A Local's Guide to Whittier
Andrea Kuuipo Leydon was born and raised in Anchorage. She is an Alaska travel and adventure blogger and shares her adventures to inspire people to get outside and explore Alaska. Andrea grew up fishing for salmon on the Kenai River and snowboarding at Hilltop Ski Area. Naturally, she fell in love with the outdoors at an early age, but her passion for big adventure came as an adult.
Whittier is one of the most unique places to visit in Prince William Sound. It’s small and secluded yet surrounded by an insane number of glaciers and big, beautiful mountains — the kind that plunge into the sea!
Getting to this seaside town by car includes a drive through the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America! The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is 2.5 miles long and it takes over eight minutes to drive through it. The tunnel runs on a one-way system so make sure to check the Whittier tunnel schedule if you don’t want to get stuck waiting around for an hour.
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Whittier:
Portage Pass is the most popular hike in Whittier, and for good reason. The trail is only four miles roundtrip and ends at the shores of Portage Lake. Portage Glacier can be seen once you reach the top of the pass, and it really is breathtaking. I like to hike all the way down to the lake because the views of the glacier are way better and sometimes, I’ll find miniature icebergs floating near the shoreline! This is a great spot to take photos and if you wander back towards the small creek, you can get some really nice photos with a beautiful field of wildflowers in the foreground.
August is berry picking season in Alaska. Horsetail Falls Trail is usually abundant with blueberries during this time! I like to follow the wooden boardwalk through the enchanting spruce and alder forest and fill my container with fresh, plump blueberries. There are bears in this area, so I always carry bear spray. Horsetail Falls Trail ends at a waterfall dropping down a sheer rock face. However, if you’re an experienced hiker, you can scramble your way to the top of Blackstone Bay Vista for some jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of the surrounding fjords. Try not to eat all of your freshly picked berries before you get home so you can turn them into blueberry scones!
For an adventure on the water, I like to take a glacier cruise around Prince William Sound with Phillips Cruises & Tours. Prince William Sound has more than 145 glaciers and my favorite glacier to see is Blackstone Glacier, which is found in Blackstone Bay. I always recommend this trip to birders because you get to see thousands of kittiwakes fishing in the area. There are also chances to see other wildlife like whales and occasionally black bears. Don’t forget to bring a jacket with you as it always tends to feel much colder on the water and Whittier can get quite a bit of rain!
After a full day of adventuring, I love walking around the Whittier Harbor in search of a bite to eat and a cold beer. Varly's Swiftwater Seafood Café has delicious crab cakes and clam chowder! I love being here on a bluebird day so I can grab a drink and a bowl of chowder and find a place to sit outside and bask in the midnight sun.
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