6 Things to Do in Valdez
Valdez sits tucked in Prince William Sound with the peaks of some of the world’s tallest coastal mountains rising in the background. Make this coastal town your Alaska adventure home base for a trip filled with top-notch fishing, stellar hikes, glacier experiences, winter adventure, and lifelong memories.
1. Reel in a Big Fish
For visitors with an Alaska wish list that includes catching as many fish as they can legally hook, Valdez is the place to go, with plenty of ocean and freshwater fishing options. Reel in enough fish to fill a freezer with halibut, salmon, rockfish, trout, grayling, and more. Prince William Sound is notorious for being a top Alaska fishing destination. Cast year-round from shore or charter a boat to reach deeper seas.
Nearby rivers, streams, and lakes also yield beautiful rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and other species. Fishing licenses can be purchased online or at many of the local convenience stores. Charters and other outfitters will rent everything you need, so don’t worry about packing a single lure. Check the fishing report and get on the water!
2. Go for a Hike
With some of the tallest coastal mountain peaks in the world, hiking in Valdez promises to be nothing less than picturesque. The area’s 3.8-mile John Hunter Memorial Trail was featured by survival expert Bear Grylls as one of the world’s best hikes. Along the well-maintained route to Solomon Gulch, you’ll pass several streams, bridges, and waterfalls. Keep an eye out for bears, eagles, and other Alaska animals as you go. Another notable hike is the Homestead Trail, which weaves its way through a cottonwood forest and rewards with a stunning ocean view. Stop to watch the kite surfers catching the wind and ocean waves.
3. See Wildlife & Glaciers
There’s no shortage of wildlife in this coastal community. Prince William Sound hosts an abundance of marine animals, such as seals, sea lions, humpback whales, orcas, and more. Bald eagles can often be spotted flying overhead, and, on occasion, black and brown bears can be seen eating their fill of fish and berries in the area.
In addition to wildlife viewing, check out the astonishing array of glaciers in the surrounding area. Worthington Glacier is easy to reach, and you can’t miss it from the Richardson Highway in Thompson Pass. Walk up the paved and well-packed gravel trails to a viewing platform.
Located only a few miles from town, visitors can walk across an icy lake to get right up to the face of Valdez Glacier in the winter. In the summer, rent a kayak or canoe or book a tour to make the easy paddle to the glacier. It’s not uncommon to float by some impressive icebergs along the way.
Take a day cruise to Columbia Glacier—the fastest-moving glacier in Alaska—for a truly exciting experience. Visitors are almost sure to see ice calving from the glacier and abundant wildlife as they cruise the calm waters of Prince William Sound.
4. Take a Scenic Drive
Visitors driving the Richardson Highway should be ready to pull over at one of the turnoffs, perfectly placed near the many waterfalls, canyons, and glaciers. The Richardson Highway winds right through the Keystone Canyon, home to geological marvels as well as incredible history. In the early 1900s, when copper and gold mining was in full swing, there were attempts to build a railroad through the canyon. A tunnel that was built at the time can still be viewed today.
Make a day out of the road trip and travel all the way to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park or stay in the canyon and book a tour to raft or kayak the Lowe River or climb the ice walls in the winter. If you prefer to stick to dry land, hike the Valdez Goat Trail for equally spectacular views of the area.
5. View Salmon at the Hatchery
Hatcheries across Alaska help support sustainable salmon runs year after year. The Solomon Gulch Hatchery was built in 1981 and released its first pink salmon fry in 1982. Since then, salmon have continuously returned to the hatchery, making the trip upstream before entering the facility using a fish ladder. Watch as waves of pink salmon fight their way upstream during one of the earliest runs in the area. With hundreds of salmon swimming by, it’s no surprise that other Alaska animals are drawn to the site as well. Regular guests of the Solomon Gulch Hatchery include bears and eagles.
6. Get Active in Thompson Pass
With an average of 500-plus inches of snow recorded annually and amazing views to top it off, Thompson Pass is a premier heli-skiing destination and a huge draw for outdoor adventurers. From backcountry skiing and snowmobiling in winter to hiking in summer, guided Thompson Pass excursions run the gamut.
If you prefer to forego extreme sports, there are still plenty of sights that are visible from the road. The drive over Thompson Pass and through Keystone Canyon is one of the most scenic in the state. Worthington Glacier is easy to reach, and you’ll spot waterfalls thundering into the Lowe River. From the top of the pass, the views stretch for miles. There are plenty of campgrounds in the pass available to set up a tent or RV so you can soak in all the magic.
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