Discover Valdez: Two-Day Road Trip Including Worthington Glacier and Wrangell St Elias National Park

Valdez | Introduction

Valdez is located at the terminus of glaciers in the eastern part of Prince William Sound. Though small, with a population of just a few thousand, Valdez has a robust economy. It is the endpoint of the Alaska Pipeline and the northernmost ice-free port in the United States. For tourists, Valdez is a beautiful port town, often referred to as "Little Switzerland of Alaska" and a prime spot for glacier cruises.

Valdez | 2-Day Itinerary

We stayed in Valdez for two nights. Originally, we planned to spend three days and two nights, including a much-anticipated icebreaker cruise. Unfortunately, due to rough seas, the cruise was canceled. As a result, we ended up with only one and a half days in Valdez. During this time, we drove to nearby attractions, including Bridal Veil Falls, Worthington Glacier, the Valdez harbor, the Old Railroad Tunnel, and Wrangell St. Elias National Park, exploring this charming Alaskan town thoroughly.

From our experience, we recommend that anyone planning a trip to Alaska be aware that the itinerary can be heavily influenced by the weather. Although cruise tickets can often be rescheduled, we decided not to delay our subsequent plans and opted for a refund. If you want to ensure all your activities go smoothly, it's best to allow extra buffer days. However, even with extra days, there's no guarantee, as some tourists have waited three days without success.

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Valdez | Transportation

As a port city, Valdez is accessible both by road and by ferry. Taking the ferry can be more convenient. For example, the distance from Whittier to Valdez is 357 miles by road but only 90 miles by sea. Details on ferry travel were mentioned earlier.

Valdez | Richardson Highway

Richardson Highway is the main road into and out of Valdez, and it offers stunning scenic views. On our first day in Valdez, we enjoyed simply driving and taking in the beautiful scenery. In the summer, the weather can be lovely, with green landscapes contrasting against the snowy peaks, though the weather can be quite variable.

We saw an avalanche site along the way, which was fascinating for us as we come from a place that never sees snow. It looked almost like a tourist spot, and there were work crews dealing with the aftermath of recent rains.

Attractions | Bridal Veil Falls

The first notable sight on Richardson Highway out of Valdez is Bridal Veil Falls, about 18 miles away. It's impossible to miss as it’s right by the road. In summer, you can hike the Keystone Canyon Pack Trail, a 2.6-mile trail adjacent to the falls. In winter, the falls freeze, becoming a haven for ice climbing, with an annual Ice Climbing Festival held there.

Attractions | Worthington Glacier

Continuing along Richardson Highway, the next major attraction is Worthington Glacier. This glacier is close to the highway, visible from your car.

It’s an accessible glacier with a pavilion at the trailhead providing detailed explanations about glaciers, their formation, and types.

Walking up the trail brings you close to the glacier. The blue ice looks surreal and is fascinating to see up close, although it appears more muddy and gritty than the pristine blue often seen in photos due to the silt carried by the moving ice. We ventured right up to the glacier, but it’s essential to be cautious as the terrain is slippery and not officially regulated.

Attractions | Old Railroad Tunnel

The Old Railroad Tunnel is a small, incomplete tunnel from a failed early 20th-century railroad project intended to boost Valdez's port status. Although the project was abandoned, the tunnel remains a quaint roadside attraction.

Valdez, Wrangell St Elias national park, worthington glacier, Richardson highway 31

Wrangell St Elias National Park

Wrangell St Elias National Park | Introduction

Wrangell St Elias National ParkIt is the largest national park in the United States, with an area as large as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Switzerland combined! However, because of its remote location and low level of development, it is not easy to go deep into this national park. The only areas that are easier to access by rental car are Copper Center and Chitina, which are the two more westerly areas, and you can only touch the edge of the park.

其他幾乎所有進入國家公園腹地的道路都是蜿蜒狹窄非柏油路,路況隨天氣變化很大。一般租車都不適合開,如果真想深入,較好的方法是找當地的shuttle service或是坐air taxi。

Wrangell St Elias National Park | Copper Center Area

The Copper Center area, at the park's western edge, is the most accessible, home to the park’s headquarters. It’s about an hour’s drive north from Valdez on Richardson Highway. The Copper Center Visitor Center is the largest in the park, featuring cultural and historical exhibits and a picnic area, making it a great rest stop on the highway.

Trails | Boreal Forest Trail

The Boreal Forest Trail is a 0.5-mile loop trail around the visitor center, highly recommended for a half-hour walk. The trail offers a viewing platform with expansive views of the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains. However, in summer, mosquitoes are plentiful, so bring insect repellent.

The Boreal Forest Trail connects to the Copper River Bluff Trail and Valdez Trail. The Copper River Bluff Trail is a 0.5-mile loop with a viewing platform overlooking the Copper River. The Valdez Trail is a historic route once used to transport supplies to Valdez.

Wrangell St Elias National Park | Chitina Region

Initially, we planned only to visit Copper Center, but with extra time from the canceled cruise, we ventured into the Chitina area. This region sees few tourists and is more about preserving natural resources than recreation. Local residents can hunt seasonally within the park, maintaining traditional lifestyles.

Chitina has a ghost town atmosphere with remnants from the gold rush era, now largely abandoned except for a few stores serving hunters and campers. We encountered heavy rain upon entering Chitina, and the narrow, unpaved McCarthy Road beyond the ranger station was too challenging for our rental car.

Valdez Dining | Alaskan Halibut House

Valdez is a quaint town with few restaurants. We dined at the Alaskan Halibut House, which specializes in fish and chips with various fish options. We enjoyed the rockfish and halibut baskets, appreciating the fresh, local fish and the restaurant’s reasonable prices.

Further reading

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