Take Your Camping Up A Notch With These 14 Public Use Cabins On The Kenai

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Photo by Dan Logan, Flickr

August and September are very special months on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. By now the midnight sun is beginning to fade off and we are getting dark skies in the evening between about 11pm and 5am. Dipnetting has come to a close and the silvers are starting show us a good fight in the river. The fly fishing has also been incredible in the Russian River as well as throughout many other areas on the peninsula.

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Photo by Courtney Stanley

We are enjoying the super warm high-70’s weather and are remembering to soak up the sunshine at every chance we get. In fact, come September 1st the realization that summer is on the “downward spiral” actually makes us get so die-hard that we want to get outside and go camping as frequently as possible. But if given the opportunity to pitch a tent versus staying in a hard-sided cabin, we’ll choose the cabin any day. These 14 public use cabins in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are an excellent way to enjoy wild, raw Alaska away from the majority of the tourism crowds. Check out the list below and if you want to book one, make sure to visit this website HERE through recreation.gov to make your online reservations today. Prices are between $35 and $45 per night. A smokin’ deal in the summertime!

Flickr, Dan Logan

Photo by Dan Logan, Flickr

1: Big Bay Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)

Big Bay

2: Big Indian Creek Cabin – Mystery Creek Road (accessible via aircraft, road currently closed)

indian creek

3: Caribou Island Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)

caribou island4: Dolly Varden Lake Cabin – Swanson River Road (accessible via boat)

dolly varden5: Doroshin Bay Cabin – Skilak Lake (accessible via boat)

doroshin6: Engineer Lake Cabin – Skilak Lake Road (accessible via hike-in, boat, or cross-country skiiing and snowshoeing in the winter)

engineer7: Kelly Lake Cabin – Mile 68.1 Sterling Highway (accessible via short hike in)

kelly lake

8: McLain Lake Cabin – Off the Swanson River (accessible by the canoe trail, snowmachine or float plane)

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9: Nurses Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)

nurses

10: Pincher Creek Cabin – Chickaloon Bay Tidal Flats (accessible via bush/float plane)

pincher

11: Pipe Creek Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)

pipe creek12: Snag Lake Cabin – Cook Inlet area near Nikiski (accessible via float plane, ski plane, snowmachine)

snag lake

13: Upper Ohmer Lake Cabin – Skilak Lake Road (accessible via hike-in)

ohmer14: Vogel Lake Cabin – Cook Inlet / Turnagain Arm (accessible via float plane, ski plane and snowmachine)

VogelPlease note that all the cabins are non-electric and many will require a boat to access. They are bare bones shelters that will require you to bring a warm sleeping bag, head lamp, fresh drinking water (or filtration system), safety gear and plenty of food. Make sure that anything you pack in you also pack out (meaning please do not leave any trash behind). By clicking on the link above to book these cabins, you can read the full descriptions of where each is located and what they offer. Many are even accessible all year long with snow-machine and cross country skiing access during the chilly, snowy winter months. Have fun out there, happy campers!

Everyone Must Visit Kasilof Mercantile & Rocky’s Café

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As you head south from Soldotna towards Kasilof (in the direction of Homer), you will come across Rocky’s Café and the Kasilof Mercentile on the left hand side of the Sterling Hwy, right before you hit the bridge that goes over the Kasilof River.

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The sign says café and espresso but there is SO much more at this great Alaskan place than just those two things. Upon pulling into the parking lot, we loved checking out all the cool displays that screamed “you are in a fishing town in Alaska.” First up was this huge salmon hung up with cool mile arrows telling you how far it is to more “civilized” areas. Paris, France is 4883 miles away – holy smokes! We certainly are remote up here on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground (and we love it that way).

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We also LOVED this swinging bench with old license plates from all around the United States. Perfect for a family photo op after enjoying a good meal inside. Apologies for the slightly blurry outside photos. When you arrive at 8:30pm on an empty stomach, it’s hard to keep your hands totally steady when your stomach is growling at you. 😉

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What stuck out to us was the attention to detail that this establishment truly put so some much care and emphasis on. As you read on you will see what we mean. Every direction you turn is beautifully decorated in the most Alaskan way possible. And it starts with these beautiful carved bears that great you upon entering.

