Anchorage to Valdez – 14 unforgettable road trip stops

Last Updated on March 19, 2024

Driving from Anchorage to Valdez is one of the most scenic road trips in Alaska and takes you from Alaska’s largest city to one of its most charming and quirky port towns. If you prefer, you can fly from Anchorage to Valdez, but if you like road trips this is one you’re going to want to drive.

The drive from Anchorage to Valdez takes you through the homeland of many Alaska Native People, including the Dena’ina and the Ahtna.

Is the drive from Anchorage to Valdez worth it?

If you love road trips and epic landscapes full of glaciers, mountains, rivers and waterfalls then a road trip from Anchorage to Valdez is absolutely worth it!

Valdez is a delightful town with far fewer tourists than most Alaskan towns on the road or ferry system. It’s a long drive but if you’re into this kind of a road trip, you’ll love it.

How long does it take to drive from Anchorage to Valdez?

A google map of the drive from Anchorage to Valdez.
Map Credit: Google Maps

Plan on the drive from Anchorage to Valdez taking 5-6 hours of driving time, plus stops. The distance is about 300 miles. As you’ll see, you’ll be making lots of stops because the scenery is absolutely spectacular. Definitely give yourself all day (or maybe even more than one day) for this epic Alaska road trip.

What is the road like from Anchorage to Valdez?

The highways you’ll travel from Anchorage to Valdez are major highways that are paved and well maintained throughout the year. They are mostly two lane highways with passing lanes and times, though there are some sections of four lane highway near Anchorage.

There is cell service along most of the route EXCEPT for south of Copper Center to Valdez there is not much service and none most of that distance. The cell signal is a bit weak in places between Palmer and Glenallen, but there’s at least some most of the way.

Public restrooms along the way are mostly pit toilets (at the Matanuska Glacier and Worthington Glacier). Flush toilets are available at the Hub of Alaska though the line is often long (they also have port a potties in the parking lot). The best restrooms along the route are at the Wrangell-St Elias National Park Visitor Center near Copper Center.

Is there a ferry from Anchorage to Valdez?

The ferry doesn’t go from Anchorage to Valdez. However, you can take the ferry from Valdez to Whittier, which is a much shorter drive from Anchorage.

The ferry from Valdez to Whittier takes about 6 hours and the drive from Whittier to Anchorage is about an hour and a half (plus waiting for the tunnel).

A great way to do this trip is to drive one way from Anchorage to Valdez and then take the ferry the other way and drive to Whittier (or Anchorage, depending on which way you go). This provides a gorgeous loop road trip that includes a beautiful ferry ride. It won’t save time or money to go this way, but it makes it an even more fun adventure where you see even more things.

3 Day Anchorage to Valdez Road trip and ferry loop itinerary

This three day road trip and ferry itinerary from Anchorage to Valdez and back is a hidden gem of incredible scenery and outdoor adventure with experiences many visitors miss out on. Don’t let that be you! Not only is it beautiful, it’s a loop so you’ll be seeing new scenery all three days.

You can do this in either direction, but I like to get the longer driving day out of the way first and take the ferry on the way back. Make sure to pay attention to the ferry schedule (the ferry does not run every day) and get a reservation for your vehicle far in advance.

Day 1 – Drive from Anchorage to Valdez

Spend the first day driving from Anchorage to Valdez. See below for all the wonderful places you can stop along the way. At a minimum, make sure to stop for picture stops at Matanuska Glacier, Worthington Glacier and Thompson Pass. Stay overnight in Valdez.

Day 1 – Exploring Valdez

Make sure to take a glacier and wildlife cruise in Prince William Sound. This is a truly unforgettable experience and a must do for anyone visiting Alaska!

You can also visit Valdez Glacier Lake and see icebergs floating in the water. You can even paddle among them on a guided tour.

Valdez also has trails, parks, fishing charters and kayaking opportunities.

Day 3 – Take the ferry from Valdez to Whittier and return to Anchorage

Make sure to get to the ferry at least an hour early for the 6 hour ferry trip across Prince William Sound to Whittier.

When you arrive in Whittier, spend a few minutes exploring this tiny and unique town, or go for a hike on one of the trails in town or the Portage Pass hike (one of my personal favorites).

A unique element of this road and ferry trip is the Whittier Tunnel, which you’ll need to wait for to cross over to the main highway to Anchorage.

Once on the Anchorage side of the tunnel, you’ll have about an hour drive back to Anchorage. This is another very scenic drive. Stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for lots of animals and photography opportunities. If it’s a clear day, stop in Girdwood and take the Alyeska Tram up for a stunning view. Girdwood is a good place to have dinner – Double Musky and Jack Sprat are super popular with Alaskans, along with Chair 5 if you’re going for pizza and beer. Finish your evening back in Anchorage where you began.

