Southcentral Alaska by Car

Photo by Sam Beebe

Discovering Prince William Sound, Valdez and Cordova

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This Southcentral Alaska loop begins and ends in Anchorage and comes to you via compliments of TravelAlaska.com. Read on…

Day 1: Anchorage

Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, offers many opportunities for visitors looking for sightseeing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Anchorage is the perfect city from which to base any Alaska vacation. With the amenities of a large city, including fine dining and shopping, the best part about Anchorage is that it is just minutes away from flightseeing and other amazing outdoor wilderness adventure opportunities. Anchorage’s Lake Hood is the world’s largest and busiest floatplane base. Book a charter flight from Anchorage and head north to fly over Denali National Park and Preserve or fly west to Katmai National Park and Preserve for some world-renowned bear viewing. Overnight in Anchorage.

Day 2: Whittier

Start the day off bright and early with a quick breakfast before heading 79 miles southeast of Anchorage on the Seward Highway toward Portage. Drive through the 140-acres of parkland dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured or orphaned animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on your way south before reaching the quaint seaside town of Whittier. Whittier is nestled against the mountains of Prince William Sound. Its history is as enthralling as the breathtaking views. Originally built as a secret military installation, the U.S. Army maintained Whittier until 1960.

Until 2000, Whittier was almost inaccessible to the everyday visitor, but now, thanks to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, visitors can travel 2.5 miles through what was once an impassible supply tunnel under Maynard Mountain. In Whittier, walk along the port, grab a meal or take a glacier and wildlife cruise. For visitors who are feeling adventurous, rent kayaks or take a water taxi out to Decision Point and stay in the public use cabin or on one of the four tent platforms provided by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Overnight in Whittier.

Day 3: Valdez

Start the day onboard an Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Valdez. While it is often known for being the southern terminus for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, Valdez has an abundance of opportunities for any visitor willing to make the trek to this quaint little town in the heart of Prince William Sound. This little town of nearly 4,500 residents is truly a haven for visitors interested in outdoor activities from kayaking the fjords to glacier- and wildlife-viewing cruises featuring Columbia Glacier, the second-largest tidewater glacier in North America. Spend the night in one of the three public use cabins in the Valdez area or at a local hotel.

Day 4: Cordova

Continue from Valdez on the Alaska Marine Highway and make your next port of call Cordova, a fishing community located on the east coast of Prince William Sound. Accessible only by boat or plane, Cordova is a wildlife enthusiast’s perfect getaway. Millions of birds and waterfowl stop and rest along the Copper River Delta and birding activity peaks during the first weekend of May, making it one of the best places in the world to view shorebirds. If it isn’t birding season, be sure to check out Childs Glacier, the Million Dollar Bridge and the Cordova Historical Museum. Spend the evening camping at Child’s Glacier Campground, where it is recommended you wear earplugs so the calving of the glacier doesn’t keep you up all night.

Day 5: Hope

After ferrying back from Cordova to Whittier, take the Seward Highway 50 miles west and turn off on the 17.8-mile Hope Highway from Milepost 56.3 on the Seward Highway. Stay the night at Porcupine campground located on a bluff above Turnagain Arm. To get to Porcupine, visitors must drive through the historic Gold Rush era town of Hope. If you have time, be sure to check out the Gull Rock trail, which takes hikers on a scenic walk along Turnagain Arm. When you are ready to hit the road again, turn back to the Seward Highway and continue farther south to the Kenai Peninsula or head north back to Anchorage.

You can also explore Prince William Sound by water rather than (primarily) by car with this itinerary from AlaskaTravel.com.

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