Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


Runtrails' Web Journal
Previous       2015 Journal Topics       Home       Next



"Situated in a majestic fjord, where the 5,000-foot-tall Chugach Mountains rise from   
Prince William Sound, Valdez is often called Alaska's 'Little Switzerland' . . .
Since its days as a port of entry for gold seekers, Valdez has been
an important gateway to Interior Alaska."
~ The Milepost, 2015 edition, p. 612
This is a beautiful town on a sunny day when the surrounding snow-topped mountains are reflected in the deep blue water of Port Valdez. We enjoyed more sun on this visit to Valdez than when we were here three years ago.

Here's the Valdez-area map again so you can see some of the locations I'll talk about in this entry:

After we got settled in at the campground on Wednesday afternoon (left arrow on map above) we drove into town to remind ourselves what is where. It's easy for us to get Valdez and Seward mixed up re: their waterfronts, RV parks, museums, restaurants, etc.

OK . . . now we remember what's here!

During our five-day stay at Valdez Glacier Campground we both enjoyed riding into town several times on our bikes or in the truck.

It's about three miles on Airport Road, then another three miles along the Richardson Highway, which has great views of the marsh (i.e., Duck Flats, shown in the next two photos), bay, and peninsula with Dock Point:


A bike path runs for several miles along this busy road, making walking or cycling into town safer.

Fortunately, there are enough interesting things to see to minimize the din and movement of traffic a few feet away:




As noted in the previous entry, Valdez is in the beginning of a noisy, dusty four-year harbor expansion project. In addition to all the normal traffic in and out of town, now there is also a continual stream of large trucks hauling rocks and fill dirt along a four-mile stretch of the Richardson Hwy.

When it's not raining water trucks frequently wet down the dust on the road, creating MUD. Not sure which is worse.

Don't avoid a trip to Valdez because of all this. Just be aware of it before you go. 


While in town I especially enjoy viewing the harbor from the boardwalk downtown and from the road across the water. It's fun to watch people, boats, sea birds, harbor seals, and the clouds moving in and out over the surrounding mountain peaks:  




Sea gulls

Harbor seal

There are lots of colorful sea kayaks at the far end of the small boat harbor:

I took the next three pictures when the tide was lower. A bunch of kayaks were being loaded onto three boats to take passengers out into Prince William Sound to paddle around some of the best scenery in the world:



There are also lots of shops, restaurants, and tour companies for folks who are interested in those.

One day I rode my bike our South Harbor Dr. to watch the new harbor project and to see the current small boat harbor from the other side:

Another large project is at the end of that street, where numerous truckloads of fill dirt and rock have been laid to extend that peninsula of land, too.

I was interested in the large Peter Pan Seafood Co. complex on South Harbor Dr. -- processing plant, dormitory, mess hall, sales, offices, etc. I went into the sales area and found fresh king (chinook/red) salmon for $12/lb., which sounded reasonable to me. It came from nearby Prince William Sound. We went back later to get two+ pounds of the salmon after checking first at Safeway.

Three years ago we found fresh salmon on sale at Safeway in Valdez or Seward for only $7.99/lb., half the price of the local seafood company. Apparently it wasn't this store (I told you we frequently get the two towns mixed up!). The seafood guy at Safeway told me they rarely carry fresh salmon because of the very high price. They can't compete with Peter Pan's lower prices. He said $12/lb. was a bargain price for king salmon and we should get some at Peter Pan.

We also got some smoked salmon at Peter Pan. Both the fresh and smoked salmon were delicious.

Someone's fishing boat in the small boat harbor

I was the only customer for a few minutes so I talked with the saleswoman at Peter Pan. She and her husband live in Seattle during the winter. This is about the twentieth time that they've come to Valdez in the summer. Peter Pan flies them up here and back, and provides lodging (not sure about meals). Her husband is a machinist for the company. They plan to retire after this summer.

We often ask locals in Alaska if they live here all year. Many don't, particularly ones who own or work at seasonal businesses like RV parks.

I also rode down to the ferry terminal on several of my bike rides:

During our stay we didn't see any ferries or large cruise ships in the port, which is ice-free during the winter.

Another day we observed a dredger in the water to the west of the port:

There is so much silt coming down the mountains in the Lowe River, Valdez Glacier Creek, Mineral Creek, and other streams that I imagine dredging is often required.


This is my second-favorite museum in Alaska (the huge Anchorage Museum tops my list). There is no admission fee but donations are welcome to view these items collected by Maxine and Jesse Whitney.

The handsome museum showcases an extensive collection of Alaskan memorabilia including a wide variety of animal mounts, tools, prehistoric artifacts, furnishings, carvings, clothing, dolls, and more, all beautifully displayed.

I just had to go back to see all of it again. Here are some different views than I showed back in June, 2012:




L-R:  mountain goat, polar bear, trumpeter swan, musk ox

The museum is located on the grounds of the Prince William Sound Community College.


Dayville Road, which you can see on the map at the beginning of this entry, is located about nine miles north of Valdez.

Bridge over the Lowe River

Heading south on Dayville Rd.

This paved road has wide shoulders (good for cycling) and runs about five miles along the eastern side of Port Valdez, with scenic views from the base of the Chugach Mountains across the water to town. You can camp, picnic, fish, watch for seals, sea lions, birds, salmon, and bears when the salmon are running.

A good place to see critters is the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery, which is about four miles back Dayville Road:

We've been to the hatchery at various tide levels. It's easier to see the seals and sea lions when the water is higher.

We saw some salmon fry (babies) in the outdoor tanks and watched two adorable harbor seals in the bay water:




Jim heard on the radio that bears might be frequenting this area as mature salmon come back to spawn upstream but we didn't see any salmon or bears while we were here. I think we were too early.

There are lots of interpretive panels along the walk to the viewing pavilion:

Across the road is the Copper Valley hydroelectric plant.

There is a dam high above it that we couldn't see, at the Solomon Lake outlet, and two large tubes where the water comes down and flows into the bay where we saw the seals:


There is also a nearby natural waterfall that flows through Solomon Gulch, which is a steep, narrow crevice:

You can reach at least one trailhead up into the mountains a little past the fish hatchery. I'll talk about a hike we took to Solomon Lake in another entry. That hike took us to the dam above the electrical plant.

The Alyeska Pipeline Terminal complex is located at the end of Dayville Road. Unfortunately, there is no public access to (or tours of) the terminal. I think that would be interesting if they ever allow it.

Next entry:  photos from scenic hikes and bike rides in the area

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

Previous       Next

2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil