Alaska and Yukon one way self drive tour on the Gold Prospector Route provides an in depth view of Alaska and the Yukon Territory most differse regions. It features most of the highlights and scenic wonders in the central Alaska region. From Anchorage you'll travel to Talkeetna where you are able to take a flightseeing tour into the icy world of the glaciers of Mt.McKinley. Continue to Denali National Park observing grizzly bears, caribou and a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. Your journey continues north through Alaska's interior and into the northern part of Canada - the Yukon Territory. Explore Dawson City, Whitehorse and finally end up in Skagway - gateway to the Inside Passage.
Upon arrival in Anchorage transfer to your hotel. Pick up your rental car and get ready for a Alaska vacation of a lifetime. Spend the rest of the day with sightseeing activities in and around Alaska's largest city: take a hike along the coastal trail with sweeping views of Mt. McKinley and Mt. Susitna aka: the "Sleeping Lady" - shop for Alaska Native Art, or spend some time at a museum. Try some fresh Alaska seafood (Salmon, Halibut and Dungeness Crab) for dinner in one of the many excellent restaurants around the hotel. Overnight: Anchorage
Anchorage - Denali National Park
Enjoy sweeping views of snowcapped mountain peaks in the distance while traveling from Anchorage on the George Parks Highway to Wasilla - home of the Iditarod Headquarter. Follow the highway through the Denali State Park with good wildlife viewing, canoe rental and excellent hiking opportunities. Arrive at Denali National Park and check in your hotel. Denali, the “Great One”, is the name Athabascan people gave the massive peak that crowns the 600-mile long Alaska Range. Denali National Park and Preserve was created 1980 from the former Mt Mc.Kinley National Park. At over 6 million acres, the park is larger than the State of Massachusetts. It exemplifies interior Alaska’s character as one of the world’s last great frontiers for wilderness adventure and it remains largely wild and unspoiled, as the Athabascan knew it. (Distance 120 Miles) Overnight: Denali National Park
Denali National Park
Early (pre-reserved time) shuttle bus departure - the park road is closed for private vehicles - for a full day wildlife observation and sightseeing tour to the Eielson Visitor Center, Wonder Lake or Kantishna within the shadows of Mt. McKinley - with 20.320 ft. the highest mountain in North America. The views from here are just spectacular. Watch for grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolf, lynx, wolverine and fox roaming throughout the park or observe one of the 150 different bird species which inherit the Denali National Park area. Many hiking trails along the ridges and throughout the valleys are easily accessible from the road. Park ranger at the visitor center are conducting interesting campfire talks, sled dog demonstations and short guided nature walks on a regular basis. Return to the Park entrance anytime during the day. Overnight: Denali National Park
Denali National Park - Fairbanks
Short drive via Nenana (Alaska Ice Classics) to Fairbanks. Fairbanks, known as the Golden Heart City of Alaska, is the gateway to the interior and features almost 24 hours of daylight during the summer months. You are invited to explore the local gold rush history, its vibrant traditional native cultures as well as its abundant wildlife and fantastic scenery. Tucked into miles of unexplored wilderness only 120 miles from the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks offers excellent year-round outdoor recreational opportunities. This afternoon you may visit the renown Alaska University Museum featuring Alaska's natural history best collection, Alaskaland or take an authentic sternwheeler on a scenic 20-mile roundtrip cruise down the Chena and Tanana Rivers. Enjoy lively narration, stop at a reconstructed Athabascan Indian Village to learn about native hunting & fishing techniques and watch a dogsled demonstration. Overnight: Fairbanks
Fairbanks - Tok
Heading south, the Richardson Highway passes through stands of white birch and black spruce, often photogenically close to the Tanana River. Soake up the raw beauty of the drive into the central Alaska Range, often paralleled by the Alaska pipeline. Born as a construction station on the highway, Tok's role in the world has never expanded much beyond being a stop on the road. With its location at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and the Glenn Highway to Anchorage and Prince William Sound, the town has built an economy of gas stations, gift stores, cafes, and hotels to serve highway travelers. It brags of being the coldest community in North America, a dubious distinction made possible by both the latitude and the distance from the moderating influence of the ocean. Overnight: Tok
Tok - Dawson City (Yukon Territory)