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The first thing you see when coming in is a stocked up gift shop. For locals and visitors alike – there is something for everyone. Cool tee’s, hoodies, mugs, artwork, treats and so much more.

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As we walked to our table, we loved how clean and cozy the restaurant was. We also loved all the natural light that was coming in through the many windows. The exposed beams with hanging fans were also a very exquisite touch.

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We couldn’t help but to feast our eyes on all the beautiful stained glass. The wood and metal fish mounts were really cool as well.

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The Alaska themed artwork was also so beautiful to just stare at in amazement. Beautiful photos of epic wildlife found on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground.

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Then there is this epic paining of the mountains and inlet with float planes and fishing boats. Phenomenal! So very cool and so very fitting.

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The huge fireplace located right across from our table made us dream of returning during the snowy winter months. This would be the perfect spot to warm up next to the fire while enjoying a hearty meal.

r5We were also very impressed by the layout. There is a great amount of seating area (although were sure it gets packed during the summertime), a lengthy bar area and also lots of outdoor picnic tables. For such a small town, this is a rare find!

r6At Rocky’s Café they serve a mix of hearty American style cuisine options including burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, wild Alaska seafood, omelets, pancakes and other fabulous breakfast, lunch and dinner options. We stuck to some traditional favorites. Up first was a delicious Rueben on toasted wheat bread with fries on the side.

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And a Kasilof Club on sourdough bread with perfectly cooked tater tots. This is a favorite menu option for many who visit!

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On the way out we were pleasantly greeted by the dessert display. Our diets might not have loved us for partaking in this sweetness, but we couldn’t resist homemade cakes.

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And then there is the ice cream cooler… 😉 Need we say more? We decided that it should be considered illegal to leave Rocky’s Café without getting ice cream on the way out. Far too many fabulous flavors to pass up.

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From great food, ice cream, amazing desserts, a warm fire place, a cozy log cabin atmosphere, incredible paintings/artwork/stained glass windows, a gift shop and truly warm hospitality – it’s next to impossible to be disappointed when visiting this great Alaskan spot.

Springtime KEEN-EYE Candy

Lowell Point Beach in Seward, Alaska. Photo from Kristie Stockton.

Lowell Point Beach in Seward, Alaska. Photo from Kristie Stockton.

March Madness on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground means something a whole lot more beautiful than what you’d find on the basketball court. As winter faded away and officially turned to spring and we moved our clocks forward an hour, we made sure to capture the magical moments that happened in our very own backyard.

Photo from Alyeska Resort.

Photo from Alyeska Resort.

Feast your eyes on some gorgeous eye candy that was captured throughout the month of March that will have you falling in love with the Kenai Peninsula all over again.

Photo from Elsie I-Hsin Lin at Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska. ‎

Photo from Elsie I-Hsin Lin at Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska. ‎

We’ll kick things off with this beautiful sunrise in Soldotna, Alaska with  Mt. Redoubt glowing in the distance.

Sunrise 3.3 Soldotna, AK

No day in Alaska (where the state sport is dog mushing) is complete without a snowy dog walk in the woods. Although, this guy might be a little too small to compete with the real mushing dogs. 😉

Loomie in snow 3.8.16

Skilak Lake in Cooper Landing, Alaska is beautiful this time of year. And due to some pretty comfortable temperatures, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the lake has already broken up completely. Great for anyone wanting to get out for a day on the water enjoying some Rainbow Trout fishing.

Skilak Lake Alaska 3.5.16Cunningham Park in Kenai, Alaska is a beautiful place to take a walk and soak in the warm sunshine and beautiful blue skies.

cunningham park soldotna

As we headed out for a day of exploring on the Kenai River, we couldn’t help but to stop and take a photo of the stunning spring view from Bings Landing in Sterling, Alaska. Check out those beautiful mountain beaks in the distance! Such a gorgeous contrast against the strikingly beautiful blue water of the Kenai River.

Bings Landing Doc

A hike in the woods that leads to a lush overlook of thick forest and Tustemena Lake in the distance… always a win!

tustemena overlook

A sunset is no ordinary sunset when you take it in from Captain Cook State Recreation Area in Nikiski, Alaska. It’s like a whole bag of skittles in the sky! 😉

Captain Cook State Park

Sometimes “easy like Sunday morning” means taking a peaceful walk into the woods with a warm cup of coffee. Always a joyous journey on a beautiful spring day.

Sun beaming through treeline

Taking in an icy sunrise with a beautiful horse pasture in the distance is quite simply, what dreams are made of.

Sunrise over corrals 3.9.16

Because winter wonderland just feels like home (said every Alaskan, ever). ❤

Winterwonderland 3.9.16Swiftwater Park in Soldotna, Alaska offers breathtaking views all year long. Bonus fact: in the winter, you can usually have the whole place to yourself. EPIC.

swiftwater park

When the drive to work makes you pull over and have a photo-shoot, you know you live in the BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. But um, we aren’t biased at all. 😉

Sunrise 3.8.16And when a sunset gives you goose-bumps and makes your heart dance with so much pure joy, you also know that you live in THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. Like this one taken at the beginning of the month on Kasilof Beach.

Kasliof Beach Sunset 3.6.16

A day spent taking in the mountain views from the beach in Ninilchik, Alaska is always a good day. Especially when the sun is shining bright!

In addition to the beautiful beach, endless ocean and epic mountain peaks, the up close and personal Bald Eagle viewing is also a sight to behold when visiting Ninilchik.

bald eagle with mountains ninilchik ocean

And here’s the shot a little closer up. This Bald Eagle sure is a beauty! And by the looks of where it’s sitting, it looks like quite the dare devil. 😉 Or maybe just a smart fisherman!

eagle up close

The Kasilof River is such a special place to visit. During the wintertime when the snow still lines the banks, it’s like viewing something right out of a postcard. Simply incredible.

Kasilof

And move down a few miles to the mouth of the Kasilof River draining into the Pacific Ocean, this is a spectacular place to enjoy some soft sand and take in (yet another) epic sunset on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground.

Kasilof Beach Sunset 3.13

Watching both the mountains and the sun reflect onto the beautiful water via drift boat in the middle of Skilak Lake is always an enthralling experience.

sun reflecting off skilak lake 3.13

And it’s only fitting that after spending over 12 hours on the glistening Skilak Lake that we stay long enough to catch a sunset, Alaska’s Playground style.

skilak lake sunset 3.13

The launch to Tustemena Lake (or to float the Kasilof River) is a fabulous place to listen to wolves howl and to watch moose roam. It’s also a great place to have a campfire, go for a hike and enjoy being away from the crowds.

Secluded Spring Day at the Kasilof River - Tustemena Lake LaunchA sunset down Cannery Beach Road in Kenai is quite simply – what dreams are made of. ❤

Sunset down Cannery Beach Road overlooking Cook Inlet

Fishing the Kenai River near the Russian River confluence is way more fun without the crowds and with beautiful snow-capped mountains.

eric cooper landingThe Kenai River in Cooper Landing is STUNNING.

russian river confluence

There is no place like Homer. These views could suck you in for days.

stunning homer overlook 3.18

It was a magical night with calm, cool weather to watch boats in the bay as they got ready for the 2016 Winter King Tournament on 3.19.16.

homer mountains 3.18

And a sunset over Wasabi’s restaurant was sure to leave a lasting mark.

homer sunset from wasabis - 3.18.16

Swanson River Landing was beginning a serious breakup during late March. Soon enough we will be launching our kayaks for an epic float!

Swanson River

Fish Lake is a beautiful place fully submerge yourself in nature and not hear a single sound other than birds chirping and the occasional wolf howling.

Eric and Steve at Fish Lake 2

Remember, you have 365 changes to catch a sunrise and a sunset in each year. Get out there and make every day count. This beautiful sunrise was captured at Arc Lake in Soldotna, Alaska on March 9th.

Arc Lake

And on that note… We wish you love, safety and happiness with each and every day. Fall head over heels in love with The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground and never regret a second of this beautiful life!

Disclosure: With the exception of the first 3 photos featured above, all photos featured in this blog are copyright of Loomis Sage Marketing.