America’s Best Glaciers: Top 15 Things To Do In Valdez, Alaska - Updated 2024

America’s Best Glaciers: Top 15 Things To Do In Valdez, Alaska - Updated 2024
| 10 min read

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 15 things to enjoy in Valdez, Alaska.

1. Hike through Bridal Veil Falls Trail and climb up a frozen cascade

Bridal Veil Falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jim O'Neil used under CC BY 2.0

Bridal Veil Falls Trail offers you an unforgettable hiking adventure in Alaska, particularly during winter. The frozen cascades look enchanting even from afar (literally like a bride’s veil). While you can view this iconic waterfall from the Richardson Highway, you will find it lovelier when you get up close. The trail is only a few meters away from the equally stunning Horsetail Falls and accessible through Key Canyon. The waterfall is a fifth-grade climb. If you can take on the challenge, traverse the 2.6-mile (4.2-kilometer) trail that takes about 2 hours, one-way. So you need a full day to complete the hike and the climb. Winter may be the season for climbing, but you are free to come around and see Bridal Veil Falls throughout the year. It is across Lowe River, and somewhere on the eastern part of Richardson Highway, you will find a parking area and a viewing spot. Take as many snaps as you can with the scenic falls in the background.

Bridal Veil Falls Trail

Address: Valdez, AK 99686, United States

Visited this place?

2. See a polar bear at Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by The Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum on Friday, April 6, 2012

Explore Valdez indoors by visiting Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum on Lowe Street. It sits close to the airport (about 10 minutes drive) and only a few steps away from Prince William Sound College. This well-designed museum has an extensive collection of artworks and artifacts that reflect the rich history and culture of Native Alaska. It welcomes locals and visitors to explore exhibits, such as “Natural History of Alaska” and “Alaska Wildlife,” for free. You will see paintings, dolls, garments, and even pieces of ivory and baleen. Hunting a polar bear in the wilderness may sound impossible, but the museum grants you the opportunity to see this magnificent creature safely. Don’t worry, the icy-white polar bear won’t eat you as it is not alive.

Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum

Address: 303 Lowe St, Valdez, AK 99686, United States

Website: Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum

Opening hours: 9am - 7pm (daily)

Price: Free

Visited this place?

3. Enjoy family camping at Shoup Trail Park

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Valdez’s great outdoors is ideal for family hiking and camping. The scenic Shoup Bay Trail consists of two parts: Section A is for beginners, and Section B is for the more seasoned hikers. You can take children with you on the easy trail where you walk through an open-wide clearing with cottonwood and alder. At the end of this first half mile, you will find the camping area. The total trail length is 11 miles (17.7 kilometers). If you like to continue trodding on, you can very well do so. The second half is where you encounter overgrown shrubs and muddy surfaces that become knee-length during the wet season. While the trail remains manageable, you will notice Section B getting steeper as you reach towards the end. Your hard work pays off as you witness the breathtakingly beautiful Shoup Glacier.

Shoup Trail Park

Address: 1600 Front St, Valdez, AK 99686, United States

Visited this place?

4. 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

Contact: 1-907-835-8442

Website: 2 Day Shoup Glacier Tour

Visited this place?

5. Go back in time at Valdez Museum

Deepwater 9/11 _DDC8488
Source: Photo by user thierry ehrmann used under CC BY 2.0

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

Visited this place?

6. Get moving and go snowboarding on the Chugach Mountains

Penguin Peak summit. Chugach Mountains, Alaska
Source: Photo by user Paxson Woelber used under CC BY 2.0

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.

Chugach Mountains

Address: Chugach Mountains, Alaska 99686, USA

Duration: around 1 day required

Contact: (907) 257-2363

Website: Chugach Mountains, Anchorage

Visited this place?

7. Cruise through the Great Glaciers (from USD 171.0)

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.

Visited this place?

Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez

Duration: 6 hours

150 reviews

8. Fish for huge salmon and halibut

Pink Salmon, Valdez
Source: Photo by Flickr user Alaska Region U.S... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

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

Visited this place?

9. Whitewater raft down the Lowe River

Whitewater rafting
Source: Pixabay

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

Contact: 907-277-4321

Website: Alaska Rafting Tours

Visited this place?

10. Camp under the stars at Fielding Lake State Recreation Area

Camping at night. Chugach State Park, Chugach Mountains, Alaska
Source: Photo by user Paxson Woelber used under CC BY 2.0

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

Contact: 907-269-8400

Website: Fielding Lake State Recreation Area

Visited this place?

11. Sled through Denali National Park

Source: Photo by user Maureen used under CC BY 2.0

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

Visited this place?

12. Wander through Keystone Canyon

Keystone Canyon
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user jkbrooks85 used under CC BY 2.0

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.

Keystone Canyon

Address: Keystone Canyon, Valdez, AK 99686, USA

Duration: around 3 hours required

Contact: 1.907.835.8442

Website: Raft Historic Keystone Canyon

Visited this place?

13. Hold parts of a glacier in your palm

Worthington Glacier
Source: Photo by user Alexi Ueltzen used under CC BY-ND 2.0

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

Contact: 1.907.835.8442

Website: Half Day Worthington Glacier Hike

Visited this place?

14. See the sea lions and bears at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

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

Visited this place?

15. Fly over the stupendous scenery in a helicopter

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

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

Visited this place?

Don't get cold feet!

Port of Valdez, Alaska
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Enrico Blasutto used under CC BY-SA 4.0

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!

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our Privacy Policy for more information on how we use your data

Amber is a content writer at Trip101 and has a passion for travelling to unique destinations around Southeast Asia. A faithful believer of unicorns and all things animal, she can be considered a...Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Valdez
Looking for accommodation?
Good things are meant to be shared!
Back to top
Visited any of these places? Click this button to activate our "Add a Tip" feature to share your experience.