Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Valdez, AK

  • Published 2023/02/22

Valdez, Alaska, at the mouth of a vast fjord in Prince William Sound, is home to glaciers, rainforests, beautiful mountains, land and sea creatures, and much more.

It has an unrivaled natural beauty whose only equal is the abundance of activities throughout the year.

You wouldn’t imagine a little, out-of-the-way marine community with a vibrant cultural scene, yet that’s what Valdez is.

Kayakers may spend the day exploring animal habitats, ice caves, plus waterfalls while paddling through glacial waterways.

Valdez also has a diverse range of restaurants set in beautiful surroundings where you may eat fresh Alaskan seafood from a hidden corner booth or with a view of the sea.

Below are the best things to do in Valdez, AK.

View the Rich Wildlife at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery

The waters of Solomon Gulch Hatchery

Bonita R. Cheshier /

The Solomon Gulch Hatchery offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of Alaska’s most important fisheries enhancement operations.

The hatchery is across the water from the Allison Point camping & fishing area.

The Valdez Fisheries Development Association Inc. owns the hatchery, which was completed in 1983.

Hundreds of salmon on Solomon Gulch Hatchery's water

Nina B /

Its goal is to guarantee that enough wild salmon return every year to boost recreational and commercial fishing harvests in the Valdez area.

The best time to view salmon returning and making their journey up the river is during the summer months.

It’s also an excellent area to watch the local wildlife, including sea lions, black and brown bears, and other animals feeding on the salmon.

A sea lion hunting for fish at Solomon Gulch Hatchery

Travis Worden /

Go on a Kayak Excursion in Columbia Glacier

A kayaker on Columbia Glacier

Gail Johnson /

Members of the Harriman Expedition named the Columbia Glacier after Columbia University in 1899.

Columbia Glacier is the biggest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound and the second largest in North America.

The ice fields, along with glacier faces, may be explored in various ways.

A kayak boat on Columbia Glacier

Gail Johnson /

You may go on a cruise or a boat excursion, take an air tour to see the region from above, or take a kayak out and approach the ice.

You’ll also view local species and take in the natural landscape.

On a nature cruise, kayak day excursion, or helicopter tour, travelers may see the Columbia Glacier pouring from the Chugach Mountains through pieces of glacial ice.

Three people kayaking along Columbia Glacier

Nick Starichenko /

Enjoy a Meal at the Fat Mermaid

You can have it all at the Fat Mermaid, which serves pizza, beer, and live music in a lovely waterfront location along North Harbor Drive in Valdez.

The Fat Mermaid is a fantastic choice in Valdez if you want to relax, have a bite to eat, and maybe have a beer.

It’s a popular hangout spot for after-dinner beers.

The fat mermaid menu includes appetizers, seafood, pizzas, burgers, homemade desserts, salads, and full beverage service with martinis and 25 craft beers on tap.

The pizzas are highly recommended, and the possibility of eating outdoors on the terrace is tempting.

Don’t miss a fantastic meal and a good time at this well-known restaurant.

See the Magnificent Shoup Bay State Marine Park

Scenic view of Shoup Bay State Marine Park

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH /

The Shoup Bay State Marine Park is five miles southwest of the Valdez Port.

It is mainly accessible by boat; however, there is an 11-mile route from Valdez to the park.

The bay is known for a 150-foot tidal wave that crashed into it three times after the 1964 earthquake.

A drift ice at Shoup Bay State Marine Park

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH /

This wave has altered the bay dramatically.

Shoup Glacier and the lagoon’s black-legged kittiwake rookery are two of the park’s highlights.

The Shoup Glacier has receded roughly a mile and a half, exposing new land and producing a brackish lagoon with a tidal river connecting it.

Here you may view a variety of waterfowl, bald eagles, and arctic terns.

Grab Tasty Burgers in Old Town Burgers

Enjoy a delicious burger and authentic Alaskan seafood at Old Town Burgers.

Old Town Burgers has a fantastic menu with many options, and they guarantee you’ll appreciate every bite.

This hamburger restaurant will undoubtedly leave you satisfied.

Their menu includes burgers such as bratwurst, mushroom, premium double cheeseburger meals and add-ons including patty, chicken strip, bacon, and more.

Sandwiches, salads, sides, and beverages are also available.

In the summer, Old Town Burgers is the go-to restaurant in Valdez.

Visit the Worthington Glacier State Recreational Site

The magnificent view of Worthington Glacier State Recreational Site

Chansak Joe /

The Worthington Glacier is a popular destination for those who want to see a glacier.

The National Park Service listed Worthington Glacier as a National Natural Landmark in 1968.

The area’s exceptional snowfall keeps Worthington Glacier thriving.

Aerial view of Worthington Glacier State Recreational Site

Brester Irina /

In beautiful Thompson Pass, Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site is 28 miles north of Valdez, just on Richardson Highway.

Parking, pit bathrooms, and a sheltered pavilion with a model of the glacier plus informative signage are all available at the state recreation site, which is near a small lake.

