There are many places in this world that will take your breath away, and the Head of Kachemak Bay is definitely one of them! This gorgeous vista is closer than many people think, and playing here is very accessible to anyone who has a ride to the end of the road, a pair of hiking shoes or Xtra Tuffs, and a couple of hours for adventuring. Although you can go further by four-wheeler or horseback, a quick hike or a run is equally awesome (and much simpler to coordinate!).
You will be able to push a single or double stroller on your hike, but the switchbacks are steep and sometimes the beach is muddy. If possible, a backpack is preferable, and kids ages 4 and up can be bribed to climb it by themselves.
To get the the Head of the Bay, follow East End Road to where it intersects with Voznesenka Rd. The 23-mile drive will take 35-45 minutes from Homer, and it's incredible. Be sure to take your time on the windy road, drive carefully, and enjoy the view!
There are two small parking areas when you arrive and a friendly reminder to please leash your dog. Your hike will start with the switchbacks. They are fairly steep, but the road - which has been built bit-by-bit mostly by Kachemak Selo locals over the past couple of decades - is really pretty amazing! Listen for traffic and stay to the side of the road as cars coming up cannot stop without losing their momentum. It's almost exactly 3/4 of a mile to the bottom.
From the beach, you can turn left or right. If you turn right and hike along the bluffs towards Homer, make sure to plan your trip on or before low tide.
Coal is plentiful at the Head of the Bay, and makes the sand look almost black.
Turning left will take you past Kachemak-Selo Village (about 1.5 miles from the parking area). You will see an old barge on your left used to transport goods before the road was completed and then two fiberglass molds for building boat hulls.
The Kenai Mountains tower on the southern side of the bay. Across from Fox Creek and up the Head of the Bay a bit you will see the Bradley Lake hydroelectric project, managed by Homer Electric Association. The Grewingk, Portlock, and Dixon Glaciers, which you can spot easily on a clear day, are all part of the Harding Icefield.
The Harding Icefield is one of only four remaining icefields in the US. At over 300 square miles of ice, it is the largest icefield contained entirely within the country. Off on a tangent now, but you can read a little bit more about the icefield's interesting history, especially in relation to local legend Yule Kilcher, and also view the DNA's great map of the southside of Kachemak Bay by following these links.
Fox Creek is 2.4 miles from the parking area and is a perfect place to break for a picnic, a little campfire, and a game of fetch with your pooch.
Fox Creek and Fox River were named in the early 1900's when fox farming boomed briefly in Alaska. Foxes were farmed in Alaska all the way back to Russian times, but became big on the Kenai Peninsula around the 1920's (starting in Seward and Kasilof and spreading to the Head of the Bay). Sam Pratt, who, with his wife Vega, donated the land the the Pratt Museum was built on, worked as a fox farmer for a time.
Fur declined in popularity quickly after the stock market crash in 1929 and the fox farmers at the Head of the Bay and in other parts of the Kenai Peninsula moved onto other things. A bit more on the history of fox farming here if you're interested from the Clarion and KDLL.
Fox Creek is not huge, but it's also not the easiest to cross, so when I am out playing with the kids, we generally conclude our adventure here. It's a simple but very enjoyable 5 mile out-and-back that will get kids out in the great outdoors and keep the whining to a minimum. (You have snacks, right Mom?!).
If you want to continue on, it is easiest on a four-wheeler or by horseback, but you can definitely get a couple more miles on foot if you're wearing good, tall boots or waterproof sandals. Just cross Fox Creek and keep on cruising - eco-sensitively of course (is that a word?!).
The next large water source you will encounter is Fox River, at which point you will have to turn around if you are on foot.
Crossing Fox River
Then, about 7-miles from the trail head is Sheep Creek. These, along with Grewingk Creek and the Wosnesenski River on the south side of the bay, are the primary inflowing water sources that create the turbid estuary at the Head of the Bay.
The Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and covers more then 370,000 acres. It's one of the largest, most diverse, and widely used estuaries in Alaska and supports many, many different shorebirds and waterfowl, which you will most likely get to glimpse as you travel. This is definitely an adventure worth taking - over and over again!! Have fun! XOXO