Photo from Stan Stephens Cruises
Alaska's Most Accessible Outdoor Adventures
"ALASKA": the very name conjures images of landscapes that are vast, remote and inaccessible to all but the bravest adventurers. Valdez has these inspiring Alaskan landscapes and seascapes, but fortunately they are easily in reach for folks of all ages and ability levels.
Want to see amazing valley or tidewater glaciers up close without having to break the bank? Valdez provides the most accessible glaciers in Alaska for independent travelers, as well as affordable glacier cruises for those who prefer a relaxing guided tour. While driving through Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway, stop over to view Worthington Glacier. A state recreation site is open at the glacier throughout the summer, and the only cost is a $5 parking fee per vehicle. Near town, Valdez Glacier Lake is located at the end of Airport Road. The lake is filled with icebergs that have calved off the main face of Valdez Glacier and float across to lakeshore. Parking is free at the lake.
For those who want to experience the calving tidewater glaciers of Prince William Sound, daily glacier cruises are available out of Port Valdez during the summer. Guided kayak and helicopter tours are also available.
Other Alaskan towns are notorious for over-crowded fishing spots (fishing "shoulder-to-shoulder" as Alaskan's call it) or having to take a charter out far onto rough waters. Valdez offers an alternative to these. Shore fishing for pink or silver salmon is made easy in Valdez with accessible beaches like Allison Point, available right off the road, with plenty of room for social distancing. Best of all, there's no fee to access or park at Allison Point - the only thing you need to pay for is your state fishing license!
Heading out onto a saltwater fishing charter for salmon, rockfish, lingcod or halibut is easy too. The waters around Valdez are not as over-fished as other areas around Alaska. Prince William Sound provides sheltered waters and relatively calm seas - compared to fishing on the open ocean - which make charter fishing out of Valdez ideal for those who have a tendency to get seasick on rougher waters.
If rugged, backcountry hikes aren't for you, Valdez has miles of easy or moderate trails that start right in the downtown area. If you're strolling along the harbor boardwalk, consider taking Dock Point Trail, a peninsular loop that provides stunning views of the the Duck Flats and the Small Boat Harbor. Another great option is the Meals Hill Trail, close to the ferry docks and Valdez's brewery row. Meals Hill runs along the waterfront on the other end of town, and provides great viewing opportunities for Port Valdez and the terminal of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Accessible Wildlife Viewing
Wildlife viewing tours and cruises depart out of Valdez daily during the summer. However, there are plenty of self-guided wildlife viewing opportunities for the independent traveler; the Alaska Department of Fish & Game even provides a wildlife viewing map of Valdez, featuring all the best areas to spot bears, eagles, marine mammals and more. The best wildlife viewing can be found at the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery. The hatchery is available alongside Dayville Road with free parking and a free self-guided walking tour of the facility that runs from June to October every year. The hatchery is a great location to watch as hundreds of thousands of pink and silver salmon return every summer - as well as the bears, birds, seals and sea lions that feed on them!
Another location to check out are the Valdez Duck Flats, home to dozens of species of shorebirds and migratory waterfowl. The Flats are accessible for bird-watching right from the Richardson Highway, and the nearby Crooked Creek Forest Service Cabin provides a safe viewing platform for viewing birds, bears, and returning salmon.
Accessible Winter Sports
Valdez is famous as the home of heli-skiing and hosting the World Extreme Ski Championships throughout the 1990s. Today, extreme winter sports are still part of our annual winter offerings. However, Valdez still has much to offer in the winter for those who are a little more down-to-earth. Guided snowmachine, snowshoe and cross-country ski tours for beginners are available with local guides. For those comfortable cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on their own, free ski and snowshoe gear rentals are available at the recreation center at Prince William Sound College. Miles of maintained winter trails are available right from town. With no usage fee for the trails, and free gear rentals, you can discover America's Snow Capital at no cost - plus, you may just get to see the Northern Lights while you're hear!
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