This week’s post will be focused on a campervan style trip from Glenallen to Valdez, Alaska. Valdez is a spectacle of some of the main reasons that make Alaska so incredible. In the area you can see glaciers, steep mountains, raging rivers, the vast ocean, diverse wildlife, massive waterfalls, lush forests and more.
If you are headed to Valdez from Anchorage, it will take you a little over 5 hours if you drive the van straight through and if you’re coming from Fairbanks, it will take you a little over 6 hours. However, we highly recommend that you budget some time to stop along the way. Once you hit the Glenallen junction, you’ll be about 2 hours from the city of Valdez but if you do it right, it will take you much longer than that.
The first notable spot outside of Glenallen is Copper Center, which is located at the confluence of the Klutina and Copper Rivers. Copper River is home to the famous Copper River sockeye salmon. Some say that this salmon is the best in the world due to the high fat content developed by travelling the 290 mile river. If you’re an angler, fishing this river is most likely on your bucket list. There are plenty of guides that can equip you with all the gear needed, we recommend Copper River Guides. Please make sure not to leave any salmon in the campervan because the smell is very hard to get out. Your best bet would be to utilize the packing and shipping options that your guide offers but make sure you keep at least one filet to cook over the fire that evening. Fresh Alaskan salmon is unlike any other fish you’ve had!
The next site you’ll hit is the legendary Thompson Pass. Thompson Pass sits almost 3,000 feet up in the Chugach Mountains. In the winter time, Thompson Pass is a mecca for Heli skiers, Heli boarders, snowmachiners and backcountry enthusiasts of all types. Vacationers and professional athletes alike are drawn to Thompson Pass for their variety of mellow slopes to steep, iconic Alaskan lines. It is also home to the World Freeride Festival, Tailgate Alaska, where skiers, riders and sledders come from all over the world for a 10 day event to share their love for the backcountry in a safe and fun environment. Tailgate Alaska will set up a large parking lot for an RV, campervan or trailer and sometimes, you’ll even see people sleeping in tents and snow caves.
In the summertime, Thompson Pass is equally as beautiful with lush vegetation, sweeping views of the lower parts of the pass and hiking accessibility on your choice of surrounding peaks. As you’re headed out of Thompson Pass, you will hit Worthington Glacier, one of the few glaciers in Alaska that you can still spot right from the main highway. There are plenty of trails that will take you right up to the glacier or you can use the parking lot as an incredibly scenic lunch spot outside of the campervan.
The last portion of the road to Valdez is Keystone Canyon, a 3 mile long canyon with practically vertical walls on both sides of the road. These walls are popular ice climbing routes in the wintertime and you can rock climb near Worthington Glacier in the summertime. In the canyon, there are two incredible waterfalls, Horsetail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Horsetail Falls is over 300 feet tall and can be seen right from the road, whereas Bridal Veil Falls is slightly smaller but you can walk right up to the falls. There are also some spots where you can stop and check out the abandoned railroad tunnels that were used for mining during the gold rush.
Once you finally get to Valdez, you will make your way through a lush forest and end up in the small seaside town. Most people camp in the Glacier Campground off of Airport road but the luxury of a campervan is that you can park it anywhere a normal car would park. If you’re a rock climber, make sure to bring your gear because Panorama Point and the Campground Crag offer some excellent climbing.
Once in the actual town of Valdez, there are plenty of tours you can do out on the water including kayaking, wildlife viewing, fishing and more. Valdez and it’s scenic drive are a must see when visiting Alaska, especially with the flexibility and mobility of your campervan. Do not miss this legendary trip!