Valdez delivers wildlife watching, glacier sightseeing and fishing galore for adventure seekers
Folks who've never been to Alaska likely think of oil when the name Valdez, Alaska, crops up in conversation. Sure, Valdez is the southern terminus of the Alaska Oil Pipeline, but it's really much more than that. Located on the state's southern coast in the heart of the Prince William Sound, with hanging glaciers, waterfalls and summer and winter activities galore, Valdez, Alaska, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise.
Because Valdez sits on the coast, there are loads of opportunities for visitors to enjoy water sports and explore the vast area of natural beauty that surrounds Valdez. The most obvious is the Prince William Sound, surrounded by the snow-capped Chugach Mountains and numerous tidal glaciers. One glimpse of the beauty will compel you to pull that camera out of its case and greedily record some amazing images.
There are so many ways to explore the Sound that you'll be hard-pressed to choose. Maybe you'll want to do them all, because they all offer a different experience. From the small harbor, you can take an excursion vessel to the Sound, or if you're an experienced sailor, you can rent a sailboat for the day. Are there a lot of people with you? How about jumping on a tour boat that will float you past the glaciers and whales. There are also rental boats and charter boats for fishing.
Speaking of fishing, Valdez and the surrounding Prince William Sound are spectacular, year-round fishing destinations. Anglers can cast their lines from the shore in search of salmon and rockfish or rent a boat and fish for lingcod and halibut. Maybe you want to try your hand at something a little bigger. Take a half-day or all-day charter into the deep waters of the Sound and you could come back with a 300-pound salmon shark.
Alaska does require a fishing license, so you might want to find a local sporting goods store to pick one up. There are one-day, three-day, seven-day and annual licenses available.
Looking for freshwater fish? Valdez has those, too. The many lakes and streams above Valdez offer fly-fishing at its best. Anglers can net rainbow trout, Alaska Dolly Varden or graylings. When the weather gets cold, these same locations offer hardy anglers excellent ice fishing.
The weather can change quickly in Valdez, so be sure to layer your clothes even on warm days and especially when you're on a boat out on the open waters of the Sound.
Waterfalls and More
Okay, so maybe you aren't the fishing type. That's okay, because there are still a lot of summertime activities to do in Valdez.
Hikers and bikers can rejoice at the magnificent beauty of the peaks and trails surrounding Valdez. There are short one-mile treks as well as 6- to 10-mile trails for the more experienced biker and hiker.
At the top of town near the water tower, you'll find a gravel road that will lead you to one of the most scenic areas in Valdez. This is known as the Mineral Creek hiking trail. You can drive the first five miles or so, but you will eventually come to a gate with a parking area. From here you'll have to hoof it, but it will be so worth it.
The next mile of trail features the Wood Creek Waterfall and the East Fork Waterfall. Winding between tall mountains, the trail climbs the terrain to over 5,000 feet. Once you make it, the vistas can be breathtaking. Make sure you bring your camera.
At the end of the trail is the old Gold Stamp Mill. The structure was built in 1913 and was used in conjunction with the Mountain King Mine.
A few miles outside of town you'll find the 2.5-mile Keystone Canyon Trail. Originally designed for sled dogs, there are a number of switchbacks and places to stop and admire the beauty of your surroundings. Near the top of the trail you'll find two amazing waterfalls, the Horsetail Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. You won't want to miss this photo op.
While you're on the trail, take a bag for berry picking. The trails offer a wide variety of these sweet fruits open for the picking. You can find wild blueberries, raspberries and salmonberries, but make sure you only procure the edible variety. Fortunately, local gift shops have books and charts that will help you identify the good berries from the poisonous.
Valdez is a winter kind of place receiving about 300 inches of snow in town annually with 600 to 900 inches in the mountains surrounding the coast. All this snow makes Valdez the perfect place for winter fun.
Snowboarding, skiing and snowmobiling are favorite pastimes of the locals and, of course, visitors are welcome to join in the fun.
Trade in your hiking boots for a pair of cross-country skis and take the same trails for a breathtaking view that changes with the seasons. Those beautiful waterfalls turn into an ice climber's delight once they freeze. If you're really adventurous, try your hand at heli-skiing.
Valdez offers some of the best downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Alaska. Local guides can get you to the freshest powder no matter what your skill level. Take a guided tour of the Chugach Mountains on a snowcat or snowmobile. You won't regret this trip into the wild.
For More Information:
Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau
Alaska Travel Industry Association