The Yukoners call it the 60 mile. To Alaskans it is the Taylor Highway, but to everyone who has driven this beautiful road, it is known as the "Top of the World Highway." Please allow plenty of time for travel as the road is winding and narrow in many places. The road is maintained only during late spring to early fall corresponding to operation of the ferry service at Dawson City. Border crossing at Poker Creek is not allowed unless customs offices are open (9 AM to 9 AM Pacific Time). The Yukon (Top of the World) Highway Route #9 continues from Dawson to the Alaska and Yukon border, where it becomes the Taylor Highway - Alaska Route #5. Top of the World Highway is so named because much of its route meanders along the tops of mountains and ridges with endless views. Those driving along this route are able to enjoy beautiful vistas including spectacular alpine valleys. During the summer months the sun sets forever and you'll have hours of light to set-up that special sunset photograph. Arrival in Dawon City: It all began with Robert Henderson, a fur trapper and part-time prospector who, in 1894, found gold in Rabbit Creek (later renamed Bonanza) not far from where the Klondike River empties into the Yukon. By 1904, an estimated $100 million in gold had been shipped from the Klondike. No one really knows how much gold was found, however, because lots of it was never registered. At its height, Dawson City had a population of 35,000, but the "stampede" of `98 died out almost as quickly as it began. (Distance 190 Miles) Overnight: Dawson City
A day to explore Dawson: Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall - a real Klondike Gold Rush-style gambling hall featuring Texas Hold'em poker, Blackjack and other table games plus slot machines. Live entertainment features Diamond Tooth Gertie and her Can-Can Girls. Jack London's Cabin - an interpretative center featuring the life of famed American author Jack London during his time in the Klondike. Robert Service Cabin - Daily at 10 AM and 3 PM ballads of the Yukon poet Robert Service are recited. Tours and readings are conducted daily. The Palace Grand Theatre - Originally built in 1898 by impresario and gold seeker, Arizona Charlie Meadows. It has been fully restored and is a National Historic Site. Midnight Dome Road - Is a five-mile-long road to the top of Midnight Dome overlooking Dawson City, the Yukon River and it’s gold fields. This road takes you 2900 feet above sea level, allowing a panoramic view of the Klondike Valley, the Sixty Mile country, and the Yukon River. From the Dome you can see the "Midnight Sun" on June 21st barely dipping down behind the Ogilvie Mountain range in the North. Old Dawson Post Office - Stamps may be purchased, so letters may be postmarked and mailed at Dawson's original post office constructed in 1901. The old building is a National Historic Site. The No. 4 Dredge - Is the biggest wooden hull, bucket-line gold dredge in North America It rests on Claim No. 17 on Bonanza Creek, 10 miles from Downtown Dawson City on Bonanza Creek Road. Overnight: Dawson City
Dawson City - Whitehorse
The Klondike Highway generally parallels the Yukon River as it winds its way from Dawson City to Whitehorse. Water in the Yukon River travels more than 3,000 km from headwaters near the Chilkoot Pass to the mouth at the Bering Sea. As you travel you will leave country that has been glaciated many times to visit an environment, known as Beringia, which was ice free during the last major ice age. Steppe bison and woolly mammoths inhabited this cool, ice-free land that once connected the continents of North America and Asia. The Klondike Highway North passes through three communities on the way to the historic gold rush town of Dawson City - and there is plenty to see along the way. The route of the old Overland Trail between Whitehorse and Dawson City meets the Klondike Highway north of the Braeburn highway lodge and generally follows the same route to Carmacks. Stop at Montague Roadhouse, a monument to the trials of travelling in an open stage during the cold Yukon winters. There were roadhouses every 20 miles to rest the horse and refresh the passengers. Carmacks is the home of the Little Salmon/ Carmacks First Nation. The Tagé Cho Hudän Cultural Centre has many exhibits depicting the lifestyle of the Northern Tutchone-speaking people of this region. Carmacks Roadhouse was another stop along the Overland Trail and the centre of the original community. The road between Minto and Pelly Crossing follows the route of a Selkirk First Nation traditional trail. The Pelly Cultural Centre at Pelly Crossing is housed in a reproduction of the original Big Jonathon House at Fort Selkirk Historic Site on the Yukon River. The Cultural Centre features the area’s Selkirk First Nation artists. (Distance 270 Miles) Overnight: Whitehorse
Whitehorse - Skagway
