Hope, Alaska. Katie sez it “springs eternal here”

In Alaska Travelgram by scott

Seaview Café and Hope Main Street

Story and photos by Katie Pesznecker.

Don’t let summer slip away without sliding down to Hope, one of Alaska’s most fun and friendly seasonal towns that is a relatively quick and convenient drive from Anchorage. We are year-round “Hopesters” – the moniker locals lovingly use to label Hope residents and loyalists. We share a cabin rental with others year-round, which makes weekend turn-and-burns an enticing opportunity whether its sunny and hot or wintry and snowy.

The end of the road in Hope. 

For most people, Hope is a summer destination when it’s an easier trip and a more lively location. Take the Seward Highway south. Girdwood is the halfway point. Continue over Turnagain Pass, then travel the 17-mile spur Hope Road that dead-ends in this historic Gold Rush town. Hope’s roots go back to 1896, an era of bold sourdoughs and gold fever and rustic, whimsical log buildings, many of which still stand today. 

Katie in Hope.

A hardy 100-or-so folks call Hope home year-round, but summer is when the tiny Gold Rush town comes to life. Businesses that shutter during the winter reopen with gusto, grilling great food and brewing coffee and booking boisterous bands, drawing fun-loving crowds of whitewater rafters, music lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Too many people spend too many years in Alaska and sail right on past the Hope turnoff, and while those of us who love the little town are grateful for that in a way, I can’t help but brag on this end-of-the-road town teeming with charm and character.

Rustic cabins abound in Hope. 

The larger restaurants that generally operate in Hope during the summer season are the Creekbend Café, Dirty Skillet, and the Seaview Café and Bar. Creekbend is the only one with a sustained year-round presence, generally taking a weeks-long break in winter, but otherwise open a few days a week for a stretch of hours. The latter two are primarily summer businesses. 

Dirty Skillet (left) and its larger daytime lodge (right) sit on the edge of a calm pond. 

Dirty Skillet has been around several years and earned a niche for its creative food, glamping-cool ambiance and intimate live music sessions. Dining tables have small gas-powered fires in the center to warm chilled visitors. The restaurant perches on the edge of a small pond where ducks paddle about. A day lodge has space to chill, a full offering of coffee beverages, and some to-go food for purchase. There are also cozy cabins here for rent. 

Music at the Dirty Skillet. 

Seaview is probably Hope’s most iconic business, located on picturesque Main Street alongside like-minded 1900-era buildings, like the Social Hall and privately owned cabins. However, Seaview’s last full summer in operation was 2022. Prior to the 2023 season, the for-sale business remained on the market. 

Joe and Katie on the sunny Seaview deck before it went on the market. 

A new owner has purchased the establishment, which includes the RV campground and tent camping spaces, and the café and bar, which are connected by an outdoor patio. The camping areas are open but locals say permitting has kept the café and bar from reopening just yet. So far, the owner has had bands playing on the patio, so people can gather and dance and enjoy from Main Street. While it’s better than nothing, everyone is excited for this Hope staple to be back in the fold.  

Photo: The Creekbend Café. 

Creekbend, long-ago known as Tito’s Discovery Café, is mostly known for its killer food, generous patio, and a huge area out back with a stage, elevated areas for viewing, an outdoor bar, and some really fun, lively nights of music in the midnight sun. I have a soft spot for Creekbend, where beloved local Chef Chris comes up with creative cuisine year-round. Creekbend is also the only sit-down breakfast spot in town.

Late-night music at the Creekbend. 

Other breakfast options include the Turnagain Kayak Company, a coffee shop on the main Hope Highway that has an entire range of coffee drinks, smoothies, baked goods, and simple staples like breakfast sandwiches. This is often a must-stop on our way out of town after a fulfilling summer weekend.

Husband Joe grabs a coffee at Grounds for Hope.

Another popular coffee stop is Grounds for Hope, a small coffee cart just off Main Street, where the barista and owner makes drinks to order and sells an array of muffins and homemade breakfast burritos. Both Grounds for Hope and Kayak Company are open summer only. 

Forget something? Hope’s Coldwater Market is surprisingly well stocked. 

Salt of Hope is a food cart on Main Street known for inventive late-night eats like loaded tater tot platters, smoked brisket plates and huli huli chicken. Other fun stops in town include a hand-dipped ice cream shop, and Sourdough Dru’s Gift Shop. 

Fish on! Later in summer, Hope draws anglers for its run of pink salmon. 

Hope boasts plenty of recreation. The Gull Rock Trail and the Hope Point Trail offer two very different outdoorsy experiences. Gull Rock is a 5.7-mile trail out, and 5.7 miles back from the trailhead route, following the south shore of Turnagain Arm from the end of the Hope Highway to a rocky peninsula marking the promontory end of land. The trail has gradual ups and downs with occasional short, steep sections, and offers so many pretty views of Turnagain Arm. By contrast, Hope Point is an ambitious trail with a 2,338-foot elevation gain affording some truly stunning 360-degree views of Turnagain Arm.

Joe on Hope Point. (Photo credit Josh Niva) 

While my husband regularly takes off on these hiking adventures, long walks around Hope are more my speed. Hope is sleepy and slow, with 15-mile-per-hour speed limits on many of its wide gravel streets. It’s the perfect pace for strolling along, taking in the views of the Turnagain Arm mountains and the beautiful historic log buildings, many of which have plaques explaining their origins – which, being a history geek, I totally adore.

The Passwater Cabin, dating to 1902. Like many private residences, it was once Hope’s post office, as the location depended on who was elected postmaster. 

If history interests you, don’t miss Hope’s museum, and the adjacent grounds with some really striking buildings and relics from Gold Rush days. This includes a tiny schoolhouse, a stable, and a miners’ bunkhouse. Interpretive signs do an excellent job explaining the lay of the land. 

Historical buildings preserved on the grounds of Hope’s museum. 

As for lodging in Hope, many places rent cabins; Airbnb and VRBO options exist; and tent and car-camping are popular options. Just respect the space, signs, and most importantly, respect the patient locals: Hope is their home, and especially during big summer concerts or rafting or outdoor events that draw droves to town, this tiny, special place can feel swarmed and swamped quisckly. 

Joe, Katie, and Josh catching music at Dirty Skillet. 

Hope is undeniably fun when it’s rollicking, the sounds of summer music rolling through the rustling trees, dogs trotting freely, people mindlessly and joyfully dancing with abandon. It’s special too in its quiet moments, fisherman casting for pinks in the burbling creek that spills into Turnagain Arm, an errant moose strolling down a side road. If you haven’t prioritized a visit here, it’s time. 

Sunset in Hope.

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