Hope is a small historic town in the Kenai Peninsula Borough of Alaska. The town was once a bustling Gold Rush town in the late 1800s. There are a few things to do on a simple day trip to Hope, Alaska. This charming town offers visitors a glimpse into Hope, the past and a chance to explore its beautiful natural surroundings.
We arrived in this fascinating town on a sunny, blustery day in early June. The 17-mile detour off the Seward Highway was a reward we never expected. Several charming buildings lined the streets, each telling a story. Locals greeted us with warm smiles, their hospitality immediately making us feel at home.
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Embrace the Perfect Season: When to Visit Hope, Alaska for an Unforgettable Experience
When it comes to seeing wildlife and experiencing outdoor activities, the most ideal time to visit Alaska is during the summer months. Mid-June through mid-August is the peak tourist season, when temperatures are in the 60s and 70s. As a rule, we make our trips in June when crowds seem to be smaller.
During the summer months, Alaska attracts more people and has higher prices. If you prefer to avoid crowds and have a peaceful experience, visit in the shoulder seasons of May-June or August-September.
Navigating the Path to Hope, Alaska Made Easy
The closest airport to Hope is the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. From there, you can rent a car and drive to Hope, or take a bus or shuttle. There is also a small airstrip in Hope for private planes.
From Anchorage: Hope is about 85-miles south of Anchorage, Alaska. You can rent a car from Anchorage and drive south 69-miles on the Seward Highway (AK-1) to the Hope turnoff at Milepost 56.7. From there, it’s a scenic 16-mile drive to Hope on Hope Highway (AK-17). The journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
From Seward: Head north on AK-9 toward Bear Lake Road. Continue straight onto AK-9 S/AK-1 (Seward Highway) for about 48-miles. Turn left onto Hope Highway (AK-17). Follow Hope Highway for about 16 miles until you reach the town of Hope. The journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
Hidden Gems and Tranquil Charm: Best Things to Explore on a Day Trip
Hope is a superb day-trip destination to explore the Alaska wilderness and learn about history. Hope’s small-town charm is evident in its friendly locals, quaint buildings, and rustic appeal. We could definitely feel it was a place where you can slow down, interact with the locals, and truly experience Alaskan hospitality.
This part of the Kenai Peninsula is famed for its scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and historical gold rush importance. Here are some of the most exciting things we did to explore on our day trip.
1. Embark on a Scenic Adventure: Drive the Breathtaking Hope Highway
Driving the Hope Highway (also known as AK-17) is a must-do scenic adventure. The road is a narrow, winding two-lane highway that stretches for about 17 miles through the Chugach National Forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you drive along the highway. It’s not uncommon to spot eagles soaring overhead or moose grazing in the meadows.
We spotted a brown bear grazing on grasses on the side of the highway a few miles before reaching Hope. Encountering wildlife such as a bear while exploring the Hope Highway was, for us, an exhilarating experience. Staying in our vehicle, we took our pictures from a safe distance. She did not seem to even notice us in her frenzy. Dining on green grasses before the salmon arrive in the Resurrection River maintains bears through the early spring.
2. Journey into the Past: Explore the Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum
The Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum, dedicated to the history and culture of Hope and Sunrise, caught our attention. Many of the gold rush-era buildings contained fascinating exhibits that provided an insight into the town’s past. There was a wealth of history to be discovered, from indigenous heritage to the stories of early settlers.
As a first step, we walked the Interpretive Trail in the Mining District. There is information about mining operations, equipment, and techniques used during the gold rush era on this trail. Discover what early miners faced and how mining changed the region. During the tour, a guide provided additional details about the mining district. His intriguing history lesson and pleasant conversation gave us much better insight into the town’s humble beginnings.
Walking Through History: A Simple Day Trip to Hope, Alaska
A stroll down Hope’s quaint main street will reveal the charm of this Alaskan town. As we walked through the town, we noticed many historic buildings and landmarks. During the tour, we visited the Hope Social Hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Hope Social Hall dates back to 1902. Over the years, community events and dances have been held there. As you step back in time, you’ll be able to appreciate the architectural significance of the building.
Eventually, we reached the end of the road. The town is surrounded by mountains, forests, and Resurrection Creek, which flows into Turnagain Arm. The tidal flats were breathtakingly beautiful as we walked through the marsh. The scenic views make your day trip more enjoyable.
