A Weekend in Shoup Bay
For passionate wilderness lovers and experienced adventure travelers, spending a weekend in Valdez's Shoup Bay is an unforgettable Alaska experience. Shoup Bay is accessible only by boat or through an 11 mile hike from Valdez, making it a truly remote location for relaxation, wildlife viewing and outdoor adventures activities like hiking or kayaking. Travelers can spend a whole weekend in Shoup Bay, as there are three public use cabins in Shoup Bay State Marine Park. The cabins are maintained by the Valdez Adventure Alliance and rentals are available by reservation only. Don't have a whole weekend? Consider taking a kayaking day trip to Shoup Bay with one of our local kayak guides.
Day 1: Arrive
Weekend travelers in Alaska will find Valdez is easily accessible from Fairbanks, Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. Plan for about a 7 hour drive from Fairbanks or 5 hours from Anchorage or the Valley. The drive down along the Richardson Highway from Glennallen provides amazing views of the Wrangell Mountains, Worthington Glacier and the cascading waterfalls of Keystone Canyon. Alternately, daily flight service from Anchorage to Valdez is available with local air service providers. Flights take about 45 minutes and pass over the Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound.
Once in Valdez, visitors can pick up any other gear that may be needed at our local outfitting stores. It's recommended that travelers staying overnight in the Shoup Bay cabins should pack bear spray, bug spray, waterproof layers, and 1-2 gallons of kerosene.
Local water-taxis are available that can take a travelers out to the Shoup Bay cabins. A water-taxi trip from the Valdez boat harbor to Shoup Bay takes approximately half an hour. Travelers should plan ahead with their charter captain to land in Shoup Bay at the best time to take advantage of the tide as two of the three cabins are located along the bay's inner lagoon.
Photo by Jiyeon Juno Kim
Day 2: Explore
Once you're settled in, the area offers plenty of recreation opportunities for the passionate adventurer, as well as remote relaxation for the more casual traveler. Your cabin will provide shelter from any rain as well as a comforting accommodation for the evening.
Make sure to wear waterproof boots as you explore around Shoup Bay. Hiking around the bay will likely require crossing streams or swampy areas; if you visit earlier in the season, there may still be snow on the ground in some areas. Some of the streams, such as nearby Uno Creek, provide fresh water.
The area is a prime location for wildlife viewing, so remember your binoculars. The high mountain walls around the bay make a great habitat for mountain goats; bears also frequent the area, so remain bear-aware while hiking. The bay and inner lagoon area also provide some of the best bird-watching opportunities in all of Alaska. The largest black-legged kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound is located along the lagoon. In addition to kittiwakes, other shorebirds such as Arctic terns and bald eagles may be seen. The waters of the bay are also home to marine mammals such as harbor seals.
The star attraction of Shoup Bay is, of course, Shoup Glacier. The glacier can be easily viewed from many vantage points around the bay, and icebergs that have calved from the face of Shoup Glacier are frequent in the water. Visitors who bring their own kayak or raft may explore the waters of the bay, but should do with caution, remaining aware of their ability levels and conditions in the bay. Remember to secure your kayak or raft when on shore, so it is not lost to rising tides!
A public use cabin in Shoup Bay. Photo by Jiyeon Juno Kim.
Day 3: Return
For the return trip, arrange to be picked up by the water-taxi or boat charter. Plan ahead of time with the boat captain, as access into Shoup Bay will depend on the tides. The check out time for the cabins is at 11 AM.
An alternate option for those with the experience and determination is to hike back from Shoup Bay to Valdez. The hike will be rough and will take upwards of 7 hours, and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. The first section of the trail, known as Shoup Bay Trail Section B, runs for about six-miles, and is not often maintained. The trail is marked in areas with rock cairns, but can still be difficult to follow due to significant overgrowth of trees, Devil's Club and salmonberry bramble. Sections will be steep and others will be muddy; expect mosquitoes.
About six-miles from the cabins, the trail intersects with Gold Creek. This is a good area to rest before pushing on to the end of the trail. An outhouse and rustic camping spots are available near Gold Creek, and onlookers can view the Gold Creek waterfall. A bridge over the creek continues the trail, as Shoup Bay Trail Section A. This section of the trail is maintained by the Valdez Adventure Alliance and is in much better condition; Section A runs for about three miles from Gold Creek to the trailhead near a residential area of Valdez. From the trailhead, hikers will have to walk another mile and a half by road to reach Valdez's downtown and harbor areas.
Shoup Bay Trail Section A. Photo from Valdez Adventure Alliance
Need more travel planning information?
- Download or order our Valdez Visitors Guide magazine for more information on visiting Valdez.
- Feel free to call or email the Valdez Visitors Center with any questions.
- Contact the Valdez Adventure Alliance for the most up-to-date information on the Shoup cabins and the conditions on Shoup Bay Trail.
- Reservation information for the Shoup Cabins is available on the VAA website.
- Read more about Shoup Bay State Marine Park from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources
- Download the Summer Trail Guide booklet from Valdez Parks & Recreation for detailed maps of the Shoup Bay Trail. Print copies of the trail guide are also available at the Visitors Center.