Time to explore the sights of Whitehorse: The McBride Museum - Covering half a city block, this log-cabin museum is crammed with relics from the gold-rush era and has a large display of Yukon wildlife and minerals, all lovingly arranged by a nonprofit society. Within the museum compound you'll find Sam McGee's Cabin (read Robert Service's poem on the cremation of same) and the old Whitehorse Telegraph Office. The SS Klondike - Take a tour of the largest of the 250 riverboats that chugged up and down the Yukon River between 1929 and 1955, primarily as a cargo transport. The boat has been restored to its late 1930s glory. The Yukon Beringia Center - During the last ice age, a land bridge joined Asia to Alaska and the Yukon, forming a subcontinent known as Beringia. Bordered on all sides by glaciers, Beringia was once home to woolly mammoths and other fascinating Pleistocene-era animals, as well as to cave-dwelling humans. This museum presents the archaeological and paleontological past of Beringia, with life-size exhibits of ice-age animals, multimedia displays, films, and dioramas on its prehistoric people, animals, plants, and ecosystems. Try your hand at hurling an atlatl, which is a sling and spear weapon that early hunters used in these parts 10,000 years ago. The South Klondike Highway connects the Yukon Territory with the Inside Passage ferry system in Alaska. Also known as the Skagway - Carcross Road, the road is a 2-lane, asphalt-surfaced road, open year-round and offers some spectacular scenery as it decents by 11 percent grade from the White Pass to Skagway. The highway winds through the subalpine landscape of Tormented Valley to Tutshi Lake, Tagish Lake and the much photographed Emerald Lake. (Distance 100 Miles) Overnight: Skagway
On July 17, 1898, the "Portland" steamed into Seattle with "a ton of gold" from the Klondike. These news electrified the world and sparked the most fantastic gold rush ever known. A few weeks later the first boats loaded with stampeder landed at Skagway and at the nearby town of Dyea were the infamous 33-mile-long Chilkoot Trail began. Thee 40-mile White Pass Trail originated at Skagway and paralleled the present-day route of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad. Although harder to climb, the Chilkoot Trail was favored because it was the shorter of the two trails into the Yukon Territory and to the Klondike goldfields. Today, Skagway is Alaska's northernmost stop on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry system serving communities along the Inside Passage. It is also the home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. Skagway has a historical district of about 100 buildings from the gold rush era. Return your rental car. End of tour or individual tour extensions within the Yukon Territory, Glacier Bay and Southeast Alaska destinations.
Anchorage: Is by far Alaska's largest and most sophisticated city, Anchorage is situated in a truly spectacular location. The permanently snow-covered peaks and volcanoes of the Alaska Range lie to the west of the city, part of the craggy Chugach Range is actually within the eastern edge of the municipality, and the Talkeetna and Kenai ranges are visible to the north and south. On clear days Mt. McKinley looms on the northern horizon, and two arms of Cook Inlet embrace the town's western and southern borders. The Native Heritage Center: There are more than 200 Native tribal entities in Alaska. At the Heritage Center, experience the lifestyles and traditions of these Native cultures through art and artifact displays and activities like blanket tossing, parka sewing, and drumming. Portage Glacier: This glacier has been receding rapidly, but you can ride the tour boat Ptarmigan across the lake to view its face. Keep an eye out for office building-size chunks of ice falling into the water. Flattop Mountain: Drive to the Glen Alps parking lot in Chugach State Park and take the short walk west to a scenic overlook on a clear day the view sweeps from Denali south along the Alaska Range past several active volcanoes on the other side of Cook Inlet. Or follow the hikers to the top of the mountain for even more stunning scenery. Native Crafts: Alaska's rich Native culture is reflected in its abundance of craft traditions, from totem poles to intricate baskets and detailed carvings. Many of the native crafts you'll see across the state are results of generations of traditions passed down among tribes; the craft process is usually labor-intensive, using local resources such as rye grasses or fragrant cedar trees. Each of Alaska's native groups is noted for particular skills. Inuit art includes ivory carvings, spirit masks, dance fans, baleen baskets, and jewelry. Also be on the lookout for mukluks (seal- or reindeer-skin boots). The Tlingit peoples of Southeast Alaska are known for their totem poles, as well as for baskets and hats woven from spruce root and cedar bark. Tsimshian Indians also work with spruce root and cedar bark, and Haida Indians are noted basket makers and carvers. Athabascans specialize in birch-bark creations, decorated fur garments, and beadwork. The Aleut, a maritime people dwelling in the southwest reaches of the state, make grass basketry that is considered among the best in the world.
