Nestled amidst glacier-clad mountains and kissed by the icy embrace of Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska, beckons the intrepid explorer with a symphony of adventure.
Imagine: Worthington Glacier shimmering on Thompson Pass, Bridal Veil Falls whispering secrets in Keystone Canyon, and humpback Whales painting the sky with acrobatic leaps in Port Valdez.
But the grandeur doesn’t stop there. Sail amidst towering ice formations on a Columbia Glacier Cruise, witnessing nature’s raw power as ancient glacial chunks calve into the turquoise waters.
All this unfolds within a stone’s throw, making Valdez an Alaska-in-miniature where adventure bursts from every corner.
Get ready to dive into 30 experiences that will leave you breathless, from heart-pounding glacier cruises to soul-stirring hikes.
The beauty of the untamed wilderness in Valdez, Alaska, awaits. It is a tapestry woven from glacier-kissed mountains, cascading waterfalls, and a coastline alive with breaching whales. Prepare to be swept away!
Looking for more tips for your trip to Alaska? Don’t miss these posts!
- Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez, Alaska: A Review
- Kenai Fjords Tours from Seward, Alaska: A Review
- Seward Windsong Lodge: Best Place to Stay in Seward, Alaska
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
- Discover Valdez, Alaska With A Map: Your Interactive Guide to 30 Best Things To Do
- Best Outdoor Activities in Valdez, Alaska
- Best Historical and Cultural Attractions in Valdez, Alaska
- Best Indoor Experiences in Valdez, Alaska
- Nearby Excursions and Day Trips from Valdez, Alaska
- Events and Festivals in Valdez, Alaska
- Where To Eat in Valdez, Alaska
- Where to Stay in Valdez, Alaska
- When is the best time to visit Valdez, Alaska
- How to Get to Valdez: Your Practical Guide
- Did You Know? Intriguing Facts About Valdez, Alaska
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Discover Valdez, Alaska With A Map: Your Interactive Guide to 30 Best Things To Do
Best Outdoor Activities in Valdez, Alaska
Valdez, Alaska, offers a treasure trove of outdoor activities set against some of the most stunning natural backdrops in the world.
Here’s a list of the best outdoor activities to enjoy in Valdez, each promising an unforgettable adventure in the heart of Alaska’s pristine wilderness.
Take A Glacier Cruise
1. Columbia Glacier Cruise
Embarking on a Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez, Alaska, is an experience that etches itself into the heart of every traveler, offering a profound connection with the natural world in its most majestic form.
This journey into the icy realms of Prince William Sound is more than a simple excursion; it’s an adventure that brings you face-to-face with the raw power and beauty of one of Alaska’s most dynamic natural wonders.
As you set sail from Valdez, the landscape unfolds in a spectacle of shimmering blues and pristine whites, leading you to the mighty Columbia Glacier, the second largest tidewater glacier in North America.
Imagine this: towering walls of glacial ice, shimmering turquoise waters reflecting the Alaskan sky, and the thunderous crack of calving ice echoing through the air. This isn’t a fantasy; it’s the reality that awaits you on a Columbia Glacier Cruise, an unforgettable adventure sailing into the heart of Alaska’s grandeur.
Columbia Glacier is one of the fastest-moving glaciers in the world and offers a rare glimpse into the forces that shape our planet.
The cruise provides an unparalleled opportunity to witness the phenomenon of calving, where massive chunks of ice break off the glacier and thunder into the waters below, creating a moment of awe-inspiring beauty and power.
The journey is not just about the glacier itself; it’s an immersive experience that brings the rich tapestry of Alaskan wildlife into view.
From the deck, you may catch sight of sea otters playfully bobbing in the waters, seals sunning themselves on ice floes, and bald eagles soaring high above.
Keep your eyes peeled – majestic humpback whales might breach the surface, and their acrobatic displays are a breathtaking reminder of the natural world’s wonders.
More than just a sightseeing tour, a Columbia Glacier Cruise is a journey of discovery.
Expert guides onboard will unveil the secrets of this icy realm, sharing fascinating insights into glacial formation, the delicate ecosystem of Prince William Sound, and the history of this awe-inspiring landscape.
Travel Tip: Read my detailed review about the Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez, Alaska.
2. Meares Glacier Cruise
Set sail on an odyssey of ice and ocean with the Meares Glacier Cruise, a voyage that offers an intimate encounter with one of Alaska’s most secluded and active tidewater glaciers.