Most individuals take a short stroll on a pave to a viewing platform with viewing scopes overlooking the glacier.

Buy Lunch at the Potato

Come in for a coffee and a light breakfast, or swing by for a casual lunch or dinner with beer and wine.

The Potato’s second site, which opened in 2014, presents gorgeous views of the Valdez port.

Performances, dinner parties, and concerts are held in their new two-story facility, which debuted in 2015.

At the Potato, they make every effort to use fresh, locally sourced foods.

Their inexpensive, homemade comfort cuisine is distinctive and nostalgic and can fill you up after a long trek or road trip.

They cater to various meal options, including gluten-free and vegan, and their staff wants to work with you to ensure an exceptional dining experience.

You’ll find a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere packed with local faces and happy stomachs, whether you’re popping by for a morning cappuccino or settling down for a peaceful lunch overlooking the Valdez harbor.

Take a Boat Tour at Meares Glacier

The Meares Glacier reflecting on the water

Sofiia Dorsey /

Meares Glacier is among North America’s only advancing tidewater glaciers.

The glacier is named after John Meares, a British naval captain in the seventeenth century.

You can find Meares Glacier in Prince William Sound, at the mouth of the Unakwik Inlet.

It is farther from Valdez than other glaciers such as Shoup or Columbia.

Close view of Meares Glacier's structure

Photo Spirit /

Hence, journeys to Meares will take longer.

A day boat tour may take visitors as near as a quarter-mile out from the face of Meares Glacier.

Along the voyage, passengers on board are likely to witness whales, porpoises, sea lions, and other wildlife.

Visit this well-known tourist attraction in Valdez, Alaska.

Daytime view of the Meares Glacier

Photo Spirit /

Hike the Dock Point Park & Trail

Dock Point Trail is one of Valdez’s short and simpler hikes, but it provides some of the most fabulous views of Harbor Cove, the Duck Flats wetlands, including rich animals in a temperate boreal rainforest.

The walk runs along a peninsula and has protected observation platforms.

The route has a high elevation at one point.

However, because it is a circle, hikers can choose to venture clockwise to dodge the steep slope.

This simple circle path, which is only 0.8 miles long and rises less than 500 feet in height

Dock Point is ideal for both families and dogs, and it offers beach access near the trailhead.

Hike at Dock Point Park & Trail if you’re feeling adventurous.

Create Memories at the Keystone Canyon

View of the horsetail falls of Keystone Canyon from the highway

Ralf Broskvar /

You’ll pass through Keystone Canyon on your way to Valdez.

Keystone Canyon is the place to go if you’re looking for a thrill.

It teems with breathtaking waterfalls, geology, and fascinating history.

Bridal veil falls of Keystone Canyon

Scott J. Carson /

You can paddle along the Lowe River via raft or kayak, and you can even climb the canyon’s beautiful, steep-sided granite cliffs, famous for ice climbing in the winter.

The Valdez Goat Trail, which begins near the Bridal Veil Falls trailhead, is an excellent trek for people who want to put their feet on the ground.

Bring your camera to catch the beautiful waterfalls on film.

Horsetail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are the most famous falls in the canyon.

Scenic view of lowe river at Keystone Canyon

Ralf Broskvar /

Check Out Exhibits at Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum

This museum has one of the world’s most extensive Native Alaskan art & artifacts collections.

After years of absorbing the collections, a new purpose-built building opened in 2008.

Various exhibitions feature the Natural History of Alaska, wildlife mounts including polar bears, ivory and baleen objects, masks, dolls, and fur apparel.

All of them are fascinating in their own right, and together they convey the tale of Alaska’s past.

Through the work of their founding collectors, the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum aspires to cultivate a hunger for knowledge and understanding of the worth of historical and cultural artworks and artifacts, including the natural environment.

Go to the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum to learn more about the history and see their exhibits.

Snap a Photo of the Whispering Giant

Daytime view of the tall Whispering Giant

Pecold /

Sculptor Peter Toth was born in Hungary, and he pledged to carve a sculpture in each of the 50 states in the US.

He visited Prince William Sound College at Valdez in 1981 during the summer and early fall.

He carved his 40th homage to the United States’ Native American heritage in Valdez.

Mountains behind Whispering Giant statue

melissamn /

Peter Toth refused to accept any form of payment for the monuments.

Toth used wood from Cordova in several of his more miniature creations in Valdez, while he used bigger wood from the Sitka area for the Whispering Giant.

Toth appeared on various major tv stations in the early 1980s to explain his work.

The Whispering Giant remains among the spruce trees alongside Pioneer Drive.

Watch Fantastic Views and Snack at the Nat Shack

Nat Shack delivers Cal-Mex food from the north of the border to Valdez, Alaska.

Cal-Mex cuisine arose due to cultural influences that added new ingredients to traditional Mexican cuisine.

Although the Nat Shack sits far north of the original crossroads of these food cultures, the three best friends who founded the restaurant strive to provide the same spirit of creativity and fresh, local ingredients.

