Valdez, Alaska, is home to the USA’s best glaciers. A modern-day port town just east of Prince William Sound, it provides some of the most amazing views and is covered by some of the world’s highest coastal peaks.
Valdez offers some of the best outdoor adventures in Alaska, with kayaking, whitewater rafting, and hiking as some of the key things to do. There is an endless stream of things to get you out and about!
Here are some of the top things to enjoy in Valdez:
1. Kayak among the giant icebergs
Have you been kayaking already? Sea kayaking amongst the most spectacular glaciers in Alaska will open your sights to many new things! The best thing is that you don’t need any experience or to be a certain age to try out sea kayaking around one of the biggest icebergs in the world.
Join a professional guide as they lead you through the clear blue waters, and past towering snow-capped mountains and deafening waterfalls. The Valdez Glacier was rigorously used during the Gold Rush period of the late 1800s as a route to the gold fields within Alaska.
Today, the glaciers lie silently as impressed tourists are taken through the surrounding waters and around them, marveling at the majestic statures and raw beauty. As you roam through ice caves and between large icebergs, you will get the chance to experience first-hand the glacial streams and reflective sky-blue pools that are waiting to be explored.
In Valdez, the imposing icebergs and glaciers are what draw thousands of tourists to explore this little town of around 4,000 residents. As you paddle through the mountains, it is not unusual to see wildlife roaming around the area.
Sea Kayaking Glacier Tour
Address: 107 N. Harbor Drive. Valdez, Alaska
Price: from 450 USD
Duration: around 2 days required
Website: 2 Day Shoup Glacier Tour
2. Go back in time at Valdez Museum
Located in the heart of sleepy Valdez, the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive features historical relics, artifacts, and art pieces that showcase the heritage of the town.
The annex building provides valuable information on the 1964 earthquake that rocked and destroyed parts of the town, centered in Prince William Sound. It displays the community effort, the destructive force, and the wake it left in its path as it hit the sleepy town.
Displays about Valdez’s rich history on the gold route and information about the devastating oil spill and its consequences fill the exhibit area. Visit the nearby Old Town Valdez Site along with the museum, as they are near to each other, and enjoy a great excursion of the surrounding area.
A place where children and adults can learn, engage, and explore, Valdez Museum is a perfect first stop for the family to learn about the history and heritage of the town.
Valdez Museum and Historical Archive
Address: 217 Egan Dr., Valdez, AK 99686, United States
Opening Hours: Sunday - Saturday, 9 am - 5 pm
Duration: around 2 hours required
Contact: +1 907-835-2764
Website: Valdez Museum and Historical Archive
3. Get moving and go snowboarding on the Chugach Mountains
Famous for their thick snow fields and snow-capped mountain tips, the Chugach Mountains are the perfect place to get moving!
The Chugach Range forms a wide 300-mile (483-kilometer) crescent shape and borders the town of Valdez. The highest point is Mount Marcus Baker, standing at 13,094 feet (3,991 meters). There is more snowfall around Chugach than anywhere else in the world, making it an amazing destination for adventure trails, hiking, and winter sports.
In fact, when the weather cooperates, the World Extreme Skiing Championship can be seen taking place on the lofty mountains that surround the small town of Valdez.
With activities such as snowboarding, skiing, and heli-skiing, the winter period is the best time to get active. The mountains get about 600 to 900 inches (1,524 to 2,286 centimeters) of snow, making it perfect for the multitude of winter sports and activities marketed on the mountain.
Often, the locals themselves can be seen taking on the winter sport challenges offered and snowboarding down the mountainside in a lovely fashion.
Address: Chugach Mountains, Alaska 99686, USA
Duration: around 1 day required
Contact: (907) 257-2363
Website: Chugach Mountains, Anchorage
Kayaking through the icebergs is one thing ticked off the must-do in Alaska list, but taking a scenic cruise through some of the most spectacular glaciers is another top activity to cross off your bucket list.
College Fjord is located within the northern sector of Prince William Sound in the state of Alaska. Containing 5 tidewater glaciers, large valley glaciers, and a multitude of small glaciers, it was discovered during the Harriman Expedition. The glaciers were named after the many renowned colleges in America.
In 1964, College Fjord was the epicenter of the Good Friday Earthquake that shook the town, also the most powerful earthquake in US history. Cruises tend to visit the Columbia Glacier as it boasts of being one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, retreating since the early 1980s.
