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.
The city was named in 1790 by Senor Fidalgo for the celebrated Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdez y Basan. In 1898 it became a debarkation point for prospectors seeking a route to Dawson City and the Klondike gold fields. Gold was soon discovered in the area and the city was incorporated in 1901.
Miners and supply packers founded the community of Valdez at the turn of the century. In 1899, a pack trail was opened from the town to the gold fields in the upper Yukon basin and became Alaska’s first highway, the Richardson. It had several names as it was known first as the Eagle Trail, and later as Valdez-Fairbanks Wagon Road.
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.
Eagle’s Rest RV Park in Valdez is a Good Sam RV Park with full hookups, 70 foot pull throughs, separate tent camping area, clean hot showers, laundromat and dump station. Cozy modern cabins are also available.
Bear Paw RV Park offers full hookups, a dump station, cable TV, free Wi-fi & separate tenting area. Centrally located across from the small boat harbor and less than a block to most shops and tours. They also have an adult only RV park on the waterfront.
Things to do in Valdez
Valdez has tons of attractions, which makes it one of the most popular destinations in all of Alaska.
Stan Stephens Cruises provide visitors to Valdez Alaska a chance to experience it all – amazing glaciers, exciting wildlife, and fascinating history all in the calm waters of Prince William Sound. The Stephens family have been sharing the fjords and passageways of Prince William Sound with guests for over 40 years and it shows. This is one of the best tours in All of Alaska. Guests will have ample opportunity to see the amazing icebergs at Columbia Glacier, witness the awesome calving at Meares Glacier or view seals, sea otters, sea lions, whales, eagles, or puffins.
Lu-Lu Belle / Glacier Wildlife Cruises and Captain Fred Rodolf have been showing visitors the wildlife of Prince William Sound and the Columbia Glacier since 1979. Experience spectacular calving events as the ice falls into Columbia Bay, just 1/4 mile (conditions permitting) from the boat. Have a close encounter with the wildlife of Prince William Sound on this amazing tour.
Valdez Fish Derbies holds several derbies and awards more than $70,000 in cash and prizes each year. Visitors just need to purchae a Derby ticket before heading out to fish in Valdez. They run a number of different derbies throughout the year including:
The Halibut Derby (mid May to early September) features weekly and grand prizes for the largest halibut.
The Silver Salmon Derby (end of July to early September) has daily prizes as well as three cash prizes for the biggest fish.
Kids Pink Salmon Derby is held in July,
Tagged Fish Contest with $10,000 prize (late August through early September) and,
The Valdez Women’s Silver Salmon Derby (August).
The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive brings the stories of the Valdez community’s history alive through programs and activities. They have two locations: 217 Egan Drive and on the waterfront at 436 S. Hazelet.
Map of Valdez Alaska
this map of Valdez shows the Richardson Highway
Valdez Alaska FAQS
What is Valdez Alaska Known for?
Valdez Alaska is known for many things. It was one of the towns most affected by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, which is the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. It was also the site of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in 1989. These days Valdez is most known for it’s beautiful scenery, and proximity to the Columbia Glacier and Mears Glacier.