Nestled on a strip of land between the Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound, you can find countless things to do in Valdez, from amazing hikes trails to stunning glaciers, to great history, culture and winter sports, This small coastal town is a must-visit destination in Alaska and you are about to find out why!
During my Road Trip Itinerary in Alaska, my second stop, right after Anchorage was Valdez – and it didn’t disappoint.
Valdez is a typical Alaskan coastal town, with an easily walkable downtown and harbor areas and many businesses and attractions only a few blocks from most restaurants and accommodations.
I spent 2 full days exploring this small coastal town in this fascinating part of Alaska. With plenty of things to do in Valdez – from miles of trails for hiking, biking, and ATVs, to stunning glaciers, with great opportunities to go kayaking, gorgeous waterfalls, an amazing variety of wildlife, and lots of history.
This guide details the best things to do in Valdez, how to get there, where to eat, where to stay. To make it easier for you, I have separated the top things to do in Valdez by interest. You can prioritize what you want to see or do while visiting – it doesn’t matter if you have 1-day or a week to explore Valdez
Enjoy this Valdez, Alaska Guide, and Safe Travels!
- TOP THINGS DO DO IN VALDEZ OVERVIEW
- THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR NATURE LOVERS
- THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR HISTORY
- EXPLORE THE GLACIERS IN VALDEZ
- THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR HIKER LOVERS
- THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR ADVENTURE LOVERS
- VALDEZ TRAVEL INFORMATION
- WHERE IS VALDEZ, ALASKA
- HOW TO GET TO VALDEZ, ALASKA
- BEST ACCOMMODATIONS IN VALDEZ
- WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT VALDEZ
- WEATHER IN VALDEZ
- BEST PLACES TO EAT IN VALDEZ
- THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ CONCLUSION
DISCLAIMER: I do not support any activity that involves animals being used for tourism entertainment such as hunting and fishing. I follow the ethical tourism guidelines, and I DO NOT PROMOTE any activity that doesn’t fit the principles of Responsible Tourism. This DOES NOT APPLY to rehabilitation and conservation centers. To find out more about how to travel responsibly, please read this article.
TOP THINGS DO DO IN VALDEZ OVERVIEW
- Boat Tour
- Wildlife Viewing
- Keystone Canyon
- Thompson Pass
- Solomon Gulch Hatchery
- Valdez Old Town
- Valdez Museum
- Valdez Harbor
- Valdez Glacier Lake
- Columbia Glacier
- Meares Glacier
- Anderson Glacier
- Worthington Glacier
- Shoup Glacier
- Easy hikes in Valdez for view & wildlife
- Moderate hikes in Valdez for adventure
- Go kayaking
- Go biking
- White-water rafting
- Sport activities in winter
DON’T MISS: The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary
THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR NATURE LOVERS
1) BOAT TOURS IN VALDEZ
I will start this list of 20 amazing things to do in Valdez with the number one attraction and a must-do if you are planning a visit to Valdez.
In Prince William Sound you are able to see both humpback whales and orca pods as well as dolphins and porpoises. During my ferry trip from Anchorage to Valdez, I saw many porpoises, and the most fascinating thing, I saw orca pods, including 2 that jump out of the water to show off to the other photographers, while I didn’t have my camera ready (bummer!).
But don’t get so excited about seeing humpback whales during your visit, because you can typically view humpback whales from May to August.
HOW TO VISIT: A great option is to book this boat tour from Whittier to Valdez, don’t you worry! You can take book a boat tour from Valdez. The cruises to Columbia and Meares glaciers will most likely give you the chance to see whales and porpoises, whilst on a sightseeing tour. You can also take tours that are specific to the wildlife you are looking to view and photograph.
2) VIEW THE WILDLIFE IN VALDEZ
One of the best things to do in Valdez is wildlife viewing – I am a huge animal lover, and Valdez offers a great opportunity to see various animals including bears, moose, sea lions, seals, and a large variety of birds. Check this handy guide for more details.
Stop along the Richardson Highway to see the duck flats. While driving North of Solomon Gutch in between Solomon Gutch and Keystone Canyon you can see many bald eagles, pay close attention when you see one, the second one will be very close.
HOW TO VISIT: The best places for animal views in the Valdez area are Shoup Bay State Marine Park, Duck Flats, Dayville Road, Thomas Pass, and Worthington Glacier State Park are the places to be for wildlife viewing
3) KEYSTONE CANYON
When you drive the Keystone Canyon you will have amazing opportunities for scenic views and many stops for pictures.