As the Columbia Glacier twists it way through the western Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, the cruises that are operated daily can almost see it retreating as the days go by.
With the stunning panoramic views of the distant mountains in the background and extremely calm waters, it is no wonder tourists and locals alike love to see south-central Alaska’s largest tidewater glacier.
Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez
Duration: 6 hours
5. Fish for huge salmon and halibut
With the cold weather and the fresh-water streams that can be found around Valdez, it is no surprise that this is an excellent place to fish for the huge salmon and halibut that spawn around the area. There are also plenty of awesome views to admire.
Bank-to-bank full of salmon during the spawning time from mid-July to early September, Crooked Creek Salmon Viewing Area is one of the best places in Valdez to catch some salmon action. With an occasional visit from the black bears around the area, you can be assured that the views you get of the fish jumping upstream for survival will be the best you can get around here.
If fishing is more of your thing than looking over a viewing platform, visit Robe River where Dolly Varden trout and red salmon are abundant. Located just outside of Valdez, in the Keystone Canyon, there is a cross-section between the Lowe River and Robe River that many locals insist is the best fishing spot in the area.
Crooked Creek Salmon Viewing Area
Duration: around 4 hours required
Access: The viewing site is located on the outskirts of Valdez, at Mile .50 of the Richardson Highway
Website: Crooked Creek Salmon Viewing Area
6. Whitewater raft down the Lowe River
The Lowe River, which glides through Keystone Canyon, offers a heart-stopping adventure when whitewater rafting through the rapids. With the initially calm waters at the start of the river, it is a great place for beginners to get used to the raft and practice following the commands.
As you float down the river, an unmistakable rush of white water appears almost instantly. Spinning and speeding down the raging waters, you can be sure that you will have nothing but sheer fun on this journey.
When the raft has entered the canyon, there is no more time for practice and, as the canyons narrow, the waves and rapids change to large deluges. This is where the real adventure begins. As you paddle through the river, the course passes through the famed Bridal Veil Falls, one of the many stunning waterfalls that decorates the Keystone Canyon’s rock walls.
If a slightly more mild ride is your thing, choose the scenic float trip where you can enjoy your time on the water. Connect with the outdoors, away from technology and the exhaust fumes of motors; it is truly an experience that everyone should try.
Whitewater Rafting, Lowe River
Price: from 99 USD
Duration: around 1 day required
Website: Alaska Rafting Tours
7. Camp under the stars at Fielding Lake State Recreation Area
Best visited during the warmer periods, Fielding Lake State Recreation Area can either be an expanse of white, unblemished hillocks that blend with the mountains, or a field filled with lush greenery and cotton grass that adds a splash of white to the otherwise green landscapes.
During the warmer seasons, the area remains constantly breezy. With a cabin, the area is great for camping and RVs that are looking to experience the great outdoors. Relatively far from the bright lights of the small city-town, it is also a great place for camping and looking out into the night sky for some amazing star action.
Take your chance at making a campfire happen, because, with the dry wood provided, food has never tasted so good. Charred and simply sauced, the dishes appear more elaborate than they actually are.
Don’t forget your camera because everything here is simply so picturesque that you will be tempted to capture the views with your eyes and then snap lots of great pictures to keep reliving the moment later on.
Walk along the suspension bridge that is well-hidden from sight for a local’s experience at camping in the Fielding Lake State Recreation Area. The fish population is surprisingly all natural and not stocked, making it popular as a fishing spot for locals as well. Species such as Arctic grayling, lake trout, and burbot are all found within Fielding Lake.
Fielding Lake State Recreation Area
Duration: around 4 hours required
Website: Fielding Lake State Recreation Area
8. Sled through Denali National Park
Six million acres (2.4 million hectares) of wild land divided by one long road, and wild animals roaming the small patches surrounding the mountains, you can truly feel the solitude, tranquility, and wilderness surrounding you in Denali National Park.
Experience a golden eagle soaring past you, or peer through the fluffy clouds that reveal the great beauty of Denali, the roof of North America.
While wildlife sightings are never certain, being at the right place at the right time counts. See moose ranging around the lush greenery and bears roaming around the forested areas. While other national parks have wildlife, no others are as diverse, with the creatures as easily visible, as Denali National Park. What is even more amazing is that Denali National Park is the only national park with a kennel for training working sled dogs.
The park rangers invite visitors to meet the dogs or take a ranger-led mushing demonstration with these beautiful furry creatures. In fact, the large number of animals is said to be the cause of visitor increases, because now everyone knows the secret of Alaska’s best-kept national park.
