go south for glory! That's the message to those determined enough to make the journey down from Anchorage to Seward in south-central Alaska, the chilly 49th State in the USA. The twisted yet beautiful Seward Highway was completed in 1961 and is 202 km (127 mi) long, and it follows a route used by Russian fur traders in the 1800s and native peoples for hundreds of years before that.
This incredible road runs along the Turnagain Arm and across the Kenai Peninsula, whose collective scenic glories have earned a coveted triple classification:- American Road, US Forest Service Scenic Byway and Alaska Scenic Byway.
From Anchorage, driving that tough hire car down Alaska Route 1 beside the reflective waters of Turnagain Arm, the first stops are Girdwood and Alyeska Resort, Portage Glacier and Whittier. Next comes the challenging Turnagain Pass followed by the Chugach National Forest, then a climb and descent past Upper and Lower Summit Lakes.
At Tern Lake Junction, Alaska 1 heads off through the Kenai Peninsula and the Seward Highway becomes Alaska Route 9. After that, it's a short run through Moose Pass and Bear Creek into Seward on the shores of Resurrection Bay.
The natural beauty of the Seward Highway is unlike any other to be found in the USA - stunning fjords and crystal-clear lakes, glaciers and waterfalls, ridges and valleys, alpine meadows and a profusion of wildflowers in season. The area has become a magnet for adventurous tourists who, drawn by a plethora of outdoor recreational options, arrive all year round.
Salmon season is May to mid-October and (ironically) the seaward Highway stays open all winter whereas many Scenic Byways in states farther south do not. That said, occasional avalanches do briefly close the road in winter, but the sweepers soon open it up again.