You will have the chance to see majestic waterfalls, inspiring views, and incredible rock walls are ways to describe Keystone Canyon. Here you can also find amazing hiking such as the Valdez Goat Trail and the Keystone Canyon Pack Trail
HOW TO VISIT: See the waterfall and hiking sections for more details on how to visit.
4) EXPLORE THE WATERFALLS IN VALDEZ
I was very surprised to learn that Valdez has some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Alaska, and even, in the world. I had the chance to visit some of them, and I was mesmerized by their variety and beauty.
The reason for so many waterfalls in the Valdez area is because that it has more than 27 feet of average snowfalls during winter, and when the snow melts in the spring and summertime, it forms countless waterfalls in the mountains in Valdez.
HOW TO VISIT: The Keystone Canyon is a perfect place for spectacular views of the waterfalls. Some of the most famous and easy access to visit are the Horsetail Falls and the Bridal Veil waterfalls. You will signs on the road for these waterfalls, and you can just park at one of the pull-outs to take beautiful pictures.
5) EXPLORE THOMPSON PASS
On the drive from Valdez to Thompson Pass, you will notice that the views start to change, as you go up in the mountains and the views are absolutely stunning. If you have more time to explore, you can find great hiking trails too.
There are parking areas along the highway where you can pull off your car for better views and pictures. You will see some signs indicating photos opportunities that I recommend stopping in at least some of them.
Thompson Pass experiences 80 feet of snow accumulation per year, which makes this places the snowiest point in the United States.
NOTE: When snow the Thompson Pass may close the road, very few gas stations between so fill up the tank before you hit the road. Pay close attention to the weather conditions before you plan your driving here.
THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR HISTORY
6) LEARN ABOUT THE SOLOMON GULCH HATCHERY
I consider this visit one of the highlights of the things to do in Valdez, the reason is that besides it be very educational, I love seeing how sustainable they hatchery the salmon here. This hatchery is part of the fishing program strictly controlled by the State of Alaska.
I learned that this facility, built-in 1981, is the largest single-species salmon hatchery in North America, incubating up to 270 million Pink salmon and 2 million Coho salmon each year. And every year, adults return to the hatchery in vast numbers—some 16 million pinks and 100,000 Cohos for spawning.
Another highlight at Solomon Gulch is to see the wildlife that comes here to eat some fresh fish, such as sea lions, seals, and even bears can be seen here.
You will see a creek and a waterfall on the other side of the road, and Solomon Lake. To visit it, you can park next to the Fish Hatchery, and hike up the John Hunter Memorial Trail
HOW TO VISIT: You can take a self-tour and learn how important this hatchery is to the fishing industry and the local economy. It is sustainable farming for salmon and the visit is very educational.
7) VISIT THE VALDEZ OLD TOWN
You can visit the original Valdez, also known to the locals as Old Valdez. In 1964 the strongest earthquake already registered in North America, followed by a tsunami, devasted the original town, and they relocated 4-miles away to where it is now. The old town was preserved as a memorial, and here you can see the signs where the buildings used to be nearly 100 years ago.
HOW TO VISIT: You can go on a self-tour., the signs indicating where the buildings had a QR Code that you can scan with your phone and read more about the history of each building/ location. Take the Richardson Highway and follow the signs for the Old Valdez.
8) LEARN ABOUT THE VALDEZ HISTORY
THE MAXINE & JESSE WHITENEY MUSEUM
Here in this museum, you will find various Native Alaskan artifacts, Native Alaskan dolls, and trophy class taxidermy mounts at the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum. You can learn about the history and culture of Alaska through the museum’s exhibits.
The Valdez Museum will give you a chance to learn about the gold rush, the 1964 earthquake, the trans-Alaska pipeline, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the region’s native culture. General admission to the museum is $5. Kids 13 and under are free.
OLD RAILROAD TUNNEL
While you are driving through Keystone Canyon you can stop and visit this site. This railroad tunnel was hand-cut starting in 1905. Nine companies were battling to take advantage of the short route from the coast to the copper country when the work on the tunnel was interrupted and after a gun battle, construction halted and the tunnel was never finished.
9) STROLL AROUND THE DOWNTON & HABOR IN VALDEZ
Valdez is a small harbor town, and you can just park your car and walk around the harbor, visit the marina with some beautiful fishing boats, admire the cute buildings, and at the end of the day, you will see many wild rabbits enjoying some fresh grass around the town.
EXPLORE THE GLACIERS IN VALDEZ
10) VISIT THE VALDEZ LAKE & VALDEZ GLACIER
This is one of my favorite things to do in Valdez was to visit and hike around the Valdez Glacier lake and admire the Valdez Glacier. This glacier and lake location is just stunning, on the outskirt of Valdez. This glacier is knowing as the All American Route, where the gold seekers traveled over the glacier into the interior of Alaska during the Gold Rush of 1898.
