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Spotlight: Valdez

Make this fun-filled port a basecamp to adventure

Ringed by stunning snow-capped mountain peaks and sitting on the doorstep to spectacular Prince William Sound, the small coastal town of Valdez in sunny southern Alaska is renowned for its state parks, big glaciers and vibrant alpine atmosphere.

From plundering eclectic antique shops and exploring the pioneering history of this one-time Gold Rush outpost, to paddling alongside massive icebergs and hiking across the tops of ancient glaciers, this is a destination for seekers of family-friendly variety and adventure.

Today, most will find themselves arriving in Valdez from Anchorage, a drive that can be made in about six hours via the Richardson Highway. At the turn of the century, scrappy prospectors traveling north to the Alaskan gold fields arrived by way of the town’s waterfront, and even more than one hundred years later the small harbor still finds itself as the undisputed heart of Valdez. It’s from here that the town center expands backward, with a handful of streets offering local food, shopping and adventure-activity outfitters.

Valdez Adventures

Day cruises to Columbia Glacier, which sits 25 miles east of Valdez, are among the town’s most popular activities. Columbia is the second-largest tidewater glacier in the world and sports a front face that’s as tall as a football field is long—it’s a must-visit and includes a stunning boat journey.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

But the area is easily explored on foot as well. The Mineral Creek Trailhead is just a few blocks from the town center and winds its way to abandoned mining ruins deep in the thick boreal forest, and the Shoup Bay Trail follows the coastline of Port Valdez, offering unparalleled views of nearby glaciers.

For those who like to get out on the water for their exploring, kayak rentals can be found in town, and the abundance of protected coves, inlets and fjords make the coast an idyllic place to paddle.

State Park aficionados will be in their element. Shoup Bay State Marine Park, Sawmill Bay State Marine Park, Jack Bay Marine Park, Blueberry Lake State Recreation Site and Worthington Glacier State Recreation Area all make for great day trips.

At Shoup Bay State Marine Park (only five miles southwest of Valdez), visitors will find a surreal landscape left behind in the wake of receding Shoup Glacier. A brackish lagoon, fresh tidal river and an abundance of exotic waterfowl (including eagles, terns and kittiwake) call the bay home.

Going Cruising

To the west, Sawmill Bay State Marine Park is a popular anchoring spot for charters and cruises. Towering 4,000-foot cliffs rim the bay, which teems with harbor seals, sea otters and wild bears. Campers will enjoy setting up shop on the island in the middle of the inlet at Jack Bay State Marine Park, and anglers will want to cast their lures for fresh rainbow trout in Blueberry Lake State Recreation Area. Slightly further afield (29 miles north of Valdez) Worthington Glacier State Recreation Area offers a chance to hike along the outer rim of Worthington Glacier.

For More Information

Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau
Alaska Travel Industry Association