6 Awesome Things To Do In Valdez, Alaska (Including Photos)

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Valdez, Alaska, captivated us with its charm and natural beauty during our three-day adventure. This post aims to share that enchantment with you, offering a glimpse into 8 unmissable activities in Valdez, complete with personal insights and snapshots.

For those fine-tuning their Alaskan journey, here's a sneak peek at Valdez's top attractions:

  1. Worthington Glacier
  2. Bridal Veil Falls Trail
  3. Keystone Canyon
  4. Glacier Cruises from Valdez
  5. Valdez Museum and Historical Archive
  6. The Solomon Gulch Hatchery/Wildlife Viewing

We'll dive deeper into each attraction later, along with additional discoveries, dining spots, and lodging advice.

_View of Chugach Mountains and Valdez Boat Harbor_

Valdez, AK: Small Town, Big Fun

Despite its modest population, Valdez's location in the Chugach Mountains, combined with a rich historical backdrop, presents a diverse array of sights and activities.

Renowned for its scenic harbor, Valdez's landscape is a harmonious blend of mountains and sea. The area's abundant rainfall contributes to a lush green environment and countless waterfalls, creating a picturesque setting unlike any other.

Valdez's history, marked by the catastrophic 1964 earthquake and the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill, adds layers of intrigue to the town. Today, Valdez stands as a testament to resilience and recovery, offering visitors a unique glimpse into Alaska's past and present.

The beautiful Valdez Harbor

With so much to explore and experience, Valdez beckons adventurers for a memorable stay. Stay tuned as we reveal the best of what Valdez has to offer, from glacier excursions to historical explorations.

1. Worthington Glacier

Designated as a world heritage site in 1968, the Worthington Glacier can be found on Richardson Highway at milepost 28. For us, catching that first glimpse of Worthington Glacier was super exciting.

It's clearly visible from the road, and we totally ignored the light rain and cloudy weather (in August!) and pulled over for a closer look.

There was a spacious parking lot (with a surprisingly small number of vehicles parked already). We didn't make it all the way to the glacier because it was too cold and drizzly, but this was still a very worthwhile stop.

It was also evident from the hiking path that getting to the glacier itself would take time. These glaciers tend to recede at alarming rates, so even if you read about how close the glacier is to the road, it may not be that close when you get there.

Worthington Glacier - Things to do in Valdez

If you really want to get close and intimate with the glacier, you can. Guided ice climbing tours are available and will give you a chance to see views one wouldn't ordinarily see.

2. Keystone Canyon

As you approach Valdez, you'll navigate through Keystone Canyon, where the road itself carves a path through stunning natural beauty.

This section of the road ranks highly on our list of most scenic drives, only surpassed by the Going To The Sun road in Glacier National Park during the snowmelt season. Without resorting to poetic flourishes, let's say the drive through Keystone Canyon is an unforgettable experience.

Picture driving through a narrow canyon with countless waterfalls cascading down to road level, all feeding into a serene stream beside the road.

Keystone Canyon

It's a sight to behold. Make sure to allow extra time for this part of your journey, as you'll likely want to stop multiple times to soak in the views.

Keystone Canyon, with its natural splendor, is something you'll encounter both on your way into Valdez and as you leave, ensuring the scenic beauty leaves a lasting impression.

3. Bridal Veil Falls Trail

On your journey through Keystone Canyon towards Valdez, you'll find the entrance to Bridal Veil Falls Trail between miles 14 and 17. This hike spans two miles along a section of the historic trans-Alaska Military Pack Train Trail.

Don't miss the overlook, which is a mile into the trail for breathtaking views above the falls. For those seeking an adventure closer to Bridal Veil Falls, consider kayaking the Lowe River, which flows directly in front of the falls.

View of Worthington Glacier on highway near Valdez, Alaska in fall season.

Regrettably, our visit was dampened by rain, preventing us from exploring the trail. However, we've vowed to return to Valdez for a more extended visit and conquer the Bridal Veil Falls trail.

Winter offers a unique perspective with ice-climbing opportunities, providing an unparalleled view of the falls. Nearby, Horsetail Falls also presents a stunning natural display. For more insights on these falls and what Valdez has to offer, visit this informative site.

4. Glacier Cruises from Valdez

Valdez serves as the departure point for stunning glacier cruises to the Meares or Columbia Glaciers.

These journeys provide unique opportunities to observe marine life, including porpoises, puffins, sea lions, and occasionally, Minke whales and mountain goats along the route.

For detailed information on these cruises, visit this link.

While these cruises undoubtedly offer memorable experiences, our budget allowed for just one cruise during our trip, leading us to choose one in Kenai Fjords National Park. However, a cruise from Valdez remains high on our list for future adventures.

5. Valdez Museum and Historical Archive

The Valdez Museum spans two locations within the town, Egan Avenue and Hazelet Avenue, where a single admission fee grants access to both. Its exhibits explores Native Cultures, the Gold Rush, Exploration, and Glaciers.

Dedicating a few hours to explore the museum proved to be a valuable experience.

Despite its modest size, the museum effectively narrates Valdez's rich history, from the early days of the gold rush through the catastrophic 1964 earthquake to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

This museum is a must-visit for anyone looking to grasp the depth of Valdez's historical significance, even if your schedule allows for just a brief visit.

6. The Solomon Gulch Hatchery/Wildlife Viewing

The Solomon Gulch Hatchery plays a vital role in sustaining the salmon population for wildlife, tourism, and fishing purposes, having released its first pink salmon fry in 1982.

