The best Tourist Attractions in Valdez, Alaska

The best Tourist Attractions in Valdez, Alaska

The best Tourist Attractions in Valdez, Alaska

Good Friday is a bad day for Valdez. On that holiday in 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of North Slope crude into Prince William Sound. And it was on a Good Friday 25 years earlier that an earthquake created a giant ocean wave that killed 32 residents and demolished the entire town. (The quake’s epicenter was only 45 mi/72 km west.) Valdez had to rebuild as quickly as possible after the disaster, so aesthetic considerations were secondary: Most homes resemble tract housing in other parts of the U.S.

But what the town (pop. 4,200) lacks in charm is more than made up for by the surrounding snowy peaks and the waters of Prince William Sound. Even the Alyeska pipeline terminal sitting across the fjord doesn’t mar the scenery.

1. The best Attractions & Things to Do in Valdez, Alaska

Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska

What you’ll most likely see first if you come into town on a bus scheduled by the cruise line is a giant wooden carving on the grounds of Prince William Sound Community College (on Pioneer Avenue). It’s one of 50 sculptures that Alaska artist Peter Toth produced in honor of Native Americans (two others are located on the main campus on Lowe Street). You’ll also see a totem pole carved by Leonard Powers, another Alaska artist, whose carving class produced the two huge panels mounted on the outside walls of the college. You might want to return to the college later to watch a film about the 1964 earthquake

Heritage Center Museum. in Valdez, Alaska

Evidence of the more recent disaster, the 1989 oil spill, is confined to displays in the Heritage Center Museum. The shores of Seward, Homer and Kodiak actually suffered more damage, but that summer Valdez was inundated with tourists, anxious to see what Exxon had wrought. The center has a model of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and right outside the door is an active eagle’s nest. There’s gold-rush material, too—Valdez was the door to one of the most dangerous routes to the Klondike: In 1897-1898, the town attracted thousands of fortune hunters, many of whom lost their lives trying to cross the Chugach Mountains. Other highlights: an exhibit chronicling the 1964 earthquake, a three-tank aquarium with local fish and sea creatures, a huge Fresnel lens from the lighthouse on Hinchinbrook Island and an immaculately restored 1907 steam fire engine.

Valdez Boat Harbor in Valdez, Alaska

The Valdez Boat Harbor, just below downtown Valdez, has a long boardwalk where you can watch local fishermen haul in the day’s catch. Across the fjord from the harbor on Dayville Road is the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery, which also has a boardwalk and an observation deck positioned to allow a good view of fish working their way up the ladder.

The best Tourist Attractions in Valdez, Alaska

Unless you sign up for a ship-sponsored excursion, Valdez’s natural beauty will be available to you mainly on developed paths and walkways. A short way from the pier is a paved 3-mi/5-km bike path into town it crosses a large nesting and feeding area for migratory birds, including a rare variety of Canada geese that nests there. You can see salmon along the way in Crooked Creek, and hikers occasionally observe seals feeding on the fish.

Mineral Creek Road

If you take the bus to town, you might have time to strike out along Mineral Creek Trail toward gold-mining territory. To reach the trailhead, walk north on Hazelet Avenue and turn left on Hanagita Street. Follow along until you arrive at Mineral Creek Road, and turn right. The route follows Mineral Creek Road for about 5 mi/8 km and continues about a mile to the old Smith Stamping Mill, where gold was extracted from crushed rocks. Because most cruise ships stay in Valdez only a short time, we recommend taking a cab to the trailhead or arranging for one to meet you at the end.

Solomon Gulch  Valdez, Alaska

There’s also a good, short hike above Solomon Gulch, beginning across Dayville Road from the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery. It’s quite steep but well worth the effort for the marvelous views.