Departing from the charming port of Valdez, this journey invites you into the untouched corners of Prince William Sound, where nature’s drama quietly unfolds.
The Meares Glacier Cruise is a captivating experience that promises not just sights but stories. As your vessel navigates the calm, iceberg-strewn waters, you’ll be enveloped by the grandeur of steep fjords and cascading waterfalls.
The air is crisp and filled with anticipation as the Meares Glacier comes into view, its vastness commanding respect and its beauty, a silent siren call to those with a wanderlust for wild places.
With every mile closer, the glacier reveals its intricate details — deep crevasses radiating azure blues and seracs towering like skyscrapers of ice.
The highlight is witnessing the spectacle of calving, where house-sized blocks of ice sheer away and plunge into the ocean, a testament to the glacier’s ever-changing nature.
The Meares Glacier Cruise also offers a symphony of wildlife encounters. The Sound’s nutrient-rich waters are a haven for marine life; you might see sea otters twirling amidst kelp or harbor seals lounging on floating ice.
Overhead, the watchful eyes of eagles patrol the skies, and with luck, the breach of a whale can punctuate the horizon, its presence a reminder of the wild heart that beats within these waters.
Guides aboard the cruise are fountains of knowledge, their narratives weaving together the history, geology, and ecology of the area.
They tell tales of the Sound’s past inhabitants, the natural forces that sculpt the landscape, and the complex ecosystems that support both the seen and unseen life around you.
A Meares Glacier Cruise is more than a day trip; it’s a journey into a realm where time is measured by the slow dance of glaciers and the ebb and flow of tides.
This is not just a cruise; it’s an invitation to witness the raw and rugged poetry of nature up close.
Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding
3. Prince William Sound
Kayaking in the serene expanse of Prince William Sound is an experience of profound tranquility and connection with the natural world.
Gliding over crystal-clear waters, you’re surrounded by a mosaic of lush greenery and the imposing majesty of towering mountains.
Each paddle stroke brings you closer to hidden coves and secret passages that are inaccessible by any other means, offering a chance to discover secluded beaches and witness the playful antics of sea otters or the graceful dives of porpoises.
Feel the thrill of navigating amidst icebergs, each a unique sculpture carved by nature.
Prince William Sound offers an unforgettable kayaking or paddleboarding adventure. Every stroke connects you to the raw beauty of Alaska.
4. Valdez Glacier Lake
Paddleboarding on Valdez Glacier Lake is an otherworldly adventure, where you stand atop a board, navigating through a tranquil basin dotted with icebergs.
The lake, set against the backdrop of the magnificent Valdez Glacier, offers a unique vantage point to view the glacier’s rugged face and the surrounding peaks.
The ethereal blue of the ice formations contrasts with the dark, mineral-rich waters, creating a surreal paddling experience.
As you balance and weave through the floating ice, you become part of the lake’s ever-changing landscape, an intimate dance with the forces of nature.
For those who prefer a more grounded experience, as I did, you can nearly drive up to the edge of this iceberg-filled lake, where the retreat of the Valdez Glacier has left a legacy of floating monuments.
While the glacier itself may no longer be visible from the shore, the lakeshore offers the opportunity to see the floating icebergs. You may even touch an iceberg that has reached the water’s edge.
And if you yearn for a closer encounter with the glacier and its icy companions, consider booking a kayak tour for an unforgettable freshwater voyage.
Hike or Bike The Scenic Trails
5. Dock Point Trail: A Scenic Stroll with Big Views
- Difficulty: Easy
- Directions: Begin your adventure to Dock Point Trail from the expansive parking and picnic zone at Kennicott Avenue and Kobuk Drive. You’ll find it just across the way from the Valdez Small Boat Harbor.
Embrace nature’s charm on Dock Point Trail, a gentle loop perfect for families and casual explorers. This 0.8-mile path unfolds like a scenic tapestry, showcasing the splendor of Harbor Cove, the teeming Duck Flats wetlands, and the diverse wildlife of the temperate boreal rainforest.
Imagine strolling amidst lush greenery, wildflowers swaying in the breeze, and the calming murmur of waves lapping at the shore.
Observation platforms along the way let you soak in panoramic vistas of the Duck Flats, a haven for migratory birds, and the shimmering expanse of the harbor framed by snow-capped peaks.
Even though the trail meanders through a serene landscape, a short, slightly steeper section might get your heart rate up a notch.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing strenuous, and hiking the loop clockwise allows you to tackle it head-on before enjoying the rest of the leisurely walk.
Dock Point Trail offers an unforgettable experience. So, lace up your shoes, breathe in the crisp Alaskan air, and embark on a scenic journey that’s both invigorating and relaxing.
6. Overlook Trail: Soak in Panoramic Vistas
- Difficulty: Easy
- Directions: Head south on Hazelet Avenue toward Civic Center Hill. You can park either on the hill itself or in the parking lot adjacent to Kelsey Dock. The trailhead is situated at the northwest corner of the northern parking lot of the Civic Center.
Embark on a short and rewarding hike on Overlook Trail, where breathtaking panoramas await. This easily accessible path is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
As you ascend the moderate incline comprising 133 wooden steps, prepare to be dazzled by ever-expanding views.
Reach the summit and be greeted by a captivating 360-degree spectacle. Gaze upon the charming town of Valdez, nestled amidst towering mountains.
Let your eyes wander across the glistening expanse of Valdez Harbor and admire the Alyeska Pipeline snaking its way through the landscape. On a clear day, you might even spot majestic cruise ships gracing the horizon.
More than just a scenic viewpoint, Overlook Trail offers a peaceful escape amidst nature. Breathe in the crisp Alaskan air, listen to the calming chirps of birds, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings.
Take a moment to rest at the sheltered picnic area at the top, enjoying a delicious snack while marveling at the vistas before you.
Whether you’re seeking a quick exercise break, a memorable family outing, or a chance to commune with nature, Overlook Trail promises an unforgettable experience.
So, lace up your shoes, conquer the manageable climb, and be rewarded with breathtaking views and a newfound appreciation for Valdez’s beauty.
7. Homestead Trail: Nature’s Gentle Embrace by the Sea
- Difficulty: Easy
- Directions: From Valdez, navigate Egan Drive across the bridge over Mineral Creek, then make a left onto Homestead Road. You will find the trailhead on the left side of the road.
Unwind along Homestead Trail, a tranquil path meandering alongside Mineral Creek as it meets the embrace of Port Valdez.
This easily accessible 1-mile loop, starting off Homestead Road, invites you to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.
Imagine strolling beneath a canopy of vibrant green, sunlight dappling the path as you follow the gentle murmur of the creek.
Keep your eyes peeled for colorful wildflowers blooming amongst the ferns, and listen for the melodious calls of birds flitting through the trees.
As you reach the end of the trail, a breathtaking vista unfolds before you. The turquoise waters of Port Valdez shimmer in the distance, framed by snow-capped peaks in the majestic Chugach Mountains.
Breathe in the fresh, salty air and feel the tranquility of the moment wash over you.
This trail is more than just a scenic escape; it’s a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for salmon swimming upstream during late summer, and you might even spot bald eagles soaring high above.
In winter, the trail transforms into a peaceful snowshoeing haven, offering a unique perspective of the frosted landscape.
8. Keystone Canyon Pack Trail: History and Wilderness Collide
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Directions: To reach the trail, proceed on the Richardson Highway and turn onto Old Richardson Highway Loop. The trailhead is located along the loop.
Journey back in time on Keystone Canyon Pack Trail, a moderate 4-mile adventure through history and stunning scenery.
This remote trail, off the Richardson Highway, served as part of the legendary Trail of 1898, guiding prospectors to the Alaskan gold rush.
Imagine traversing switchbacks lined with wildflowers, gazing upon dramatic mountain vistas, and catching glimpses of glaciers glinting in the distance.
Breathe in the crisp air, steeped in the echoes of the past, and listen for the whispers of history beneath your boots.
As you delve deeper into the canyon, be mesmerized by cascading waterfalls like Bridal Veil Falls. Keep your eyes peeled for diverse wildlife, from soaring eagles to curious marmots.
Good To Know: Embrace the solitude of the wilderness, broken only by the sounds of nature and your own footsteps. Keystone Canyon Pack Trail offers a glimpse into Alaska’s rugged beauty and captivating past.
The original “Pack Trail” was a crucial artery from the Port of Valdez to Eagle, Alaska, constructed in 1898 by the US Army to offer an “All-American” route to the Klondike Goldfields.
Post-gold rush, it connected Army posts, Fort Liscum in Valdez and Fort Egbert in Eagle, evolving into a vital access route to interior Alaska.