Though we skipped the tour, visitors have access to engaging information through touchscreen videos and displays.

When salmon make their annual return, the hatchery becomes a prime spot for witnessing this natural spectacle. Our visits to Valdez included two trips to the hatchery, both highlighting extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities.

The sheer volume of returning salmon is astonishing, with fish crowding the beaches and streams to the point of spillover.

Roadsides dotted with salmon remnants and streams brimming with fish resemble a can packed with sardines, offering a unique and unforgettable experience.

Note the salmon in the water - and out of it, too, right across from the Salomon Gulch Hatchery.

Near the stream, we encountered a black bear quietly sitting, seemingly digesting its recent feast of fish, perhaps making space for more.

Closer to the hatchery, sea lions lounged in the water, mouths agape, as salmon astonishingly leaped directly into them.

Having witnessed salmon migrations elsewhere in Alaska, this spectacle at Valdez was unparalleled. This is an experience you won't want to miss when visiting Valdez.

To visit the hatchery, travel north from New Valdez and take a turn onto Dayville Road from the Richardson Highway.

The journey, lasting about fifteen minutes, is rewarded with remarkable sights. For further details on the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, please visit their website.

What Else Is There To Do In Valdez?

While preparing this guide, I discovered a couple more attractions in Valdez. Although I haven't experienced these myself, they're worth mentioning for those looking to explore every corner of Valdez.

The Maxine and Jesse Whitney Museum

The Maxine and Jesse Whitney Museum is a testament to the Whitneys' journey to Alaska in the 1940s. Initially, they started with a gift shop selling Alaskan native items before acquiring a museum to further preserve Alaska's heritage.

This museum, which welcomes visitors in the summer, requires advance calls for winter visits. It showcases a rich collection including animal mounts, native masks and dolls, furs, and ivory.

Visitors often express appreciation for the artifacts that vividly illustrate Alaskan customs. For additional details, visit their website.

Helicopter Tours From Valdez

Helicopter tours in Valdez offer a remarkable way to experience Alaska's landscape from above. With a variety of tour lengths, ranging from 35 minutes to over two hours, these flights provide unparalleled views of glaciers and local wildlife.

Some tours even offer the unforgettable experience of landing on a glacier. If the prospect of a bird's eye view of Alaska appeals to you, more information can be found on their website.

Where To Eat In Valdez

Valdez might be a small town, but finding a good place to eat is essential, especially when the next city is hours away by car.

While we're not exactly foodies, we've gathered some recommendations based on the reviews we've found to help guide you to some decent dining options in Valdez.

Roadside Potatohead

The Roadside Potatohead, nestled by Valdez Harbor, is a charming eatery that welcomes visitors from May through September.

Its pale green facade, adorned with pots of colorful flowers, sets a welcoming scene for guests looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The menu creatively incorporates potatoes into many dishes, offering delights like the Potatohead Burrito and Spudniks plate, where traditional biscuits in biscuits-and-gravy are cleverly replaced with fries.

Not only does this affordable restaurant boast a variety of potato-based meals, but it also serves up a selection of seafood dishes. For more information on this quaint spot, check out their details.

Old Town Burgers

If nothing will be done but a good burger, try Old Town Burgers. It might be best to go during off hours as there are often lines out the door for this quick comfort food.

On top of it all, the service is fast, and the coffee is free. Learn more here.

What Nightlife Hotspots Are in Valdez?

Valdez is a small town, but there are still a couple of places to go for a taste of Alaskan nightlife and a chance to mingle with locals.

The Fat Mermaid

Where would you expect to find a fat mermaid? Near the water, of course. The Fat Mermaid has views of the marina in Valdez to enjoy while visitors enjoy pizza and burgers along with their beer.

They also take orders online. For more information and an online menu, check out the Fat Mermaid's website here.

Places to Stay in Valdez

Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn

This is where we stayed while visiting Valdez. By booking almost a year in advance, I managed to get decent rates for a room for four.

It wasn't a large room, but overall, the hotel was decent, and the breakfast was very good. Plus, the views right outside the hotel on a semi-sunny morning were pretty amazing!

Despite the small population of the town, this hotel has an on-site restaurant and business center. The hotel lives up to its name, and the restaurant is looking out onto the harbor. 

Located close to the harbor, the hotel is designed in rustic style, with beamed ceilings and stone fireplaces in the lobby. The rooms offer wide panoramic windows for the views.

See more details on Booking.com.

(And if you're looking to learn more about getting those lower rates, check out my post about the cost of a trip to Alaska, including budgeting tips).

Keystone Hotel

This hotel offers free shuttle service along with free Wi-Fi. Also, a laundromat is available if needed. The front desk is open 24 hours, making early/late check-ins a convenience. 

Following a good, hot coffee and continental breakfast, visitors may set off to explore the town as the hotel is within walking distance of different sights. From .02 to 1 and 1/2 miles, there are rivers, mountains, and the ocean to see.

See more details on Booking.com.

House on the Rock B and B

The House on the Rock specializes in comfort. With free Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast, the family-owned business provides information about area events.

This bed-and-breakfast is convenient to several sights and attractions. Visitors rate the establishment highly in service, comfort, and cleanliness. The House on the Rock B and B scores highly in guest reviews. To book here, check out this web page.

See more details on Booking.com

6 Awesome Things to Do in Valdez, Alaska (Including Photos)

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