|Anchorage||6 - 7||1|
|Fairbanks||7.5 - 8|
How Long to Spend
5 Day Prince William Sound Loop, 8 Day McCarthy / Kennicott & Valdez Off the Beaten Path Adventure, Best of Valdez, Alaska Highway to Prince William Sound, The Best of Prince William Sound via the Alaska Marine Highway
For a picturesque seaside community that’s a little off the beaten path, head to Valdez, set at the head of a fjord on Prince William Sound. Besides its gorgeous location, there’s lots to do. Valdez offers day cruises to see glaciers and wildlife, kayaking, great fishing, wildlife viewing, and tons of hiking trails. And, because it takes just a little more effort to get here—it’s a 6-hour scenic drive from Anchorage and 4.5 hours from Tok—it’s not nearly as crowded as the towns on the Kenai Peninsula.
This Gold Rush town has been through a lot. Valdez suffered great damage during the 1964 earthquake, but it’s probably most famous for the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Plant and animal life have mostly rebounded since the cleanup, and some important lessons were learned about oil transport through our pristine waters. Although herring haven’t fully recovered, the Sound is still home to a wide range of wildlife: sea otters, puffins, sea lions, and humpback whales, as well as lots of bald eagles flying overhead.
While it may not get as much attention as Seward or Whittier, Valdez—with five nearby glaciers—is an excellent starting point for day cruises. Besides the glaciers themselves, this side of Prince William Sound has a lot more wildlife than the Whittier side. Plus, it also has extremely calm waters (which you can’t always count on with glacier cruises out of Seward). If you prefer to stay inland, head to Valdez Glacier Lake, where you can kayak among bergs that have calved from the glacier.
Kayaking & Fishing
The Sound and the nearby rivers make for excellent rafting and kayaking, while Valdez is also a local favorite for fishing. Their waters feature every kind of salmon and huge halibut; there are also lots of fun, competitive fishing derbies.
In the winter, the neighboring Chugach mountains get a whopping 600 to 900 inches of snow; the peaks are perfect for Sno-Cat skiing, heli-skiing, and ski bump flights, as well as snowboarding and cross-country skiing. You can also strap on ice-climbing gear and make your way up a frozen waterfall.
While Valdez is accessible by water, most people get here by making it a stop on a popular and amazingly scenic road trip from Anchorage—a drive that’s considered one of the most beautiful in Alaska.
Drive: Motor from Anchorage to Glennallen on the Glenn Highway (4 hours), then take the Richardson Highway another 2 hours to Valdez. A popular itinerary is to spend one day exploring the Matanuska Glacier and overnighting at a lodge along the Glenn Highway or in Copper Center, then continuing to Valdez the next day.
Ferry: After the drive, many people take their car on the ferry to Whittier, then drive back up to Anchorage. But you can also reach Valdez via the Alaska Marine Highway.
Fly: It's a 45-minute flight from Anchorage on Ravn Alaska, which offers near-daily service. Expect amazing views of Prince William Sound and its jagged mountain peaks and glaciers. Weather in Valdez can be unpredictable, which can ground or delay your flight, so it’s always best to leave a day in between your return to Anchorage and your flight home.