Vibrant Valdez

Valdez Travel Blog

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8.13.08 Valdez


We left our Little Nelchina campground and bounced down the Glenn Highway road heaves to Glennallen. 

We are so enamored with the idea of named highways that we declared I-45 between The Woodlands and Houston, the “Ned Highway.”


Then heading south to Valdez (“Val DEEZ”) on the Richardson Highway, we stopped at the main Visitor’s Center for Wrangell-St. Elias (“e LIE us”) National Park.  There are only 2 gravel roads into the park and this convenient location between them allows more visitors to enjoy the Visitor’s Center, the wonderful movie, a walking path with gorgeous mountain views and an exhibit building.


Did you know regarding Wrangell-St. Elias National Park:


  1.  It is the largest park within the U.S. National Park system with 13.2 million acres, which is more than twice Denali’s 6 million acres, and more than 6 times the size of Yellowstone


  1. It contains 9 of the 16 tallest mountains in North America


  1. Many of those peaks are active volcanoes


  1. It gets some of the fiercest weather in the entire world because it catches the storms off the Pacific Ocean


  1. There are numerous glaciers within the mountain peaks


  1. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site!


  1. The Park Ranger said we could camp overnight anywhere along the roads into the park, that there are plenty of dispersed campsites, and that they never have any safety issues



‘Tis true!  Who knew?!


At milepost 28, we turned off for the quarter mile drive to Worthington Glacier and hiked up to it, touching the ice!  How cool is that?  It was a short hike, but we had to hop over small streams running up to the glacier and climb over rocky glacier moraine (leftover rocks) to get there.

  Had we not gotten instructions from the NPS folks in the bookstore in advance, I’m sure we would not have risked it.  But it was great fun – the wind blowing off the glacier is fierce and icy.  It is surprising when the weather is so pleasant (60 degrees) to have such bitterly cold wind.


Another big surprise:  The road to Valdez is incredibly beautiful!  You go up over Thompson Pass and through canyons, surrounded by enormous mountains, and past amazingly high waterfalls (Bridal Falls) and glacier turquoise blue rivers.  We were so happy that we travelled to Valdez, long before we arrived in Valdez, because the drive was just stunning.  There were quite a few road heaves, but the road was paved and we just took it slower than the 55-65 speed limits.


The Alaska pipeline travels parallel with the roadway at times on the way to Valdez and there are big holding tanks in Valdez, but for the most part the equipment seems rather inconspicuous for its immense impact on the area, as the mountains are so high and stunning.

  I was happy that the whole area is not dominated with ugly oil equipment.


Valdez is an active fishing town.  Inside Valdez, the small boat harbor is a beautiful photo with picturesque boats on a glacial blue harbor.  There are many RV’s because the salmon is running and sport fishermen come in to follow the fish.  We drove throughout the entire town, with its non-pretentious neighborhoods, and visited the Safeway (very high prices).  It was a smaller town than I imagined and the harbor is obviously the main focus.


We stopped at the National Park Service building to get a campground recommendation.  They have a boardwalk overlook to watch salmon spawning.  Sure enough, you could look out into the rocky, shallow creek bed and see these big salmon flopping around trying to get up the creek.  There were some dead fish carcasses too, which provide food for birds and many other organisms, as sadly the salmon die after they lay their eggs. 


Guess what came to eat some of the live salmon?  A mother black bear and her 3 cubs!  We were so thrilled and watched them for about 15 minutes while the mama would go into the water, immediately catch a fish (they were everywhere) and then feed it to her cubs.

  Since they were only about 20 yards away (we were on an elevated platform) , we got great pictures and video.  A cinnamon-black bear also came to visit, but after standing on his hind legs to sniff us, he ran off.   That was very exciting!


We’re in a Valdez CityGlacier Campground, which is very large and beautiful with private dry camping sites for $10 a night.  Of course, it is in the Church’s book.  I have never found a campground that was not clearly noted in their, “Alaskan Camping” book.   They are simply amazing - I’m sure it helps that Mike was born and raised in Alaska and Terri lived here for more than a decade.   I’d never RV in Alaska without their terrific book.


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photo by: kingelvis14