4 Days in Cordova
Mid-May through mid-September
Why This Trip?
Cordova is one of Alaska’s best off-the-beaten path destinations. It’s remote, but not too remote; wild, but not too wild—a bustling, working fishing town with a great community. While it’s not on the road system, once you get here, you can explore the Copper River Highway—one of Alaska’s best-kept secrets. Spend a day driving and enjoy multiple pullouts for wildlife viewing and hiking (even a hike to a glacier!).
Many visitors come for sport-fishing season in August and stay 4–7 days. But it’s a great destination all summer long. Because of its location, Cordova’s more prone to rain, so plan for at least 3-4 days to give yourself a chance for some nice weather.
If you plan your visit around a festival, like the Copper River Shorebird Festival or the Copper River Salmon Jam, and you’ll see how the town comes together.
You can get to Cordova by air (it’s a 45-minute jet plane ride from Anchorage) or by the Alaska Marine Highway. Ferries don’t run every day, so look at the schedule on their website and plan in advance. (The schedule is often released in March for the coming summer.) It takes about 7 hours from Whittier, and you can bring your vehicle. If you fly in, you’ll want to rent a car.
Take the Ferry or Fly to Cordova from Anchorage
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- By Air: You’ll start your journey from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for your quick flight to Cordova. Most flights arrive later in the afternoon.
- By Ferry: The ferry schedule varies, but arrival is between afternoon and late evening. You’ll begin in the morning in Whittier. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there; it’s about a 90-minute drive from Anchorage, and you have to pass through the Whittier Tunnel, which operates on a strict schedule. There’s a tunnel opening every hour, on the half hour, beginning at 5:30 a.m. from May to September. Then you’ll hop on the ferry to Cordova—a 7-hour traverse of the beautiful Prince William Sound. Grab a chair on deck or in the heated solarium to take full advantage of the views of towering mountains, glaciers, and the chance to see wildlife like whales, seals, otters, and more.
Once in Cordova (if you’re arriving in the afternoon), stop at the Cordova Visitor Center and discover some things to see and do in the area. A great first-day activity is to pick up a copy of the Historical Walking Tour and follow the route. You’ll get a great overview of the town and work up an appetite for dinner. Local seafood is easy to find, and there’s great pizza, Mexican, and more. After dinner, head to the waterfront to marvel at all the boats bobbing in the harbor.
Day and Overnight in Cordova
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Today you’re setting out on the Copper River Highway. And how the adventure unfolds is up to you. Here are some ideas:
- Wildlife: Mile 17, Alaganik Slough. There’s great wildlife viewing, especially in early May/June during the shorebird migration.
- Hiking: Mile 21.4. Combine the McKinley Trail and Pipeline Lakes Trail for a roughly 5-mile round-trip hike.
- Glaciers: Mile 13.7. Walk 1.5 miles on the Sheridan Glacier Lake Trail for views of icebergs bobbing in the lake, with the gorgeous glacier in the background.
- Check out more ideas for great things to see along the Copper River Highway.
Day & Overnight in Cordova
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You have another full day to explore Cordova! Some ideas:
- Explore the area’s history and culture at the Cordova Historical Museum or the Ilanka Cultural Center. It’s easy to spend about an hour in each.
- Find a charter to go out in Orca Bay sightseeing or fishing for the day.
- Hike a local trail.
- You could also time your visit so it coincides with a festival.
Take the Ferry or Fly from Cordova to Whittier
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The ferry departs early morning, and flights depart in the early afternoon. If you’re flying, you’ll have a little more time to explore in the morning, so go for a short hike.