Denali National Park: is one of the most popular and most visited destinations for a reason: the most accessible of Alaska's national parks and one of only three connected to the state of Alaska highway system. This is a spectacular and scenic 6-million-acre wilderness region offering views of mountains so big they seem like a wall on the horizon, endless wildlife from cinnamon-colored Toklat grizzlies to herds of caribou, to moose with antlers the size of coffee tables and glaciers with forests growing on them. All can be experienced by saddle safari, bus trip, or flightseeing tour. Hike, bike, stroll, or raft through it. Camp out, or bundle up in a cabin. The first 15 mi of the park road are paved, but after that there's just gravel. Visitors must ride on a bus or get off and see Denali on foot. No matter how you get there or which adventure you choose, Denali is truly a wonderful experience. When planning your trip consider whether you want to strike out on your own as a backcountry traveler, or to stay at a lodge nearby and enjoy Denali on day hikes and by shuttle bus. Either option requires some individual advance planning or simply contact us and book one of our package tours with hotel or backcountry lodge overnights, railroad transportation from Anchorage and sightseeing tours.
Talkeetna: For the ultimate mountain sightseeing adventure, take a flight from Talkeetna and land on a glacier—if you're early enough in the summer, you can fly onto the Kahiltna Glacier, where teams attempting to summit the mountain gather. Mount McKinley: There are a dozen places between Anchorage and Fairbanks that boast the best viewing of Mt. McKinley. At 20,320 feet, McKinley is the highest peak in North America, and just about any place within 100 mi can be deemed a good viewing area. The crown jewel of Alaska is often shrouded in clouds, but even a glimpse will reveal the sheer size of the snow-covered giantess.
If you don't arrive in Alaska by cruise ship, make a point of taking a ferry trip along the longest, deepest fjord in North America. Depending on which ferry you take, the trip from Juneau to Skagway can be two or six hours long. We recommend taking your time. In the summer the tall peaks surrounding the boats release hundreds of waterfalls from snow and glacial melt. If you're lucky, you'll see pods of orcas, humpbacks, and dolphins. Mt. Roberts, Juneau: The tram takes you up the mountain and, if the weather cooperates, offers great views of the area. It's another cruise-ship favorite, but at least you can have a quick beer as you soak in the scenery. Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau: This drive-up glacier comes complete with visitor center, educational exhibits, nature trails, and, when the cruise ships are in town, lots of bused-in tourists. Don't let the crush of visitors dissuade you from stopping by, though—it's a great resource for learning about glacier dynamics and the natural forces that have shaped Alaska. Glacier Bay National Park | Gustavus: Whether you view this natural wonder by air, boat, or on foot, Glacier Bay is well worth the effort and expense it takes to get there. Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay, the place that the father of the national parks system, John Muir, called "unspeakably pure and sublime" in 1879. It is considered by many to be 70 mi of the finest sea kayaking in the world. The first 24 square mi comprise the Beardslee Islands, a complex system for kayakers who glide atop flat water between tides, enveloped in silence except for the sound of water slapping paddles, the soft spray from a nearby porpoise, and the howl of a wolf in the distance. And you'll likely be enjoying these sights with no other travelers nearby. Still, kayaking in this region presents challenges. There is a lively population of moose and bears on the islands, so it is imperative to choose wisely when setting up camp. Most visitors kayak only to the top of the Beardslees, which can take three to five days round-trip. Alaska Marine Highway System: The ferry provides access twice a week to Gustavus.
Kenai Fjords National Park: Photogenic Seward is the gateway to the 670,000-acre Kenai Fjords National Park. This is spectacular coastal parkland incised with sheer, dark, slate cliffs rising from the sea, ribboned with white waterfalls, and tufted with deep-green spruce. Kenai Fjords presents a rare opportunity for an up-close view of blue tidewater glaciers as well as some remarkable ocean wildlife. Seward, Exit Glacier: You can take a short, easy walk to view this glacier, or if you're in the mood for a challenge, hike the steep trail onto the enormous Harding Icefield. Scan the nearby cliffs for mountain goats and watch for bears. Seward Sea-Life Center: Spend an afternoon at the Alaska SeaLife Center, with massive cold-water tanks and outdoor viewing decks as well as interactive displays of cold-water fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, including harbor seals and a 2,000-pound sea lion. A research center as well as visitor