Where to stay between Anchorage and Valdez

If you decide you’d like to split the drive into a couple days, I recommend staying either at the Sheep Mountain Lodge along the Glenn Highway between Anchorage and Glenallen, or in Copper Center. Spending the night and taking two days for this drive is a great idea since there are so many wonderful stops along the way!

Sheep Mountain Lodge is a classic Alaska style road house that’s a wonderful experience in a gorgeous setting. The Copper Center area has a variety of hotels as well as guest houses in the area.

14 Unforgettable road trip stops between Anchorage and Valdez

You won’t have time to make all these stops unless you’re spending several days to make the trip from Anchorage to Valdez, but here’s everything you need to know to decide which stops are best for you.

#1 – Eagle River Nature Center

A winter pond covered in snow and ice in a forest with some snow still on the trees. In the distance are snow covered mountains.
The Albert Loop at the Eagle River Nature Center on a winter day

A worthwhile 30 mile round trip detour, the Eagle River Nature Center has wonderful hiking trails and an interpretive center to learn about the flora and fauna of the area. There is a good opportunity for seeing moose and birds along the trails here, and bears when the salmon are running.

The Eagle River Nature Center is open year round and is about 30 miles from Anchorage (300 miles from Valdez).

#2 – Thunderbird Falls

A waterfall coming down 200 feet between rocks in a canyon lined with green trees and shrubs

If you’re looking for a place to stretch your legs on a short hike, but don’t want to go as far off the road as the Eagle River Nature Center, then Thunderbird Falls is a great choice! This lovely forested two mile round trip hike takes you to a gorgeous waterfall.

If you have a little more time you can also explore the Creek Trail, which takes you down to the water below the waterfall.

Thunderbird Falls is about 30 miles from Anchorage (280 miles from Valdez).

#3 – Eklutna Historic Site

A cluster of spirit houses, small wooden houses with brightly colored paint, making graves in the forest.
The Spirit Houses of Eklutna Historic Site

Eklutna Historical Park, is a wonderful and often overlooked interesting place to learn about Alaska Native history and culture as well as the ways that Indigenous and Russian Orthodox culture interacted in colonial Alaska.

You can walk by one of the oldest buildings in Alaska (an Orthodox church) and through a cemetery of colorful Spirit Houses to honor those who have died.

Bring $5 cash for the suggested donation. Eklutna Historical Park is just across the highway from Thunderbird Falls, about 30 miles from Anchorage and 280 miles from Valdez.

#4 – Eklutna Lake

A gravel beach with a few trees with a tent and two orange kayaks at the edge of a lake. There are a few people standing around the kayak. In the background are forested hillsides and a mountain with a bit of lingering snow.
Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake is about a one hour detour round trip (not including any time you spend at the lake). If you’re looking for a place to go for a hike or rent a kayak, this is a great option!

Kayak rentals are available here and there is a long flat walk along the side of the lake that goes for many miles. There are also some more challenging hikes that will take you up the surrounding hillsides with incredible views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Eklutna Lake is about 40 miles from Anchorage and 290 miles from Valdez.

#5 – Palmer Musk Ox Farm

a mother musk ox laying down next to her baby, who is mostly hidden behind a pile of tires. There is a red barn in the background and group of people starting a tour
A mother musk ox and her baby (behind the tires) at the Palmer Musk Ox Farm.

The Musk Ox Farm provides the chance to learn about these unique arctic mammals and their incredible adaptations to the extreme cold of the arctic. They are not native to the less extreme climate of Palmer in the Matanuska Valley, but the farm provides and haven for research and learning about these amazing animals. You’ll need to give yourself some time to visit since you can only enter the farm on a guided tour (which is totally worth it).

The Musk Ox Farm is 46 miles from Anchorage, just beyond the town of Palmer and 255 miles from Valdez.

#6 – Matanuska Glacier

A glacier that is white with a big of blue and lies in the valley between the Chugach Mountains. There is forest in the foreground.
Matanuska Glacier from the highway viewpoint

Matanuska Glacier is a stunning place to stop along the Glenn Highway. You can see the Glacier along the highway but you’ll want to get out here for a proper picture stop to really appreciate it. There’s also a short trail you can walk to another (similar) viewpoint.

The viewpoint also has pit toilets and interpretive signs. There is no actual access to the glacier right here, but the views are incredible. Tours are available nearby for those who want to go with a guide on to the actual glacier.

Matanuska Glacier State Historic Site is 95 miles from Anchorage and 205 miles from McCarthy, so it’s a good time for a stop anyway!

#7- The Hub of Alaska

A tesoro gas station between Anchorage and Valdez with many pumps and a huge gravel parking lot. A styrofoam container of salad rolls is on a picnic table in the foreground
Thai food, gas, coffee and restrooms at the Hub of Alaska

Honestly, you’re going to have to stop at the Hub of Alaska, Glenallen’s Tesoro station at the junction of the Glenn Highway and the Richardson Highway, because you probably need to get gas by now!

