Why This Trip?
This itinerary begins in Anchorage and includes travel by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system between the towns of Whittier, Cordova, and Valdez, before driving back to Anchorage, creating a perfect loop.
You’ll truly see the best of Prince William Sound. And traveling by ferry provides a relaxing intermission between towns; you’ll get to absorb the beautiful scenery of the Sound, looking for glaciers and wildlife along the way.
**This itinerary is limited by the availability of a direct connection between Cordova and Valdez. Otherwise, the Cordova to Valdez ferry is approximately 12 hours instead of 5, because it includes a brief stopover in Whittier.
In 2021, it departs Cordova at 5 a.m. and arrives in Valdez at 10 a.m. It runs on the following days:
- Sunday April 18
- Sunday April 25
- Sunday May 2
- Sunday May 9
- Sunday May 16
- Sunday May 23
- Sunday Sep 19
Drive from Anchorage to Whittier (Tuesday)
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You’ll start this itinerary on a Tuesday so that you’ll be ready for the ferry by Sunday. Begin by driving from Anchorage to Whittier, taking your time along scenic Turnagain Arm. 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.
Orient yourself in town. Take the 30-minute self-guided walking tour and check out the buildings that have been here since WWII. Walk the beach at the head of the bay, stroll the harbor, and hike one of the trails. Or get out on the water! Day cruises last around 5 hours and allow you to see a variety of glaciers in the Sound. You can also kayak, Jet Ski, or fish.
Take the Ferry from Whittier to Cordova (Wednesday)
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Ferry over to Cordova with your vehicle. There are direct ferries approximately 3 times a week, and the trip lasts 7 hours aboard the MV Aurora. While this isn’t a cruise, it can feel like one. Maximize your chances of seeing wildlife by spending as much time as possible out on the deck. This vessel has a cafeteria, observation lounge, heated solarium, and showers (if you feel the need to freshen up)! You’ll arrive in Cordova in the evening. Check in to your accommodations and prepare for the next day’s adventure.
Day and Overnight in Cordova (Thursday)
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Today you’ll drive the scenic Copper River Highway. 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 and Overnight in Cordova (Friday)
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You have another full day to explore Cordova! Some ideas:
Take the Ferry from Cordova to Valdez (Sunday)
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It’s time to hop on the ferry from Cordova to Valdez. Don’t miss it! It departs at 5 a.m. and arrives at 11 a.m., giving you plenty of time to explore and do some sightseeing. Drive just beyond town to Valdez Glacier Lake, where you can marvel at icebergs that have calved from the glacier. If you want to get closer, book a kayaking tour and paddle around them!
Valdez has some fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities, depending on the time of year. Stop at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery (from mid-June through August) or the Crooked Creek Information Site (from mid-July through October) to see salmon returning to their spawning grounds, as well as the chance to spot bears fishing. At the hatchery, the fish also attract sea lions and seals looking to catch their fill!
Day and Overnight in Valdez (Monday)
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Set spectacularly on shimmering waters and surrounded by mountains, Valdez boasts wildlife and glaciers galore. So get out there! If you crave more time on the Sound, take a day cruise, go kayaking, or try some fishing.
Today is also a great opportunity to hike one of Valdez’s spectacular trails. Dock Point is a short trek and features great views of the harbor. Goat Trail is a little more moderate, and offers views of Bridal Veil Falls. For a full list, check out our Valdez Trails page.
Drive from Valdez to Anchorage (Tuesday)
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Today you’ll drive back to Anchorage—a trip that will take about 5.5 hours nonstop. Plan for 6 or 7, though, as you'll find some beautiful distractions along the way. Just beyond town is Keystone Canyon. Tuck into the roadside pullout to take in the views of Bridal Veil Falls. A little further on, you’ll be treated to views of Worthington Glacier. You can stop and get a little closer from the viewing platform. (There’s a $5 parking fee.) About 2 hours from Anchorage, pull off to marvel at the mammoth Matanuska Glacier; it’s one of Alaska's few roadside glaciers, and it’s spectacular!