Valdez Alaska is a beautiful coastal Alaska city. It sits nestled on the shores of Prince William Sound and is famous for being the terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. However, Valdez is far from an industrial town. It has a spectacular mix of tidewater glaciers, forests and mountains unequaled in the State and offers incredible recreational opportunities from sea kayaking, hiking and camping.
After you see the breathtaking mountain scenery and experience glacier and wildlife viewing in Prince William Sound, you will see that even Mother Nature has her favorites.
Located on the north shore of a deepwater fjord in Prince William Sound, Valdez is only 120 air miles east of Anchorage but is a 305 mile drive via the Richardson and Glenn Highways.
It is also the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Construction of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal and other cargo transportation facilities brought rapid growth in the 1970s.
Valdez is a travelers dream with excellent campgrounds and hotels and numerous restaurants. It has so many incredible tours and attractions that is impossible to choose a favorite.
There are two outstanding Glacier tours; Stan Stephens Cruises and Glacier Wildlife Cruises, both of which would be the highlight of any Alaska vacation. These glacier tours take visitors to the nearby Columbia Glacier, which is one of the largest tidewater glaciers in Alaska. Columbia Glacier is a fast moving glacier that has receded 12 miles since 1986.
Only a few miles outside Valdez the Richardson Highway passes through nearby Keystone Canyon and Worthington Glacier. Two natural wonders that make the drive to Valdez a spectacular road trip.
Keystone Canyon has a number of very tall waterfalls that cascade down the sheer walls. The most impressive of which is Bridal Veil falls at mile 13.5 of the Richardson Highway. Worthington Glacier is at mile 29 in the Thompson Pass, which is the highest pass on the Richardson Highway.
Driving to Valdez from Anchorage is 304 miles via the Richardson Highway (115 miles) and the Glenn Highway (189 miles). By air, it is only 119 miles.
Valdez Alaska is internationally famous for two main reasons: first, it was severely affected by the March 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Prince William Sound, which was the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded (9.2 magnitude).
The earthquake resulted in a tsunami that destroyed the original city, killing 30 people. Rather than abandon their town, Valdez residents elected to simply move it—literally—four miles away. They chose a rock-firm area which had been suggested as an alternate location for the town in 1911. Some moved their older homes but most built new, modern structures.
Secondly, Valdez was also severely affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill that took place in Prince William Sound. This oil spill was the largest oil spill in U.S. history at the time and severely affected the eco-system and marine life of the Sound for years.