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A Spectacular Drive

Heading down Turnagain Arm, the waters of the North Pacific race along the shore.

It’s a spectacular drive, and it’s worth going down there even for just a quick glimpse of the sunset.

The cliffs of Chugach State Park crowd the Seward Highway and the Alaska Railroad against the sea. There are mountains, ocean, rivers, dall sheep, and cozy mining towns, like Crow Creek and Hope.

These are good places to picnic and hike.

(Wildlife photo, above, Buck Shreck)

Watch for Traffic

Let somebody else drive as you scan for waterfowl, eagles, sheep, bears, moose, salmon & beluga whales on this stretch of road.

Please use the many pullouts and viewing areas, and be sure to fully pull off the road.

Potter Marsh

Potter Marsh, one of Alaska's best birdwatching spots, is just 12 miles from downtown Anchorage. It has a parking lot, toilets, and a great boardwalk.

Here's how to get to Potter Marsh. When you're heading south out of Anchorage, look for the left hand turn just after the road goes under an overpass.

The Rabbit Creek rifle range is to the right. The Chugach mountains, shown in the photo, are to your left.


Bird Watching At Potter Marsh

If you miss the turn to the marsh, pull into Chugach State Park headquarters at the Potter Section House and come back.

The marsh has over 130 bird species, salmon, and small animals.

(Wildlife photo, above, Buck Shreck)

Stay Off the Mud Flats

The silty mud flats at Ship Creek and further down Turnagain Arm are surprisingly dangerous. The mud here is a colloid – a substance that shifts from solid to liquid at a second’s notice.

Every year, people get stuck in these flats, and the suction doesn’t release them. Firemen with boards and special rescue equipment have to come and save them.

In 1988, Alaskans were horrified at the tragic story of a young woman who drowned in the deadly incoming tide, while surrounded by frantic rescuers who never managed to get her out.

Shown here are two separate incidents in two different years. The story on the left is on Channel 2 KTUU and the one on the right is in the Anchorage Daily News.

Seward Highway Numbers

The Seward Highway markers start at Seward, not Anchorage, because Seward was once the bigger town.

Anchorage is at mile 127. The numbers go down as you drive south.

The Sterling Highway leaves the Seward Highway at Mile 37, 90 miles south of Anchorage. It travels west across the Kenai, ending at Homer.

The Sterling Highway mile markers don’t start at zero, but at 37, so you’ll find distances on the Sterling Highway to be 37 miles closer than the mile markers indicate.

Crow Creek Mine

Crow Creek is an almost intact gold mining camp, 3 miles up a valley road from the Alyeska Ski Resort at Girdwood.

Crow Creek was a lucrative mine. You can still pan for gold near the original 1898 buildings.


Girdwood used to be called “Glacier City.” Part of the municipality of Anchorage, Girdwood has a much more laid-back lifestyle.

Girdwood’s the ski capital of Alaska. In the summer it’s the base for serveral rafting and adventure operators, as well as home to a large resort hotel with a tram to the top of the mountain.

Hiking, Biking and Fishing Along Turnagain Arm

Turnagain Arm has several nice day-use facilities where you can picnic and go for short or long hikes.

The short trails go down along the arm and offer views of the ocean. The long trails go back into the mountains and connect to Eagle River, north of Anchorage.

Stop at Potter Marsh, mile 117.4 (mtn. side); McHugh Creek, mile 112 (mtn. side); Beluga Point, mile 110 (ocean side); Bird Creek access, mile 101 (mtn. side); Bird Point overlook and bike trail, mile 96.5 (ocean side).

Chugach National Forest

As you drive south into the Kenai Peninsula, you’re surrounded by Chugach National Forest all the way to Cooper Landing on the Sterling Highway, and to just outside of Seward.

Forest lands also cut across Prince William Sound, and to the Copper River Delta on the east.

+ Get the Bearfoot map showing Chugach National Forest here.

+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat

turnagainarm telescope

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Chugach Outdoor Center Six Mile Rafting
Portage Glacier Cruises


+ Map of Turnagain Arm
+ Map of Gold Towns Near Anchorage

+ Map of Bearfoot Campgrounds

Special Tip: The Bore Tides
Turnagain Arm looks like a shallow body of water, with great places to walk along the mud flats. But, when Turnagain Arm’s famous bore tide comes in, with a unique and deadly 6-foot wall of water, traveling at 15 mph, there can be no escape. So, keep off the mud flats!

Bore tide surfing is a new trend in Alaska, though you should leave it to the experts and experienced surfers. Surfers and paddleboarders catch the incoming tide - twice daily - and ride the long wave near the town of Girdwood. Surfers wear wet-suits to keep warm in the frigid water.

Q: What is Turnagain Arm?

A: It's a Coastal passageway connecting the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage.

Captain Cook got lost here and had to turn his ship – again – to get back out to sea. Bore tides, great scenery, mud flats, ferocious traffic, and wildlife that comes down out of the cliffs onto the busy road.

Get the Turnagain Arm Map here. | Alaska Travel & Vacation Information by Bearfoot Travel Guides
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