Valdez, AK

Valdez is spectacular!  No kidding, it is likely the most gorgeous setting for a town we have ever seen.  The mountains are huge and gorgeous with glaciers between, the water is blue, berries are ripe, and flowers are blooming everywhere!  It is almost magical.

Before we get to all that, though, let’s talk about getting here.

Matanuska Glacier

We left Palmer on Friday morning, but didn’t make it far.  We only traveled about an hour before stopping at Matanuska Glacier for the night.  There was a small campground very near the viewpoint that we were lucky enough to get a spot in and we spent some time enjoying the view from the pull out and the adjoining nature trail.  Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in the U.S. that can be reached by vehicle.  There are lots of tours and excursions you can take to get closer than we did, but we opted to just enjoy it from afar and get back on the road toward Valdez.

The mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, way off in the distance!

The next day we continued on our journey. Along our route was the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center.  While we weren’t planning to visit the park until after our visit to Valdez, we figured it couldn’t hurt to go on and stop in at the visitor center and get some information about the park.  It might keep us from having to back track when we do decide to visit the park.  At any rate, we were able to get a glimpse of the mountains of the park while we were there, and it has definitely left us excited about what is to come!  Take note of those mountains!  With any luck we will all see them again from a closer vantage point!

Now, back to Valdez.  The day we arrived was incredible!  It was nothing but blue skies and sunshine to highlight the gorgeous scenery.  Even before we made it into town we were greeted with a gorgeous canyon full of waterfalls.  And once we got to our campsite, we were pleased to find it within walking distance of most everything in town, so we headed out immediately to the harbor and waterfront area. We won’t bore you with more adjectives to describe it.  We will let the photos speak for themselves; but WOW!

Unfortunately, the beautiful sunshine that greeted us on our first day in town did not continue.  Each day afterward, we woke to low clouds, but we did experience some clearing each afternoon and the temperatures remained amazing in the mid-60s each day, so we can’t complain.  Anyway, let’s get to some of the amazing activities Valdez has to offer that we enjoyed.

We’ve been told that the salmon have been running in some areas for almost a month and all the literature we have seen and read says they are usually around starting in mid-July, but we had yet to see any.  Our first stop was a viewing area on Crooked Creek.  We saw a total of three salmon there.  There was a pretty cool wood carving of a fisherman catching a bear, but that wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.

Our next stop, we were told, would be a sure thing.  We headed off to the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery (or fich hashery as Jeff kept calling it in a video clip he was trying to introduce it in), and it did not disappoint!  This area was teeming with salmon and there were lots of birds and sea lions around taking advantage.  We were really hoping to also see some bears fishing, but it was not to be.  Apparently, the fish are running about two weeks late here and just arrived in the area recently.  We guess the bears haven’t gotten the memo yet that the feast is on.  We loved this place so much that we visited not one, not two, but THREE times while here.  The first time we visited was near high tide so there were multiple sea lions in the area helping themselves to the salmon buffet.  The other two times, the water was a bit too shallow for the sea lions, but that also meant that the salmon were even more concentrated and were flipping and flopping and rolling over each other so much that it looked like the water was boiling!  There were also many, many gulls around and when they all took to the air at the same time, it was really something to see.  On our third and final visit, the salmon ladder was even open, so it was fun to watch the salmon fighting their way up to spawn!

Valdez is a town full of history as well as tragedy.  In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake – which was the strongest earthquake to ever rock North America – devastated the town of Valdez.  Thirty-two residents, many of which were children, lost their lives, and it was so terrible that the Army Corps of Engineers deemed the ground beneath the town to be unstable and completely condemned the town.  Everyone who lived there was given two years to pick up the pieces and move to the new, current location.  We absolutely cannot imagine what that would have been like.  To lose your neighbors, friends, family, belongings, homes, and then right down to the very town you live in…it would be beyond devastating.  We visited the old town site and found that there is not much recognizable left.  There are a few interpretive signs, the roads, and some pilings and a small piece of foundation left from an old bar in the edge of the water.  Despite the lack of artifacts, we still enjoyed learning the history and walking the quiet and dusty roads that used to bustle with so much life.

We also enjoyed a visit to the Valdez Museum.  This museum chronicles the history of the town from the first Native Alaskans who inhabited the area, all the way to the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.  There were an impressive number of items on display in the museum’s two locations along with a very detailed model of the old townsite.  We especially enjoyed learning even more about the 1964 earthquake and the infamous oil spill.  We are a little embarrassed to admit that we didn’t even know the basics of the oil spill, such as the fact that the oil actually never made into Valdez.  Once spilled, it traveled southwest through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska.  While Valdez didn’t see any oil on its shores, many of the other places we have visited (Homer, Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park) did. 

While in the area, we also enjoyed some short hikes with big views!  The Dock Point Trail ran between Duck Flats and Port Valdez, so there were amazing views on both sides of this lollipop.  The Overlook Trail, which we would actually call more of a walk than a hike, took us up a hill in town to an overlook of parts of town and Port Valdez.  The Homestead Trail was probably our favorite of the three.  It had multiple views of rushing Mineral Creek along the way and ended on the shores of Port Valdez where we saw a bald eagle.  It was a gorgeous and super easy hike.

One thing that has impressed us with Alaska, Valdez included, is the number of amazing multi-use trails.  It seems like every town has at least one, and it makes it super safe and convenient to get some use out of the bikes.  In Valdez there are bike trails everywhere, and we made good use of them by riding them out the Richardson Highway and down Dayville Road to the fish hatchery.  This made for a very scenic and long ride with fish hatchery goodness at the end.  We rode more than 20 miles!

Tomorrow will be time for us to bid farewell to Valdez, and we are very sad to go.  It has been one of our absolute favorite stops so far!  Between the beautiful setting of the town and all there has been to do here, we have loved every minute!

See gorgeous Valdez and SO MANY FISH in this video!

Until next time!

4 thoughts on “Valdez, AK”

  1. I’m loving all your blogs and videos from Alaska. It’s just incredible that yall are able to spend 3 months exploring so much of such a beautiful state.

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