Valdez Alaska is a small town with a lot to offer. From cruising the cool blue waters of Prince William Sound on the Lu-Lu Belle to strolling the seaport, and checking out the largest single-species fish hatchery in North America at Solomon Gulch, there is no shortage of experiences waiting to be had.
Thompson Pass & Keystone Canyon
Tell anyone you’re planning on visiting Valdez, and all you’ll hear about is how incredible the drive into town is. There was so much hype for this little section of our Alaska road trip we honestly wondered if it could live up to the expectations everyone set for it. It did not disappoint.
Valdez is an end of the road town, where the mighty mountains of the Chugach Range meet the sea. Getting there means driving through Thompson Pass, a 2,600 gap in the mountains. Known for its unworldly views of the high alpine tundra, and for being the snowiest place in Alaska- averaging 500 inches of snow per year- this is one drive in Alaska not to be missed!
Everything that goes up, must go down… after climbing high above the tree line into the thin air of Thompson Pass the road to Valdez begins its descent into Keystone Canyon- a land of waterfalls, ancient geology, and rich history. The deep lush Hawaii-Esque green of this region will have you questioning if you’re still in Alaska.
Keystone Canyon is an adventure seeker’s dream, rafting the Lowe River, rock climbing the towering cliffs, and hiking the nearby trails are just some of the adventures on offer here. For those looking for a little less adventure and a little more scenery, the incredible roadside waterfalls of the area are a must stop!
Hiking Trails In Valdez, Alaska
Worthington Glacier Hikes
We’ll call this one, unfinished business. Unfortunately, at this time it’s also going to be unfinished business for most visitors to Alaska for some time to come. The trail suffered a large collapse along the ridgeline and is currently closed due to safety concerns, which if you’ve seen the video will probably make sense to you! This is a trail definitely not for those with a fear of heights.
But there is some good news! If you’re still looking to experience this incredible glacier and aren’t interested in taking your life in your hands to do it, there is another trail that will take you to the “toe” of the glacier, where you can hike among frozen ice and flowing waters without the scary heights and collapsing mountainsides. Just be sure to watch your head as falling ice and rocks are common in this area.
The “valley” trail is super easy to locate, but not formally marked. From the viewing platform just look down towards the icefall of the glacier, and you’re bound to spot the developed trail, if that doesn’t work keep an eye out for other people making the trek and follow their path. This is a super popular short hike, that will guarantee you magnificent views of the glacier!
Other Hikes Near Valdez
We had a lot to do and a very short time to do it in while visiting this incredible little town, so unfortunately for us Worthington Glacier was our only on foot adventure but we have heard so many incredible things about the hikes around Valdez that we would be crazy not to mention a few of them here.
The Trail of 98’- When we asked for suggestions on the “must do” trails in the Valdez area this trail was recommended more than any other! The Trail of 98’ is literally a hike through history; following along the exact path that led prospectors from Valdez into the interior of Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush. If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot more distance than a day hike, you’d be right. Fortunately for the modern recreationalist, this trail has been broken up into four very manageable sections: The Keystone Canyon Pack Trail (2.6 miles), The Goat Trail (3.2 miles), The Wagon Road (3.2 miles), and Thompson Pass Pack Trail (19.6 miles). If we ever make it back to Valdez, tackling at least one of the four sections will be on the top of our to-do list!
Downloadable Summer Hiking Trails Map: https://www.valdezak.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2405/Summer-Trail-Map-Booklet-PDF?bidId=
Cruising Prince William Sound
If there is one thing to do you while visiting Valdez, a wildlife viewing and glacier cruise out to the mighty Columbia Glacier on the Lu-Lu Belle should be it! A day out cruising on the waters of Prince William Sound is an Alaska Bucket list item not to be missed!
Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery
Salmon are an integral part of life in Alaska, and a vital part of the ecosystem. The Salmon Gulch Fish Hatchery gives visitors an up-close and personal look at what it takes to keep this species swimming wild and living free! The hatchery offers free self-guided tours from May thru October (it’s occasionally closed, due to heavy bear activity in the area), but the prime visiting time is during the peak of the salmon runs which occur July thru October.
If you’re looking to round out your Valdez explorations, and like us, can’t seem to get enough of magnificent glaciers, then Valdez Glacier might just be what you’re looking for! Tucked into the mountainside behind the town, is one of the smaller, but equally beautiful and accessible glaciers in Alaska.
If you haven’t yet had the chance to see an “iceberg” in person, the lake that sits in the foreground of the glacier is an excellent spot to do just that! A few short years ago this was also a popular spot for paddle sports ( kayaking and canoeing), but due to a massive calving event in the summer of 2020, both the glacier and the walls of the surrounding mountains are highly unstable, creating incredibly dangerous conditions for anyone who ventures too close so nowadays the best way to enjoy these incredible views is from dryland.
Directions To Valdez Glacier:
From downtown Valdez hop on the Richardson Highway, turn left on to Airport Road, and stay on it to the end, it will eventually turn in to Glacier Campground Road and will get you right to the lake. The glacier has receded up between steep walls of the surrounding mountain and is resting in the backdrop of the lake.
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