HOW TO VISIT: It is very easy to visit and to hike here by yourself. In the summertime, the Valdez Glacier can be accessed by kayak with one of the experienced local guides. During wintertime, you can hike around the lake, ski, and snowmobile to the face of the glacier.
11) EXPLORE THE COLUMBIA GLACIER
When you choose to take a boat tour on the Prince William Sound, you will be able to visit many amazing Glaciers during your trip. Most of the boat tours take 7-hours and besides glaciers, it also offers you a great opportunity to see the amazing wildlife in this area.
I saw many Orcas whales and it was one of the highlights of my trip to Alaska. wildlife. Columbia Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound, the second-largest in North America. The landscape here is absolutely dramatic and a great opportunity for pictures.
HOW TO VISIT: When you get the chance to visit it, you will pass through chunks of glacial ice. You can choose to go on a wildlife boat tour for about $150 per person. Or you can also go on a kayak day trip. You also have the option to take a helicopter tour and land to see the wonders of the Columbia Glacier.
12) VISIT THE MEARES GLACIER
Mareas Glacier is one of the most unique things to do in Valdez – while most of the glaciers are retreating, fortunately, the Mareas Glacier is one of the only glaciers in North America that is advancing. The glacier is located at the head of Unakwik Inlet in Prince William Sound.
HOW TO VISIT: You can take a boat day tour for about $170 per person to travel within 1/4 mile of the face of the Meares Glacier, during your tour keep an eye for pods of whales, sea lions, many species of birds, and other wildlife along the way.
13) EXPERIENCE THE ANDERSON GLACIER
Anderson Glacier must be near the top of the list of things to do in Valdez. It is located in the Chugach Mountains around Port Valdez. This Glacier offers amazing waterfalls such as the Anderson Falls, and you can also see it from the town.
HOW TO VISIT: You can take a boat tour to visit the Anderson Glacier
14) WORTHINGTON GLACIER
Worthington Glacier is a very interesting thing to do in Valdez. It is the most accessible glacier in Alaska, located just off the Richardson Highway in the Thompson Pass, only 30 minutes driving from Valdez. If it is not a rainy and cloudy day, you can see the Glacier from the road. Here you can find picnic tables, restrooms, and a visitor center
HOW TO VISIT: There is a nice parking lot that costs $5 per vehicle. You can normally go on a 45-60 minutes hiking to the glacier, and the trail is very well-marked and it is wheelchair accessible. The day I visited was snowing, and the hiking trail was closed for safety reasons.
15) EXPERIENCE THE SHOUP GLACIER
The Shoup Glacier is another must-do thing in Valdez, especially if you are an outdoor lover. This Glacier has stunning views, tucked away in Shoup Bay, and during your visit you have many opportunities to spot wildlife such as whales, sea lions, seals, Orcas, and other amazing animals.
HOW TO VISIT: You can experience this majestic glacier in different ways. You can go on an 8.5-mile hike to Shoup Bay for outstanding views, but don’t forget to check the current conditions of the trail before you go hiking. You can take a boat tour, you can go on a kayak day tour or another great option is to take a helicopter tour
THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR HIKER LOVERS
Valdez is a paradise for hiking, offering some of the most scenic and historic trails in Alaska. Ranging in terms of length and difficulty, here you can find a trail for everybody. You can download the full Summer Trail Map Guide from Valdez Parks & Recreation.
16) EASY HIKES FOR WILDLIFE VIEW & PHOTOGRAPHY
DOCK POINT TRAIL – .83 miles round trip | 30 minutes
This hike offers great opportunities for wildlife views and beautiful pictures. You can begin your walk straight from town and enjoy harbor views and boards that jut out for a better view over the water. Here you can spot eagles and other wildlife during your walk – I saw many, and normally they are in couples. Moose and bears can be found here so it is advised to make noise and never hike alone to keep yourself safe.
OVERLOOK TRAIL – 0.4 miles round trip | 20 minutes
You can take the stairs up Civic Center Hill with Overlook Trail for a view “overlooking” town and Port Valdez.
HOMESTEAD TRAIL –
On this hiking trail, you can enjoy a walk through the woods on the gravel path of Homestead Trail, where you’ll see spawning salmon in late summer.
17) MODERATE HIKES IN VALDEZ
JOHN HUNTER MEMORIAL TRAIL- 3.8 miles round trip | 2 hours
Knowing previously as Solomon Gulch Trail, this is a beautiful trail on the coastal spruce forest and climbs steadily upward before it merges with the Trans Alaska Pipeline Service (TAPS) road. After crossing Solomon Gulch Creek it departs from TAPS and continues on up to Solomon Gulch. The trail ends at the reservoir overlook near the Solomon Gulch Spillway and Dam.
KYSTONE HIKING – 2.6 miles round trip | 4 hours
You can start this hiking at the parking area at the Bridal Veil Falls and hike down to the highway. This is great hiking for views of the mountains and the Keystone Canyon. You’ll also be right above Bridal Veil Falls for a cool vantage point of the waterfall.
SHOUP BAY TRAIL – 6.5 miles round trip | 4 hours
This trail is broken into two sections. Section A is better maintained and leads from town to a remote camping site at Gold Creek. Section B continues from Gold Creek through the overgrown brush before reaching Shoup Bay and viewing opportunities of Shoup Glacier. This is hiking offers a great opportunity for wildlife views, as the surrounding forest and mountains are home to bears and mountain goats. The waters of Port Valdez and Shoup Bay are home to marine mammals including sea otters and harbor seals
MINERAL CREEK TRAIL – 12.2 miles round trip | 6 hours
This trail has a great history associated with it since partway through the trail, about two miles past Horsetail Creek, a side-trail leads to ruins of the McIntosh Roadhouse that used to be in operation around 1912.
The very end of the trail arrives at the W.L. Smith Stamp Mill. To reach the trail from downtown Valdez, head north on either Hazelet or Meals Avenue, and turn left onto Hanagita Street. Turn onto Mineral Creek Drive, and follow the road through a residential neighborhood until you reach the gravel path that marks the beginning of Mineral Creek Trail.
THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ FOR ADVENTURE LOVERS
18) VALDEZ KAYAK
One of the most popular things to do in Valdez is to go kayaking. You can kayak amongst the icebergs for once in a lifetime experience you don’t want to miss in Valdez.
You can explore the scenic Robe Lake, the Valdez Glacier Lake, Shoup Bay, Sawmill Bay, Columbia Bay as a group tour, or if you prefer, you can rent your kayak and explore the lakes around Valdez.
HOW TO GO ON THIS ACTIVITY: Local kayak rentals are available or you can join a group tour. Check here for more details.
19) RENT A BIKE IN VALDEZ
Bicycling is very popular in Valdez with several miles of trails for biking and exploring the terrain on your own. You can take the beautiful paved bike path that runs along Crooked Creek and the Duck Flats or peddle up in the Chugach Mountains on Mineral Creek Trail.
There is the annual Valdez Bike Bash festival is held every April, in case you are planning to be around.
Fat biking is also a very popular thing to do in Valdez, and an activity you can do also during wintertime.
HOW TO GO ON THIS ACTIVITY: Local biking rental is available in Valdez. Check here for bike services in Valdez.
20) WHITE-WATER RAFTING
One of the greatest things to do in Valdez is to go on a half-day, full day or multi-day tour to have some adventure white-water river rafting. You will have the opportunity to go on icy waters, among fast-flowing rivers and glaciers.
The location is in the stunning canyons of the Chugach Mountains, and you can also do a combo of ice climbing and hiking for an even more perfect adventure experience in Valdez.
HOW TO GO ON THIS ACTIVITY: Tours only operate during summertime. Check with a reliable company to ensure you have expert guides, such as Pangaea Adventures.
21) SPORT ACTIVITES IN WINTER
Valdez has an average of 26 feet of snow in the winter, therefore it is known as the “snow capital” of Alaska. This makes backcountry skiing and snowboarding a popular sport here and a haven for the pros. People come from all around to experience the snow capital of the United States.
You can embark on excursions like guided backcountry skiing/boarding or a ski plane drop-off with no guide, or choose some of the other exciting winter activities in Valdez.
- Cross-coutnry skiing
- Fat bike riding
HOW TO GO ON ACTIVITIES: Booking in advance is essential for the experience, whether you are planning on just a day trip or a long ski or snowboarding adventure.
VALDEZ TRAVEL INFORMATION
WHERE IS VALDEZ, ALASKA
Valdez is located on Port Valdez, an estuary off Valdez Arm in Prince William Sound.
⇒ From Anchorage: 115 air miles or 304 highway miles driving
⇒ From Fairbanks: 366 highway miles driving
HOW TO GET TO VALDEZ, ALASKA
Driving to Valdez
If you opt to drive from Anchorage to Valdez, take the Richard highway South through the Cooper River Valley. It is scenic driving, with many opportunities to stop for pictures. Thompson Pass is open all year long, but it may close because of snow accumulation – I recommend checking the road conditions before you start your driving.
Road trips are the best way to see Alaska, and actually, my favorite way to explore a new place. I recommend requesting a quote from a reliable source and comparing the prices from different car rentals available and booking your car in advance.
Flying to Valdez
If you are short on time, flying to Valdez is an excellent option. It is only a short 45-minute flight from Anchorage. Daily flights offer spectacular views of the coastal Chugach Mountains, vast glacial ice fields, and the beautiful Prince William Sound. Flights are available through Ravn Air and Midnight Air.
Take a ferry to Valdez
This was my option to go from Anchorage to Valdez, as I wanted to have the opportunity to get to see more of the Prince William Sound and the wildlife. The ferry from Whittier to Valdez offers service throughout the year, with frequent service in the summer and a limited schedule during fall and winter. View the ferry schedule and rates here.
BEST ACCOMMODATIONS IN VALDEZ
CAMPING: KOA Valdez
This is where I stayed and Loved it! With a camp store, Wi-Fi, and other on-site services, you can settle right in and get ready to explore this magnificent region
BUDGET: Keystone Hotel
This is a great option if you are traveling on a budget, a Room with private bathrooms, wi-fi, and a great location. They also offer continental breakfast.
MID-RANGE: Best Western
This is a great option since they offer an on-site restaurant and a business center. The location is the best, with panoramic harbor views – it cannot get any better than that.
BEST-RATED: House on the Rock
This B&B is rated as Wonderful by the guests. It has a shared kitchen and dining area and serves a daily continental breakfast. The location is great, less than 5 minutes driving from the waterfront.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT VALDEZ
I visited Valdez during the fall, in the last week of September and it was a great time to visit since the temperature was still pleasant, the days were still long, and the fall colors are starting to appear in the alpine and you begin to see the northern lights.
But on the negative side, by middle September restaurants, lodges, and tour operators start closing for the season and it was hard to find a place to eat, and there was no option for any tours. I really wanted to do whale watching and that is one of the reasons I choose to travel to Valdez by ferry, so it gave me chance to see some whales on my way.
In summary, the best time to visit Valdez is between July and August. For many people Valdez is a fishing destination, these are when the salmon are mostly running, and along with spawning salmon comes better bear viewing.
NOTE: I visited Alaska in September when it is considered the shoulder season. The pros are that you can get some discounts on hotels and excursions, fewer crowds, no bugs, fall colors, and northern lights viewing by mid-September. But on the negative side, most of the tours were not operating, many hiking trails were closed, and many businesses close for the season – including lodges and restaurants.
WEATHER IN VALDEZ
Just like other places in Alaska, the average temperatures in Valdez vary greatly.
Considering humidity, temperatures feel cold for most of the year with a very low chance of rain or snow throughout the year.
The warmest months are June, July, and August with temperatures around 63.2°F (17.3°C) and rarely dropping below 47.7°F (8.7°C) at night. The coldest month in Valdez is January, with temperatures averaging between 17 F° and 27 F°.
WHAT TO PACK: I also recommend dressing in layers when you visit Valdez and pack a rain jacket. Read my full guide on Alaska Packing Guide – here you can also get a FREE Packing list printable to make your life super easy.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN VALDEZ
Valdez has many restaurant choices for a city its size. BBQ, comfort food, ethnic food options, and of course, fresh seafood are options here. If you are like me and love fish, I recommend you to try Halibut. Here is a list of the best places to eat in Valdez:
- Nat Shack: This is a food truck with great reviews, so I tried their haibut taco and it was fantastic!
- Fat Mermaid: Located in front of the harbor and serves great food.
- The Wheelhouse Bar and Restaurant: For dine by the water with incredible views of Valdez harbor
- Old Town Burguers: Offering amazing burgers in a casual, rustic setting.
- The Stampmill: Is the best place to grab pizza in Valdez
- Tottem Inn: The food is nothing fancy, but here is where the locals in Valdez get breakfast
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THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ CONCLUSION
If you are planning a trip, I strongly recommend you add Valdez to your Alaska Itinerary!
Valdez is packed with amazing things to do, and by now you should be amazed by how diverse Valdez is from history to amazing hiking trails, to stunning glaciers, and all of this surrounded by the amazing landscape, waterfalls, and wildlife.
I hope this guide helped you to see the amazing variety of things to do in Valdez, and I know all you have to do is to choose your favorite activities, and start packing for your adventure of a lifetime in Alaska.
If you are planning a visit to Alaska, here are some very helpful articles for you:
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