Nat Shack’s brilliant crew has produced a special menu of traditional meals and vegetarian options, all slathered in their salsas and spicy sauce.

In 2020, Nat Shack received the prestigious TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice, Best of the Best Award.

Nat Shack adds to the dining experience by providing live music and relaxing outside seating with some of Alaska’s most fabulous views!

Appreciate the View at Thompson Pass

Aerial view of the snow-covered Thompson Pass

Lance King /

In Valdez, Alaska, Thompson Pass is approximately a 2,600-foot high mountain pass in the Chugach Mountains.

Thompson Pass is widely trafficked year-round, probably because this tourist site is renowned for trekking and berry gathering in the summer.

Scenic view of Thompson Pass

Santiparp Wattanaporn /

Downhill skiers and snowboarders use a variety of ski runs during the winter.

Thompson Pass also hosts several seasonal winter sporting events each year.

For example, you can join the Alaska Kite Festival, the Extreme Downhill Event at the Fat Bike Bash, and the Mountain Man Hill Climb snowmachine competition.

Summer view of Thompson Pass

Jnjphotos /

Stay at Valdez Glacier Campground

Both nature lovers and scenery photographers will enjoy Valdez Glacier Campground.

Thanks to glacier run-off, a stunning waterfall pours into a crystal blue creek close to their Large Group Camping Area.

The wildlife and quantity of fishing options for your family will undoubtedly produce lifetime memories, from gorgeous waterfalls to spectacular views.

Electric Pads, Picnic Tables, Fire Rings, Natural Trail, and many more amenities are available at the Valdez Glacier Campground.

The campground’s beauty will captivate all manner of tourists.

Spend an Alaskan summer beneath the famed Valdez Glacier amid the Chugach Mountains.

See a Bird’s Eye View of the Glaciers while on a Ride at VSHelicopters

Valdez is a winter cove of glaciers and lakes—all worth exploring on land, across the sea, and up in the air.

VSHelicopters takes your sightseeing adventure to the next level with a ride from above Valdez’s attractions.

Founded in 2009, this flight service company offers a wide range of utility helicopter tours all over South Central Alaska.

Prepare to have your breath taken away by the Prince William Sound peaks and various wildlife flitting around the area.

Tours can go for as short as 35 minutes and as long as 2 hours, enough for you to admire the white scenery below.

And if you want to explore on your feet, the Glacier Explorer tour allows you to walk around after a landing.

You can find the headquarters of VSHelicopters on Airport Road.

Discover More about the City’s Culture at Valdez Museum & Historical Archive

Valdez Museum & Historical Archive has your back when it comes to retelling the city’s interesting past, as well as Copper River Valley and Prince William Sound.

This 12,700-square-foot facility features artifacts and documents from decades past.

The first museum of the city was open to the public in 1901, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the museum relocated to its current location on Egan Drive.

Explore artworks from local artists in permanent and temporary exhibits.

Browse through displayed artifacts from significant events in Valdez’s history, including the Gold Rush and Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

For an immersive historical excursion, you can never go wrong with a trip to Valdez Museum & Historical Archive.

Sip on a Unique Craft Beer at Valdez Brewing

In between your Valdez exploration, be sure you feel refreshed with a drop by Valdez Brewing.

This craft beer facility has both a production room and a taproom.

With at least 10 craft beer choices, this brewery specializes in locally-sourced and fresh beverages from high-quality malt.

The facility also offers guided tasting tours that let you in on the brew and fermenting process.

And if you’ve finally settled down with your drink of choice, hang out by the exterior patio for scenic views of the icy mountains outside.

Valdez Brewing is on Galena Drive.

Join the Wine Walk during the Valdez Gold Rush Days

One of Valdez’s notable historical events is the Gold Rush.

And this is best commemorated with the annual Valdez Gold Rush Days every September.

Held for five days, this event flourishes through the efforts of a non-profit organization and local volunteers.

Some of its special programs include a pageant, live music, and a community parade.

Get a chance to ride on a Hoosegow or a traveling jail cell, which is a staple for this event.

The Valdez Gold Rush Days also offers a wine walk and a local market.

Head to the city’s downtown area for all the fun!

Learn About Mining History at The Stamp Mill

If you prefer a secluded historical trip around Valdez, you might like The Stamp Mill.

Built in 1913, this mill came to be because of the efforts of a man named W.L. Smith.

It stands as a reminder of the mining industry of Valdez during the gold fever.

Though the site no longer functions as a mill, it’s an ideal historical stop nonetheless.

And the best part is that The Stamp Mill is accessible by the Mineral Creek Trail.

This trail’s entrance is at the intersection of Egan Drive and Blueberry Hill Road.

Final Thoughts

Valdez is a great place to visit if you want to avoid the crowds in the more popular sections of Alaska, especially over the summertime.

You’ll find everything from seafood to burgers to diners and restaurants, all within easy reach of hotels, Accommodations, and campsites.

Valdez, positioned near the southern end of the Richardson Highway, is only accessible by a few routes, but it is well worth the trip.

Start planning your visit to Valdez, Alaska!

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