By 1910, it was upgraded into a wagon road under the supervision of US Army General Wilds P. Richardson, lending his name to the later Richardson Highway.
Abandoned when the highway chose a path alongside the Lowe River, this segment of the pack trail lay forgotten until rediscovery and clearing in 1997 and 1998, using hand tools to preserve its 1899 spirit.
9. Shoup Bay Trail: Alaskan Wilderness Beckons
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Directions: The starting point for Shoup Bay Trail Section A is located at Shoup Bay Park, at the terminus of Egan Drive. To find the trailhead, continue west on Egan Drive through Valdez until you reach the end of the road. On-site parking is available.
Embrace the rugged Alaskan wilderness on Shoup Bay Trail, an adventure for experienced hikers seeking epic views and pristine nature. This demanding journey offers two sections:
Section A (6.5 miles round trip): Moderate hike from trailhead to Gold Creek campsite. Traverse scenic flats, streams, and meadows, enjoying glimpses of Port Valdez. Perfect for a challenging day hike or overnight camping under the stars.
Section B (12.6 miles round trip, strenuous): Untamed wilderness beyond Gold Creek. Push through overgrown brush, cross Uno Creek, and descend to Shoup Bay’s intertidal zone. Witness the awe-inspiring Shoup Glacier and a rare kittiwake rookery. Only for experienced explorers prepared for solitude and challenging terrain.
Remember: Be prepared for changing weather, bring bear spray, and check tide tables before venturing into Section B. This demanding trail rewards with unforgettable panoramas, a sense of accomplishment, and deep immersion in Alaska’s raw beauty.
10. Mineral Creek Trail: Gold Rush Relics to Glacier Views
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Directions: From the heart of Valdez, proceed north on either Hazelet or Meals Avenue, then take a left onto Hanagita Street. Continue onto Mineral Creek Drive, navigating through a residential area until you arrive at the gravel path signaling the start of Mineral Creek Trail.
Uncover Alaska’s past and stunning scenery on Mineral Creek Trail. This versatile route offers two distinct experiences:
Easy 1.5-mile gravel path: Follow Mineral Creek Drive, cross a bridge, and delve into the valley. Spot waterfalls, wildflowers, and remnants of gold rush history like the abandoned stamp mill. This section is perfect for families and casual hikers.
Moderate 6-mile adventure: Beyond the washout at Horsetail Creek Falls (accessible by foot or 4WD), the trail transforms into a dirt path for experienced hikers. Traverse wildflower meadows, witness glaciers, and reach the remote stamp mill – a true journey back in time.
Mineral Creek Trail promises a journey rich in history, nature, and breathtaking Alaskan vistas.
11. Valdez Goat Trail: Past Meets Present Adventure
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Directions: The trail begins at the wooden sign situated just beyond Horsetail Falls in Keystone Canyon, located at Mile 13.5 along the Richardson Highway.
Traverse history and wilderness on the Goat Trail, a moderately challenging path winding through Keystone Canyon.
This 2.5-mile journey, once used by gold prospectors, unveils stunning canyon vistas and whispers of Alaska’s past.
Travel Tip: For more information about these hikes, download this map!
12. View Worthington Glacier: Witness Frozen Majesty
Discover the majesty of Worthington Glacier, a highlight of the Valdez area, where nature’s artistry is on full display.
Located within the spectacular Thompson Pass, just a short drive from Valdez, Worthington Glacier offers visitors the chance to witness a glacier up close without the need for a strenuous hike.
While the highway offers stunning vistas, don’t miss the chance to explore the 113-acre Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site.
Look for a well-marked turnout on your right that directs you to the glacier, where you’ll find ample parking, restrooms, and a model of the glacier for visitors to view.
The Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site provides accessible viewing platforms and interpretative trails that educate on the glacier’s geology, making it an ideal destination for families, photographers, and anyone intrigued by the dynamic forces of nature.
This glacier, with its stunning ice formations and panoramic mountain views, encapsulates the awe-inspiring beauty of Alaska’s wilderness, inviting all who visit to explore and appreciate its frozen wonder.
13. Drive Through Thompson Pass: A Journey through Alaska’s Natural Splendor
Experience the breathtaking beauty of Alaska from the comfort of your car on a scenic drive through Thompson Pass, the crown jewel of the Richardson Highway. The trail runs from Mile 19.6 to Mile 25.7 of the Richardson Highway.