3. Unearth Hidden Treasure: Gold Panning Adventures in the Majestic Alaska Hills
Alaska has a rich gold mining history, with the first gold rush in the late 1800s. Today, there are still plenty of opportunities for visitors to try their hand at gold panning and potentially strike it rich. Gold Rush Peck offers guided gold panning tours on their private claims in the Hope area. They provided us with all the equipment, including gold pans and classifiers. In order to pan for gold, my husband and I purchased a $20 bucket and received careful instructions. The gold was indeed there!
You can explore Resurrection Creek, Six Mile Creek, and Bertha Creek on half-day and full-day gold panning tours at the Resurrection Creek Public Mining Site. Their equipment includes gold pans, shovels, and classifiers. You can gain a deeper understanding of mining’s significance to the community and appreciate early miners’ resilience.
4. Navigating Nature’s Playground: Embark on a Guided Kayak Adventure in Hope, Alaska
With the longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures in the summer months., kayaking is one of the best ways to experience the waterways surrounding Hope. If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one from local outfitters or kayak rental companies in or around Hope. We used Turnagain Kayak and Coffeehouse. Turnagain Kayak provided us with the equipment, including kayaks, paddles, and safety gear. They also allow you to either join a tour or go on your own or have them customize your trip.
We kayaked on our own in the Resurrection creek where it flows into the Turnagain arm. There are a few ideal local waterways to choose from:
- Turnagain Arm: Paddle along the Turnagain Arm, you’ll be treated to remarkable views of the Chugach Mountains and the tidal fluctuations of the water.
- Resurrection Creek: Explore the calm waters of Resurrection Creek, which flows through Hope. This is an excellent option for those seeking a more relaxed and easygoing kayaking experience.
- Six Mile Creek: For more experienced kayakers, consider taking a guided tour of Six Mile Creek, located a short distance from Hope. This area offers more challenging Class II-IV rapids and is ideal for thrill-seekers.
5. Escape to Serenity: Fishing Bliss
Hope offers excellent fishing opportunities thanks to the many salmon, trout, and other fish in its rivers and streams. Among the factors we considered when choosing our guided fishing trip in Hope were pricing, availability, and the type of fish we wanted to catch. Additionally, you should discuss your skill level and any preferences or needs with your guide beforehand. They offer fishing trips at Six Mile Creek and other streams nearby by Hope Fishing Charters LLC. Waders and boots are provided, and all skill levels can participate.
6. Exhilarating Adventure: Clean Clear Mountain Whitewater Rafting on Six Mile Creek
Flowing through the Chugach Mountains, Six Mile Creek offers thrilling rapids and stunning scenery. Six Mile Creek’s whitewater rafting season runs from mid-May to mid-September, with the peak season in June and July. It is during this time that the water levels are highest, making rafting a very exciting activity.
There are several rafting companies in the area that offer guided trips down Six Mile Creek, ranging from half-day to full-day adventures. We went with Nova Alaska. choosing the 2 whitewater canyon run. They rated the rapids on Six Mile Creek Class III to Class IV, which means they are moderately difficult and require some skill and experience to navigate. If you want Class V rapids, choose the 3-canyon experience.
We met our guides at the public rest area parking lot near the junction of the Seward Highway and Hope Road intersection. From here, our rafting trip started with a safety briefing and instruction on paddling techniques. The crew then outfitted us with all the equipment, including helmets, life jackets, and wetsuits. Everyone on this tour is required to complete the in-river swim test before the start of the raft.
Throughout the adventure on the river, our experienced guides helped us navigate the rapids and ensure the safety of all participants. There is stunning scenery in the dramatic canyons. Filled with lush forests, and distant snow-capped mountains. Many rafting trips include stops for swimming, cliff jumping, and lunch on the riverbank.
7. Hike the Resurrection Pass Trail: A Journey Through Nature’s Resilience
The Resurrection Pass Trail runs through the Chugach National Forest in south-central Alaska, starting in Hope and ending in Cooper Landing. The trail traverses lush forests, alpine meadows, and rocky mountain passes during its 39-mile length.
June through September is typically the best time to hike the trail. Despite some steep climbs and rocky terrain, it was considered a moderate to strenuous hike. The trail can be completed in 2-4 days, camping at designated campsites along the way.