There is even a bus system that makes for maximum wildlife viewing. Visitors can take the bus to see animals roaming around their natural habitat in comfort. Overnight camping is also possible, if time permits. Camping grounds are modest and serene, with plenty of experiences such as campfires or late-night animal sightings available.
Denali National Park
Address: George Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK, United States
Duration: around 1 day required
Contact: +1 907-683-9532
Website: Denali National Park
9. Wander through Keystone Canyon
A nice place to just wander and look around, Keystone Canyon can be one of the most relaxing places in Valdez, Alaska. With its canyon full of sheer rock cliffs, glacier-fed rivers, and streaming waterfalls, you can spend an entire day just walking around the area, appreciating the nature that surrounds you.
Within Keystone Canyon is Horsetail Falls. Snow-fed, the water is clear, cold, and calm. As the falls spill down from the top and widen towards the bottom, the waterfall largely resembles a horsetail, magnificent and alluring.
Nearby, explore the famous Bridal Veil Falls. One of the most popular places in Alaska for ice climbing during the winter periods, it is a true dose of spectacular during the other seasons. Jump on the Valdez Goat Trail for a reasonable two-mile (3.2-kilometer) hike up to view the massive beauty that crashes down on the river below.
Address: Keystone Canyon, Valdez, AK 99686, USA
Duration: around 3 hours required
Website: Raft Historic Keystone Canyon
10. Hold parts of a glacier in your palm
With a fairly easy hike up, you can reach the peak of Worthington Glacier where you can personally grab a piece of the large ice structure, hold it, and take in the greatest marvel of the entire glacier.
A 5,774-acre (2,337-hectare) valley glacier located adjacent to the Thompson Pass, it is a short but scenic drive from Valdez to the Worthington Glacier. Like most of the other glaciers, it has been retreating over the years, but not as dramatically as the Columbia Glacier, as mentioned earlier.
As you feast your eyes on the amazing structure, the best way to get a better look at the glacier would be to hike along the paved interpretive trail that leads to a safe viewing platform.
However, if adventure is your middle name, climb the Ridge Trail, a route that makes it way along the scree and climbs steadily for one mile (1.6 kilometers) along the lateral rocky ridge. With warning signs covering the area, it is not recommended for first-timers to give this route a go.
Half Day Worthington Glacier Hike
Price: from 99 USD
Duration: around 4 hours required
Website: Half Day Worthington Glacier Hike
11. See the sea lions and bears at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery
The Solomon Gulch Hatchery is the best place to see wildlife fishing for salmon. It’s seasonal and you’d need to be there in July through August. That’s when the pink and silver salmon return upstream. Bears, bald eagles, walrus and other animals like seals and sea lions all compete for the salmon.
There’s a self-guided walking tour which is wheelchair friendly and usefully, lots of parking along the road or next to the factory is available. It’s well worth stopping off to watch it all and even locals who live in Alaska value the wildlife experience. Information boards at the hatchery help to explain what’s going on.
Solomon Gulch Hatchery
Address: 1455 Dayville Road, Valdez, AK 99686
Website: Solomon Gulch Hatchery
12. Fly over the stupendous scenery in a helicopter
You may have walked, driven, or cruised your way around Alaska, but flying over the stupendous scenery in a helicopter is something else. You get to see the animals from a birds-eye view, the glaciers and blue waters and the forests are overwhelming in their beauty. In fact, you may forget to take photos. Landing on a beach at low tide is a highlight. You fly over and down to the glaciers and get to walk around a bit.
The mountain goats are a bonus to the beauty that is simply overwhelming. Your tour is made even better as your pilot is knowledgeable and experienced. You may even be lucky enough to see the ice calving off the Columbia Glacier. There are different tour options but allow around an hour and a half for a fantastic experience. It’s an experience that couples and small families will find enthralling.
VS Helicopters Tours
Address: Valdez Airport, Valdez, AK 99686
Website: VS Helicopters Tours
Don't get cold feet!
And that concludes the top must-do things in Valdez, Alaska.
While many of the activities are adventurous, there are many less-vigorous options too, making it a suitable destination for the elderly, the young, and anyone who doesn’t really want to get their heart racing while on vacation. Don’t be afraid to give it a go and maybe you might find yourself coming back to Valdez for even more of the adrenaline rush!
Don’t get cold feet. Get booking and get moving!
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