This route carves a 2,600-foot-high gap through the Chugach Mountains. Weave through dramatic mountain ranges, stopping at designated pullouts to capture breathtaking panoramas of glaciers, cascading waterfalls, and alpine meadows bursting with wildflowers.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, with chances to spot bald eagles soaring overhead or curious marmots peeking from rocky outcrops.
Thompson Pass is a feast for the eyes and a gateway to numerous outdoor activities. Winter transforms the pass into a haven for skiers seeking challenging terrain and steep runs amidst incredible winter scenery.
With an average snowfall exceeding 700 inches, Thompson Pass holds the title of the snowiest place in Alaska.
Since 1977, it has also been a vital corridor for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, marking the journey of oil to Valdez’s southern terminus.
Whether shrouded in winter’s snowy blanket or basked in the midnight sun of summer, driving through Thompson Pass is an unforgettable journey into the heart of Alaska’s wild beauty, making it a must-do for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
Explore Spectacular Waterfalls
Immerse yourself in the captivating natural beauty of Valdez by visiting its most enchanting waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls.
Nestled within the rugged landscapes of Keystone Canyon, these falls are not only a testament to the raw power of nature but also a serene retreat for those seeking tranquility.
14. Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls cascades gracefully over steep cliffs, creating a misty veil that shimmers in the sunlight.
The falls are easily accessible, making it a perfect spot for families and photographers alike to capture the essence of Alaska’s wilderness.
The soothing sounds and cool spray of the water provide a refreshing pause on any journey through the canyon.
15. Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls, with its distinctive, flowing form that resembles a horse’s tail, offers a striking contrast to the surrounding rock faces.
Positioned just a short distance from Bridal Veil Falls, Horsetail provides another opportunity to experience the peaceful harmony of nature.
Its accessibility allows visitors to get up close, feel the mist on their skin, and perhaps catch a rainbow arching through the spray on a sunny day.
16. Journey Through Time: Keystone Canyon & The Historic Railroad Tunnel
Embark on a journey through Keystone Canyon, where Valdez’s natural grandeur meets historical intrigue.
This remarkable canyon, carved by the forces of nature, is not only home to stunning waterfalls like Bridal Veil and Horsetail but also to the remnants of early 20th-century ambition—the Historic Railroad Tunnel.
Begun in the early 1900s during the rush to exploit Alaska’s interior riches, the tunnel stands as a silent testament to human endeavor against the backdrop of the untamed wilderness.
Although the railroad project was never completed, the tunnel entrance and the stories it holds offer a fascinating glimpse into Alaska’s pioneering past.
Visitors to Keystone Canyon can explore this blend of natural beauty and history, wandering among the echoes of dreams and determination that shaped the region.
Whether you’re drawn by the allure of adventure, the call of the wild, or the whispers of history, Keystone Canyon and its Historic Railroad Tunnel promise an unforgettable experience.
17. Soak Up the Charm: Exploring Valdez’s Enchanting Waterfront
Discover the serene beauty of Valdez by exploring its picturesque waterfront.
A leisurely stroll along the harbor walk offers panoramic views of the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, set against the dramatic backdrop of towering mountains.
This scenic route is a perfect way to experience the maritime charm of Valdez, with opportunities to watch local fishermen at work, observe sea otters playing in the harbor, and even spot majestic bald eagles soaring overhead.
Savor a delicious meal at a waterfront restaurant, indulging in fresh-caught seafood with panoramic views of the bay.
The waterfront is also dotted with informative plaques that tell the story of Valdez’s rich history and its resilient community.
Whether you’re seeking a peaceful walk to start your day, a moment to appreciate Alaska’s stunning natural beauty, or a chance to learn more about the area’s cultural heritage, Valdez’s waterfront provides a picturesque setting that captures the heart of this unique Alaskan town.
18. Reel in Adventure: Dive into the Thrills of a Valdez Fishing Tour
Embark on a fishing tour in Valdez for an unparalleled adventure on the pristine waters of Prince William Sound.
Valdez, known for its rich marine life and abundant fish populations, offers some of the best fishing experiences in Alaska.
Cast your line against a backdrop of majestic mountains and shimmering waters on an unforgettable Valdez fishing tour.
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a curious novice, these tours offer an exciting immersion into Alaska’s bountiful marine ecosystem. Feel the thrill of battling a feisty salmon, hauling in a hefty halibut, or reeling in a trophy rockfish.
Experienced guides will share their expertise, helping you master techniques and navigate the pristine waters of Prince William Sound.
Witness the awe-inspiring scenery as you cruise through emerald bays, framed by snow-capped peaks, and keep your eyes peeled for diverse marine life, from playful otters to soaring bald eagles.
Beyond the adrenaline rush, these tours offer a unique connection to Alaska’s rich fishing heritage. Learn about the sustainable practices employed to protect this valuable resource and savor the fruits of your labor with a fresh seafood feast prepared onboard.
Whether you choose a half-day adventure or a multi-day expedition, a Valdez fishing tour promises an unforgettable blend of outdoor excitement, cultural immersion, and delicious rewards.
So grab your rod, channel your inner angler, and prepare to reel in memories that will last a lifetime!
19. Discover the Cycle of Life: The Solomon Gulch Hatchery Experience
Nestled just 12 miles east of Valdez, along Dayville Road, Solomon Gulch Hatchery offers a unique blend of outdoor activity and educational experience.
Owned by the Valdez Fisheries Development Association Inc. and completed in 1983, the facility plays a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of wild salmon populations.
The facility has authorization to incubate, nurture, and release 270 million pink salmon and 2 million Coho salmon each year.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of Pacific salmon, witnessing their lifecycle firsthand and gaining a deeper appreciation for this keystone species.
Embark on an enlightening journey to The Solomon Gulch Hatchery, where the fascinating world of salmon comes to life.
This hatchery is not just a hub of aquaculture but a window into the delicate balance of Alaska’s marine ecosystem.
Visitors have the unique opportunity to witness the remarkable process of salmon spawning and learn about the hatchery’s efforts to sustain robust salmon populations for the environment and commercial fisheries.
The hatchery, accessible to the public, offers an up-close view of millions of salmon returning to their birthplace each summer, a natural spectacle that attracts not only fish but also local wildlife.
It’s common to see eagles soaring overhead, bears along the banks, as well as seagulls, sea lions, and sea otters feeding on the returning salmon, making it an excellent spot for wildlife photography and observation.
The best time to view the returning salmon is from July through October. A free self-guided tour is available along the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery Walkway.
These tours offer insights into the hatchery’s significant impact through interpretive displays and interactive videos.
Beyond its educational value, the hatchery’s picturesque location against a backdrop of rugged mountains and the sound of rushing water create a serene setting for visitors to enjoy.
Whether you’re an angler, nature lover, or curious traveler, The Solomon Gulch Hatchery provides a compelling glimpse into the life cycle of one of Alaska’s most iconic species and the conservation efforts that ensure their survival.
It’s a must-visit destination that adds depth to any Valdez adventure, highlighting the interconnectedness of nature, wildlife, and human industry.
Best Historical and Cultural Attractions in Valdez, Alaska
20. Valdez Museum & Historical Archive
Explore the history and culture of Valdez and the Copper River Basin.
With exhibits ranging from the Gold Rush and the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the museum offers a comprehensive look into the events that shaped the region.
21. The Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum
Located on the campus of Prince William Sound College, this museum boasts an extensive collection of Native Alaskan artifacts, fine art, and natural history specimens.
It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in the art, culture, and wildlife of Alaska.
22. Valdez Consortium Library
Not just a place for books, the Valdez Consortium Library serves as a community hub offering various programs, workshops, and events for all ages.
It’s a perfect spot for visitors looking to catch up on some reading or learn more about Valdez through its local authors and collections.
Best Indoor Experiences in Valdez, Alaska
23. Dive into Valdez’s Heart at the Valdez Convention & Visitors Bureau
Begin your Valdez adventure at the Valdez Convention & Visitors Bureau, the ultimate starting point for every visitor to this picturesque town.
Positioned as a treasure trove of local knowledge and resources, the bureau offers guests an in-depth look into the best Valdez has to offer.
From detailed maps and brochures to personalized recommendations on dining, accommodations, and must-see attractions, the friendly staff are equipped to help tailor your visit to your interests.
Discover the rich history, culture, and natural wonders of Valdez through interactive displays and informative exhibits that highlight the area’s unique heritage and breathtaking landscapes.
Nearby Excursions and Day Trips from Valdez, Alaska
Valdez, Alaska, is a gateway to some of the most spectacular natural wonders and quaint destinations in the region. Here are a few suggestions for nearby excursions and day trips that promise to enrich any visit to Valdez with adventure, scenic beauty, and a touch of history.