The Resurrection Pass Trail offers panoramic mountain views, unique wildlife viewing opportunities, footbridges and log crossings, as well as the chance to spot moose and bears.
Our adventure on the Resurrection Pass Trail found it to be a beautiful, yet challenging, outdoor trip that afforded us a chance to experience some of Alaska’s most breathtaking natural scenery.
8. Day Hike to Gull Rock or Hope Point
The trail is approximately 2 miles round trip. While Gull Rock is a relatively short hike, it is sometimes steep and challenging, making it a moderate walk. The trail leads through a forested area, gradually ascending to provide panoramic views of Turnagain Arm and Chugach Mountains. Wear appropriate footwear and bring water, snacks, and a camera.
As opposed to the Gull Rock hike, Hope Point is longer and more challenging, covering approximately 6 miles round trip. The steep elevation gain and rocky terrain make it a strenuous hike. A truly spectacular view of the area can be obtained from the summit of Hope Point.
There is a distinct beauty surrounding Hope, that is reflected in the hikes at Gull Rock and Hope Point.
Hidden Culinary Gems: Discover Understated Dining Options in Hope, Alaska
Hope, Alaska is a small town with a few dining options, but there are a few great places to eat that are worth checking out. Here are some of the best places to eat in Hope:
- SeaView Bar & Cafe: This popular restaurant is most often featured in pictures of Hope. It offers classic American fare and seafood dishes. They offer a variety of dishes, including burgers, sandwiches, salads, fish and chips, and clam chowder. Currently Closed for the 2023 season.
- Dirty Skillet: This food truck serves up delicious breakfast and lunch items, such as omelets, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and burgers. They also offer vegan and gluten-free options. We did not try the food, but there was a line of people waiting for orders.
- Hope Sunrise Cafe: This cozy cafe serves breakfast and lunch, with a focus on homemade baked goods and locally sourced ingredients. They offer a variety of dishes, including breakfast sandwiches, quiches, soups, and salads.
- Creekbend Cafe: This rustic cafe is in a historic log building. We found they had fresh, locally sourced ingredients, showcasing Alaska flavors. We couldn’t resist stopping at this local café, enticed by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and homemade pastries wafting through the air.
- Turnagain Kayak and Coffee House:We just loved how a cozy and welcoming this little coffee shop felt. Visitors can enjoy a variety of coffee and tea drinks, as well as pastries and baked goods. They also offer a small selection of souvenirs and locally made crafts.
Unwind in Nature’s Embrace: Best Places to Stay in Hope, Alaska
Hope, Alaska is a small town with limited accommodation options, but there are still a few great places to stay that can provide a comfortable and memorable experience. Here are some options for where to stay in Hope:
- Discovery Cabins: These cozy cabins are in a quiet wooded area and offer a peaceful retreat for visitors. Each cabin comes with a kitchenette, private bathroom, and access to outdoor amenities like BBQ grills and fire pits.
- Seaview Cafe and Cabins: This property offers a combination of cabins and rooms, each with their own unique decor and character. They are located near the Seaview Cafe and Bar, which offers a variety of dining options for guests.
- Hope Alaska Bear Creek Lodge: This lodge is on the banks of Bear Creek in Hope. The lodge features a variety of accommodation options, including cabins, suites, and guest rooms, each with their own unique decor and character. They are all equipped with modern amenities like comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and heating for the colder months.
- Porcupine Creek Cabins: These rustic cabins are on the outskirts of town and offer a secluded and peaceful experience. They come with a fully equipped kitchen and access to outdoor amenities like a BBQ grill and fire pit.
It is important to note that Hope is a small town with limited services, so visitors should plan accordingly and be prepared for outdoor activities. Visitors should practice Leave No Trace principles to help protect the natural environment and preserve the area for future generations.
Final Thoughts on our Unique Adventure in Hope, Alaska
We found that Hope, Alaska, is a hidden gem for adventure seekers looking for a unique and thrilling experience. Whether you’re into outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, or whitewater rafting, or you’re interested in exploring the history of the gold rush era, Hope has something to offer for everyone.
One of the best things about visiting Hope on a quiet day trip is the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. You will find you can disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Beautiful mountains, forests, and rivers surrounded the town, making it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Have you been to Hope, Alaska? When? What is your favorite thing to do in Hope? Share your experiences in the comments below.