Accessible only by boat or airplane, this park features outstanding scenic backdrops in a remote wilderness
Just a short hop from Homer is Alaska's first state park and only designated wilderness park. Kachemak Bay State Park, along with the adjoining Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park to the south, contains almost 400,000 acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and ocean.
Believed to be descended from the Chugach Eskimo, the indigenous inhabitants of this area harvested sustenance from Kachemak Bay’s diverse riches including fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. By the time of European exploration, the area was the territory of the Dena’ina Athabascans. When Kachemak Bay State Park was designated in June 1970, it became Alaska’s very first state park.
From the more than 300,000-square-mile Harding Ice Field and 4,000-foot glacial peaks to lush forests of spruce, moss and shoulder-high devil's club, the beauty of the parks is unparalleled. The shoreline is a ragged series of protected coves, bays and lagoons where intertidal zones are alive with starfish, crabs and other marine life. The gravel beaches have long been favorites among Homer clam diggers.
Kachemak Bay is a critical habitat area, supporting many species of marine life. Therefore, wildlife is plentiful in this area. The rich lagoons and waters just offshore attract whales, sea otters, seals, dolphins and impressive salmon runs. The seashore and tidal marshes are teaming with life; mollusks, anthropoids and sea stars are just a few species that can be seen at low tide. In many rivers and streams there are impressive runs of salmon, in particular kings, which gather in Halibut Cove Lagoon in May and June and pinks, which spawn up Humpy Creek in July and August. Birders are particularly attracted to the area by a wide variety of sea birds, including horned and tufted puffins, eagles, pigeon guillemots, marbled murrelets and common murres. Gull Island near Halibut Cove is a rookery for more than 12,000 seabirds, especially puffins.
Many visitors escape into the wilderness for a few days by boating, kayaking or hiking to such scenic areas as Grewing Glacier, Poot Peak, China Poot Bay, Humpy Creek, Halibut Cove Lagoon, Tutka Bay and Sadie Cove. Others reserve a public-use cabin or book a week at a number of wilderness lodges in and around the park. Opportunities to camp and hike are excellent through the park’s forests and mountains and along the shore. Above timberline, skiers and hikers will find glaciers and snowfields stretching for miles.
With more than 80 miles of trails, 21 campsites and dozens of protected coves and bays, there are numerous opportunities for kayakers, campers and backpackers. The most popular attraction of the park is Grewingk Glacier, which can clearly be seen across the bay from Homer. Viewing the glacier at closer range and camping nearby is a very popular outing that involves a one-way hike of 2.2 miles. Other popular paths include the 2.5-mile Alpine Ridge Trail; the 2.6-mile China Poot Lake Trail; Grewingk Glacier Trail, a 6-5-mile hike to the glacier itself; the Wosnesenski Trail - the park's longest at 11.3 miles; and Emerald Lake Trail, a 6.4-mile hike along the beautiful lake.
The park also features six public-use cabins that can be reserved in Halibut Cove Lagoon, Leisure Lake, Moose Valley and Tutka Bay, along with six yurts that are scattered throughout the park and managed by a private concessionaire. The cabins and yurts are rustic, containing wood stoves, wooden bunks and outdoor latrines, and are reached by boat, on foot or by float plane.
The only fees at Kachemak Bay State Park are nightly fees to rent public-use cabins and yurts.
Kachemak Bay State Park is reached only by plane or boat. Air and water taxi services and charter boats are available in Homer. The Alaska State Parks website has a list of operators. Private lodges within the park provide an option for visitors who wish to experience the park in a more luxurious manner. Most lodges offer guided hikes, wildlife viewing and kayaking along with gourmet meals and comfortable beds and provide transportation to and from Homer. Contact the Homer Chamber of Commerce (907-235-7740) for a list of wilderness lodges.
For more information on park facilities and activities contact the Kenai Area Office of the Alaska State Parks (907-262-5581).