24. Explore the Old Town of Cordova
Hop on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry for a journey across Prince William Sound to Cordova, a historic fishing town with a delightful small-town feel.
Stroll the wooden boardwalks, explore the local museum, or hit the hiking trails.
For those passionate about fishing, a day trip to Chitina along the Copper River offers the ultimate experience.
Known for its dipnetting, Chitina allows Alaskans to catch their annual salmon in a uniquely Alaskan way. Even if you’re not fishing, the area’s scenic beauty is a draw in itself.
Chitina offers stunning views of the Copper River and Wrangell St.-Elias National Park. If you have time, make the scenic drive up the McCarthy Road into the heart of the Wrangell St.-Elias Wilderness.
26. Shoup Glacier
Experience the pristine beauty of Shoup Glacier, a tidewater glacier nestled in Prince William Sound’s Shoup Bay.
This unforgettable kayaking adventure is accessible from the charming town of Valdez, Alaska. Whether it’s a day trip or an overnight cabin experience, immerse yourself in the raw beauty of this Alaskan gem.
What to Expect
- Journey: Begin in Valdez, taking a scenic boat ride to Shoup Bay. Look for playful otters, sea lions, and maybe even whales!
- Kayaking: Paddle near the awe-inspiring glacier, listening to the crackle of ancient ice. Maintain a safe distance due to potential calving.
- Wildlife: Witness harbor seals basking on ice floes and bald eagles soaring overhead.
- Cabins (Optional): Extend your adventure with an overnight stay in one of the rustic cabins inside Shoup Bay State Marine Park.
Events and Festivals in Valdez, Alaska
Valdez, Alaska, with its stunning natural beauty and vibrant community, hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year that celebrate the region’s culture, history, and love for the outdoors.
Here’s a glimpse into some of the standout events and festivals in Valdez.
27. Valdez Ice Climbing Festival (February)
A world-renowned festival attracting ice climbers of all levels to the frozen waterfalls of Keystone Canyon. Clinics, competitions, and camaraderie make this a thrilling winter event.
28. Fat Bike Bash (February/March)
Experience Valdez on two wheels during this fun-filled fat bike festival. Races, social rides, and demos celebrate this versatile biking style.
29. Valdez Gold Rush Days (July)
Valdez Gold Rush Days is a five-day festival that commemorates Valdez’s Gold Rush history and its rich cultural heritage.
The festival includes a variety of activities such as parades, live music, historical tours, and gold panning contests, offering fun and entertainment for all ages.
30. Valdez Fish Derbies (Summer)
Fishing is a way of life in Valdez, and the Valdez Fish Derbies celebrate this passion with competitions for the biggest catches of salmon and halibut.
Spanning the summer months, these derbies offer great prizes and fun for the whole family, with weekly updates and a friendly atmosphere that brings the community together.
Where To Eat in Valdez, Alaska
Here are a few places with good ratings in Valdez, Alaska:
- Fu Kung Chinese Restaurant: A casual spot offering familiar Chinese-American dishes and classic takeout options.
- The Wheelhouse: Enjoy fresh seafood and harbor views at this upscale restaurant within the Valdez Harbor Inn
Where to Stay in Valdez, Alaska
Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn: Perched directly on the harbor, this well-known hotel boasts scenic views of the surrounding mountains and Chugach Mountain Range. You’ll enjoy comfy rooms and convenient access to restaurants and boat tours. Book a stay here!
Glacier Hotel: I recently stayed at the Glacier Hotel and loved its quaint Alaskan charm. It offers clean, comfortable rooms and a friendly atmosphere. Plus, its location right off the main street puts you steps from shops and outdoor outfitters. Book a stay here!
When is the best time to visit Valdez, Alaska
Valdez offers something special throughout the year, but your ideal travel time depends on your priorities:
- Summer (June-August): Peak season offers the warmest weather, long daylight hours, and bustling activity. It’s ideal for hiking, kayaking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and glacier cruises. Expect more crowds and higher prices.
- Shoulder Seasons (May & September): These months provide balance, with decent weather and vibrant fall colors in September. Most tours and activities remain operational, while crowds lessen.
- Winter (November-March): Experience a quieter Valdez perfect for winter activities like ice climbing at the renowned Ice Festival, snowshoeing, or chasing the Northern Lights. Be aware of shorter daylight hours and possible road closures.
- Salmon Runs (July-August): Anglers, be aware that the prime time to catch salmon in Valdez coincides with its summer peak season.