center, it also rehabilitates injured marine wildlife and provides educational experiences for the general public. Appropriately, the center was partially funded with reparations money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Films, hands-on activities, a gift shop, and behind-the-scenes tours ($12 and up) complete the offerings. Homer: at the southern end of the Sterling Highway lies the city of Homer, at the base of a narrow spit that juts 4 mi into beautiful Kachemak Bay. Glaciers and snowcapped mountains form a dramatic backdrop across the water. Protruding into Kachemak Bay, Homer Spit provides a sandy focal point for visitors and locals. A paved path stretches most of the 4 mi and is great for biking or walking. A commercial-fishing-boat harbor at the end of the path has restaurants, hotels, charter-fishing businesses, sea-kayaking outfitters, art galleries, and on-the-beach camping spots. Fly a kite, walk the beaches, drop a line in the Fishing Hole, or just wander through the shops looking for something interesting; this is one of Alaska's favorite summertime destinations.Kachemak Bay: abounds with wildlife, including a large population of puffins and eagles. Tour operators take you past bird rookeries or across the bay to gravel beaches for clam digging. Most fishing charters include an opportunity to view whales, seals, porpoises, and birds close up. At the end of the day, walk along the docks on Homer Spit and watch commercial fishing boats and charter boats unload their catch. Halibut Cove: Directly across from the end of Homer Spit is Halibut Cove, a small artists' community. Spend a relaxing afternoon or evening meandering along the boardwalk and visiting galleries. The cove is lovely, especially during salmon runs, when fish leap and splash in the clear water. Several lodges are on this side of the bay, on pristine coves away from summer crowds. The Danny J ferries people across from Homer Spit, with a stop at the rookery at Gull Island and two or three hours to walk around Halibut Cove. The ferry makes two trips daily: the first leaves Homer at 12:00 pm and returns at 5:00 pm, and the second leaves at 5:00 pm and returns at 10:00 pm.
Sea Kayaking is big among Alaskans. It was the Aleuts who invented the kayak (or bidarka) for fishing and hunting marine mammals. When early explorers encountered the Aleuts, they compared them to sea creatures, so at home did they appear on their small ocean craft. Kayaks have the great advantage of portability. More stable than canoes, they also give you a feel for the water and a view from water level. Oceangoing kayakers will find plenty of offshore Alaska adventures, especially in the protected waters of the Southeast, Prince William Sound, and Kenai Fjords National Park. The variety of Alaska marine life that you can view from a sea kayak is astonishing. It's possible to see whales, seals, sea lions, and sea otters, as well as bird species too numerous to list. Although caution is required when dealing with large stretches of open water, the truly Alaskan experience of self-propelled boating in a pristine ocean environment can be a life-changing thrill.
The Fishing: In summer salmon fill the rivers, which you can fish with a guide, from your own boat, or from the bank. Fishing for halibut and rockfish is also possible from charter boats out of Homer or Seward.
The most popular attraction in the wintertime doesn't charge admission or have set viewing times. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) seem to appear without rhyme or reason. There is a science to it, but explanations are still hotly debated by meteorologists, astronomers, and pretty-color enthusiasts. Seeing the northern lights requires that there be no nearby city light, very little moonlight, the cold fall and winter months, and a lot of luck. Hot springs outside Fairbanks keep the hopeful warm while they watch the skies. There is something about the incongruous number of hours of sunlight and darkness Alaska gets that makes Alaskans yearn to break the rules of time. When you arrive in Alaska you may feel inclined to do the same. In many parts of the state bars still stay open all night long, fishermen can be sitting on the ice all hours of the night, and some people ski best when the witching hour strikes. At Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, skiers can take the lift and bite the powder under the stars. On weekends this popular ski resort offers night skiing, and afterwards, in the bar, rewards its visitors with live, high-energy, danceable music. This provides a good look at local Alaskan culture, as it caters to tourists and residents alike.
Katmai National Park | Brooks River: When people come to Alaska they want to see bears. Yet most visitors never get a glimpse, because bears prefer their privacy. But at Katmai National Park, which boasts the largest brown bear population in the world, you're almost guaranteed a photograph of bears doing bear things. Remember, although they look cute, their teeth and claws are still mighty sharp.