It’s also an experience of Alaska culture to stop here and get some food and wait in the long restroom line (or you can use the outdoor port a potties for faster service). I’ve even seen the Alaska State Troopers stop here in their helicopter to use the restroom. This is truly a crossroads of Alaska.

You can also find a Thai food hut and a coffee hut in the parking lot.

The Hub is 180 miles from Anchorage and 117 miles from Valdez.

#8 – Ahtna Cultural Center and Wrangell St Elias National Park Visitor Center

A park service restroom building with a metal roof and covered entrance area
The best restrooms on your road trip – don’t miss them!

Not only are these the best restrooms between Anchorage and Valdez, this excellent visitor center gives you an orientation to Wrangell-St Elias National Park. The Ahtna Cultural Center will help you understand the people who live in the Copper River Basin and whose land was made part of Wrangell St Elias National Park in 1980 when it was established. Ahtna People have inholdings in the park and land around the edges of it, which is a small amount of their traditional territory.

There are also some flat hiking trails with great views of the Wrangell Mountains within the park and is a great place to visit even if you aren’t heading into the park.

The Ahtna Cultural Center and Wrangell St Elias National Park Visitor Center are 190 miles from Anchorage and 110 miles from Valdez.

#9 – Trans-Alaska Pipeline Viewpoint

The 800 mile Trans-Alaska pipeline brings oil from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean to the port at Valdez where crude oil is loaded on to tanker ships to bring it to refineries outside of Alaska. This impressive feat of engineering can be seen at various places along the Richardson Highway, but one is just south of Copper Center.

Near Willow Lake, at about milepost 88, there’s a gravel road to the right (west) as you’re going towards Valdez. If you take this road, it will take you to a parking area with interpretive signs near the pipeline.

The pipeline viewpoint is 208 miles from Anchorage and 93 miles from Valdez.

#10 – Worthington Glacier

A blue and white glacier coming down and hanging between two rock faces on a partly cloudy day
Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site is another wonderful glacier viewing opportunity close to the highway. There are trails and pit toilets and great views up to the glacier.

There is a hiking trail that goes up along the side of the glacier, though at the time of my most recent visit the trail was closed due to the rocks and cliff being unstable. Make sure to respect trail closures.

You’ll need $5 in cash to deposit in the parking box.

Worthington Glacier is 266 miles from Anchorage and 33 miles from Valdez.

#11 – Thompson Pass

Mountains seen from the side of the highway from Anchorage to Valdez. The mountains are jagged and have some snow and in the foreground are green meadows
Thompson Pass on a clear day

If you’re driving from Anchorage to Valdez on a clear day, you will not be able to help yourself from stopping at the truly epic mountain landscape of Thompson Pass.

The pass is at 2800 feet and a completely different landscape from Valdez at sea level less than 30 miles away. A big open parking area allows a great opportunity for a picnic with this incredible view. If you’re a hiker you can also explore the Trail of 98, a hiking trail that goes along and down from the pass.

Thompson Pass is 270 miles from Anchorage and 30 miles from Valdez.

#12 – Blueberry Lake State Recreation Area

A small, blue lake surrounded by green grasses and brush with snow covered and glaciated mountains in the distance.
Tiny and beautiful Blueberry Lake

Blueberry Lake Recreation area is just below Thompson Pass with the same epic landscape views and a campground. If you’re looking for a place to camp the view here really can’t be beat. There is a day use area near Blueberry Lake also.

Blueberry Lake is 272 miles from Anchorage and 28 miles from Valdez.

#13 – Bridal Veil Falls and Keystone Canyon

The sun shines on a steep rock face with some green brush on it. A narrow and tall waterfall is coming down the cliff towards the camera
Bridal Veil Falls

There are pullouts on the highway for the waterfalls but as they are on blind corners, is it not a good idea to cross the highway for a better photo! You can explore hiking trails in the area (learn more here).

Bridal Veil Falls is on the left side of the highway but there is a pullout on the right side to take a photo.

Bridal Veil Falls is 18 miles outside of Valdez.

#14 -Horsetail Falls

A waterfall that is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom over a black rock face surrounded by trees and shrubs.
Horsetail Falls

Just around the corner from Bridal Veil Falls is Horsetail Falls, this time on the right side of the highway with a large pullout right next to it. I recommend stopping for Horsetail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the way out, so you aren’t tempted to run across the highway on a blind corner!

Final Thoughts

Valdez is a wonderful destination to add to your Alaska itinerary if you like to get away from the most frequently visited tourist areas. The drive from Anchorage to Valdez is part of the adventure itself, with lots of wonderful places to stop along the way. If you love road trips, this is one of the best road trips in Alaska!

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!