Important Note: Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable. Come prepared with layers and rain gear no matter the season.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Valdez depends on your preferred activities and tolerance for crowds. Do you dream of warm summer hikes or chasing a thrilling winter ice climb?
How to Get to Valdez: Your Practical Guide
Reaching Valdez, the quintessential starting point for your Columbia Glacier tour, is quite straightforward despite its somewhat remote Alaskan location.
Here are some of the most practical ways to get to Valdez:
The quickest way to reach Valdez is by flying. The Valdez Airport (VDZ) is serviced by Ravn Alaska, which offers frequent flights from Anchorage.
The flight takes about 45 minutes and offers stunning aerial views of Alaska’s landscape. Car rental services are available at the airport for your convenience.
I took this option when I visited Valdez. I drove from Denali and stopped at Glacier View for a night before continuing to Valdez.
If you’re starting from Anchorage, one of the most scenic routes is the Glenn Highway (AK-1) through the Matanuska Valley, connecting to Richardson Highway (AK-4), leading straight into Valdez.
The drive is approximately 300 miles and takes about 5-6 hours, depending on road conditions and stops along the way.
The road journey offers an array of beautiful landscapes, from towering mountains to serene lakes, making every mile worthwhile.
But the highlight of this journey? The awe-inspiring Thompson Pass. Situated along the Richardson Highway, this elevated pass stands as one of Alaska’s natural treasures, offering breathtaking views of the Chugach Mountains.
It’s an experience that adds an unforgettable chapter to your Alaskan adventure. While the entire route offers beautiful landscapes, from towering mountains to serene lakes, crossing the Thompson Pass makes every mile not just worthwhile, but truly memorable.
Consider the Alaska Marine Highway System for a slower but equally scenic route. The ferry connects Valdez to Whittier and Cordova, offering a unique way to experience Alaska’s coastline and potentially spot some marine life along the way.
However, the ferry schedule is less frequent, so you’ll need to plan your itinerary carefully.
Tips for the Journey:
- Check Road Conditions: If you’re driving, always check road conditions, especially in winter, as parts of the route can be challenging.
- Ferry Reservations: If you opt for the ferry, booking your tickets in advance is advisable, especially during peak season.
- Car Rentals: Reserve your car rental ahead of time if you’re flying into Valdez; options might be limited.
- Pack Smart: Whether you choose land or sea, pack some snacks, water, and possibly even binoculars for wildlife spotting!
By whichever means you choose, getting to Valdez is a journey in itself, offering a spectacular introduction to the wild beauty you’ll encounter more intimately in your upcoming Columbia Glacier adventure.
Did You Know? Intriguing Facts About Valdez, Alaska
- Snow Capital:** Valdez proudly boasts the title of “Snowiest City in the USA,” often receiving over 300 inches of snowfall annually!
- Earthquake History:** The original town of Valdez was destroyed by the devastating 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, one of the most powerful ever recorded. The town was relocated four miles west for greater stability.
- Gold Rush Gateway:** Valdez served as the jumping-off point for thousands of prospectors heading to the interior goldfields during the Klondike Gold Rush.
- Terminus of the Pipeline:** The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, an engineering marvel stretching 800 miles, ends in Valdez, making it a key oil shipping hub.
- Wildlife Wonderland:** The waters of Prince William Sound teem with wildlife. Expect to see whales, otters, sea lions, eagles, and potentially even bears on your adventures in the area.
- Heli-Skiing Haven:** Valdez is considered one of the top destinations in the world for heli-skiing, offering unparalleled access to vast, untouched mountains.
- Exxon Valdez Impact:** In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, a major environmental disaster with lasting impact on the region’s ecosystems.
Similar Articles From Travel Realizations
As we conclude our guide to the 30 Best Things to Do in Valdez, Alaska, it’s clear that Valdez is a treasure trove of natural beauty and adventure.
From the awe-inspiring sight of glaciers to the thrill of wildlife encounters, Valdez offers a unique blend of experiences that capture the essence of Alaska’s wild spirit.
Valdez isn’t just a destination, it’s an invitation. The glaciers call you to witness their ancient power, the mountains beckon you to conquer their trails, and the whisper of the ocean invites you to explore hidden coves by kayak. This is a place where adventure lies around every corner. Answer the call.
Beyond its natural wonders, Valdez’s charm lies within its people. Their resilience after the 1964 Earthquake, their passion for the outdoors, and their warm Alaskan hospitality leave a lasting impression.
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