Kodiak Island: The 1.9-million-acre Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge lies mostly on Kodiak Island and neighboring Afognak and Uganik islands, in the Gulf of Alaska. All are part of the Kodiak Archipelago, separated from Alaska's mainland by the stormy Shelikof Strait. Within the refuge are rugged mountains, tundra meadows and lowlands, thickly forested hills that are enough different shades of green to make a leprechaun cry, plus lakes, marshes, and hundreds of miles of pristine coastland. No place in the refuge is more than 15 mi from the ocean. The weather here is generally wet and cool, and storms born in the North Pacific often bring heavy rains. Dozens of species of birds flock to the refuge each spring and summer, including Aleutian terns, horned puffins, black oystercatchers, ravens, ptarmigan, and chickadees. At least 600 pairs of bald eagles live on the islands, building the world's largest bird nests on shoreline cliffs and in tall trees. Seeing the Kodiak brown bears alone is worth the trip to this rugged country. When they emerge from their dens in spring, the bears chow down on some skunk cabbage to wake their stomachs up, have a few extra salads of sedges and grasses, and then feast on the endless supply of fish when salmon return. About the time they start thinking about hibernating again the berries are ripe (they may eat 2,000 or more berries a day). Kodiak brown bears, the biggest brown bears anywhere, sometimes topping out at more than 1,500 pounds, share the refuge with only a few other land mammals: red foxes, river otters, short-tailed weasels, and tundra voles. Six species of Pacific salmon - chums, kings, pinks, silvers, sockeyes, and steelhead—return to Kodiak's waters from May to October. Other resident species include rainbow trout, Dolly Varden (an anadromous trout waiting for promotion to salmon), and arctic char. The abundance of fish and bears makes the refuge popular with anglers, hunters, and wildlife-watchers.
Lake Clark National Park | Redoubt Bay When the weather is good, an idyllic choice beyond the Mat-Su Valley is the 3.4-million-acre Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, on the Alaska Peninsula and a short flight from Anchorage or Kenai and Soldotna. The parklands stretch from the coast to the heights of two grand volcanoes: Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt (which made headlines in 2009 when it erupted, sending ash floating over the region), both topping out above 10,000 feet. The country in between holds glaciers, waterfalls, and turquoise-tinted lakes. The 50-mi-long Lake Clark, filled by runoff waters from the mountains that surround it, is an important spawning ground for thousands of red (sockeye) salmon. The river-running is superb in this park. You can make your way through dark forests of spruce and balsam poplars or hike over the high, easy-to-travel tundra. The animal life is profuse: look for bears, moose, Dall sheep, wolves, wolverines, foxes, beavers, and mink on land; seals, sea otters, and white (or beluga) whales offshore. Wildflowers embroider the meadows and tundra in spring, and wild roses bloom in the shadows of the forests. Plan your trip to Lake Clark for the end of June or early July, when the insects may be less plentiful. Or consider late August or early September, when the tundra glows with fall colors.
In a land of many grand and spectacularly beautiful mountains, those in the 9.2-million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve are possibly the finest of them all. This extraordinarily compact cluster of immense peaks belongs to four different mountain ranges. Rising through many ecozones, the Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve is largely undeveloped wilderness parkland on a grand scale. The area is perfect mountain-biking and primitive-hiking terrain, and the rivers invite rafting for those with expedition experience. The mountains attract climbers from around the world; most of them fly in from Glennallen or Yakutat. The nearby abandoned Kennicott Mine is one of the park's main visitor attractions. The open pit mine is reminiscent of ancient Greek amphitheatres, and the abandoned structures are as impressive as the mountains they stand against.
Tucked into the east side of the Kenai Peninsula, the sound is a peaceful escape from the throngs of people congesting the towns and highways. Enhanced with steep fjords, green enshrouded waterfalls, and calving tidewater glaciers, Prince William Sound is a stunning arena. It has a convoluted coastline, in that it is riddled with islands, which makes it hard to discern just how vast the area is. The sound covers almost 15,000 square mi—more than 12 times the size of Rhode Island—and is home to more than 150 glaciers. The sound is vibrantly alive with all manner of marine life, including salmon, halibut, humpback and orca whales, sea otters, sea lions, and porpoises. Bald eagles are easily seen soaring above, and often brown and black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, and gray wolves can be spotted on the shore.
Unfortunately, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 heavily damaged parts of the sound, and oil still washes up on shore after high tides and storms. The original spill had a devastating effect on both animal and human lives. What lasting effect this lurking oil will have on the area is still being studied and remains a topic of much debate. Bring your rain gear, Prince William Sound receives more than 150 inches of rain per year. The sound is best explored by charter boat or guided excursion out of Whittier, Cordova, or Valdez. Even though the waters are mostly protected, open stretches are common, and the fickle Alaska weather can fool even experienced boaters. From the road system, Whittier and Valdez are your best bets for finding charter outfits.
A visit to Columbia Glacier, which flows from the surrounding Chugach Mountains, should certainly be on your Valdez agenda. Its deep aquamarine face is 5 mi across, and it calves icebergs with resounding cannonades. This glacier is one of the largest and most readily accessible of Alaska's coastal glaciers. The state ferry travels past the face of the glacier, and scheduled tours of the glaciers and the rest of the sound are available by boat and aircraft from Valdez, Cordova, and Whittier.