Does anyone know if it's worth driving from Anchorage to Valdez these days? It takes 5h 30m to get there. What are the chances of hearing / seeing the ice calve when kayaking or taking a local cruise?
I really doubt you will find any Glacier cruises running from either Valdez or Seward now. They start during the tourist season, mid-May or June 1, depending on the cruise company.
Are you in Anchorage now and looking for things to do? I suggest the TripAdvisor Alaska forum. People there are very helpful, and there are some locals.
No, Jul is the month my friends would be in Anchorage and I am talking about 2022. Is Child's Glacier worth a 5h 30m drive from Anchorage? I have a friend who visited in the 1990s who said it was spectacular, but that doesn't mean it is now.
Oh, that's good. I thought you might be in Alaska now for northern lights.
I suggest you take a looks at some of the Glacier cruises offered at Valdez and see photos and maybe the itinerary. Or they can find guided kayaking by googling that ( I would not kayak near Glaciers without a guide; you can get swamped by a calving Glacier or an iceberg that inverts suddenly).
There are also Glacier cruises from Seward and Whittier ( the Whittier cruises are more focused on Glaciers, the Seward cruises see more wildlife and fewer Glaciers).
https://lulubelletours.com (Same as above)
I would suggest:
Matanuska Glacier, about 100 miles Northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. Small fee to drive across private land. You can walk out onto the glacier.
Any sightseeing glacier cruise out of Whittier, about 60 miles Southeast of Anchorage. There is also a lake cruse in Portage (on the way to Whittier) that takes you out to a glacier. Going into Whittier you drive on the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America (fee going in), you drive on the tracks.
Exit Glacier near Seward, about 130 miles Southeast of Anchorage. Drive/walk up near the glacier. There are also cruises leaving in town. Seward is home to the Alaska Sea Life Center.
What are the chances of hearing / seeing the ice calve when kayaking or taking a local cruise?
Just being in the right place at the right time. Isn't like Disney World where they would be timed!
Tell your friends to book everything as soon as they can. In normal times hotels and car rentals are booked solid by March if not before. Same with some glacier cruises. And July is a very busy month. Also don't rent a car at the airport as there's an added 18% tax. Feel free to PM me if you/they have questions.
Thank you Lola and tdw.
Back in 2002, I visited Seward and saw Exit Glacier and took a boat to see the orca whales and was disappointed with both. The only thing I liked about the cruise was the other wildlife that I saw.
I have a feeling that there's much more to Child's Glacier than what a Whittier cruise or Matanuska has to offer. You can fly from Anchorage to Valdez nonstop on AK airlines for $310 per person. However, if I were going to spend that kind of money, I would go to a place better than Child's glacier. I'm trying to help friends keep their cost down and see an incredible glacier. Nobody likes visiting a place and find yourself singing Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is" song.
They are not going until 2022.
Exit Glacier and Matanuska Glacier are not tidewater glaciers that calve into the water like Child’s Glacier and others. You can approach the toe of the glacier, which ends in gravel, and you can hike on the glaciers with a guide (and crampons, etc.). But it is totally different from seeing a tidewater glacier calve into the water.
Here is a photo of Child’s Glacier:
If your friends have a fairly liberal budget, I recommend a two-night stay at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge:
This is a remote wilderness lodge in the national park. They take you by boat (smaller than the glacier cruise boats) there in a journey lasting 4 hours, stopping to see wildlife (orcas, porpoises/dolphins, whales, sea lions, sea otters) on the way, and visiting Holgate and Aialik Glacier, with a long stop near the face of the latter to watch the calving. The lodge itself is situated on a lagoon with a view across to another glacier, the Pederson.,
With 2 nights there, you can use the intervening day to go on the 6-hour guided kayak trip to Aialik Glacier, where you raft up with others to float and watch the glacier. This is where we learned to maintain some distance from large icebergs-—they can flip due to uneven melting, and the resulting wave can swamp a kayak.
The cabins there are very nice, and the food in the lodge is great. Everything is included (boat trip out and back, kayaking, meals, canoeing on the lagoon. There are black bears in the immediate area and they are often seen walking through the grass in front of the cabins. We saw one digging along the shore of the lagoon while we were canoeing.
It is expensive, but so is most everything in Alaska. If you add up all the activities you get, plus food and nice lodging in a beautiful spot, we felt it was well worth it for a “once in a lifetime” thing. We have returned to Alaska 3 times since to visit Denali, and I would love to go back to the Glacier Lodge, but we haven’t yet made the time for that.
Thank you Lola! On Mon I'll call Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge to learn more. You've been a big help.
Okay, this will be a bit less expensive than the other options listed, but I'll relate our experience. We were in Alaska in the RV in 2012. We booked a week at a campground in Seward. We chose the day with the best weather forecast and booked a day trip in Kenai Fjords National Park with this company: https://majormarine.com/ There was a National Park Service ranger onboard, an older gentleman who was just a wealth of information. I wanted to see a glacier calve, Denis wanted puffins. We both got our wishes, and a great deal more. In my case, it was the above mentioned Aialik Glacier. Of course, it's luck of the draw, but OMG, it was spectacular! They also had a lunch service, for an additional fee, Alaska salmon of course.
We had a coupon book which we purchased at the first Safeway (grocery) we came to when we crossed the border from BC into Alaska. I cannot find any information on it, so I don't know if it still exists. That's how we happened to choose this company.
When thinking about how far or long a drive it is from wherever you are to wherever you want to go in Alaska, do remember that the scenery is generally so spectacular that it's an important part of the journey. Especially in July when the fireweed is in full, glorious, magenta bloom. Oh yeah, and then there were things like the moose wandering the campground in Anchorage and the bald eagle who dive bombed our car (while we were sitting in it eating our picnic, too windy outside) on the Homer Spit.
I had to review my journal comments to write this, so thanks for the memories! ;-)
Thanks for sharing, Donna and Denis.
I love to talk about Alaska and relive the memories too. I lived in Fairbanks during the 1970’s (almost all of them), and worked in Denali National Park one glorious summer (back when it was still McKinley Park). I returned 2012, with a small group of family and friends to celebrate my 65th birthday. We were there in August, so would not have crossed paths with you. After Seward we went north to Denali NP, staying at Camp Denali, which is my favorite place in the world. We have been back there 3 times since, and I would like to go again next year, maybe taking my son’s family and the grandchildren. The money we saved by not traveling to Europe in 2020 or 2021 will help pay for that.
The only drive in Alaska I find less than scenic is the one to Homer, once you get past Cooper’s Landing it is flat and pretty boring, with lots of scrubby trees. But it’s worth it when you get there. Two people from the 2012 trip went to Homer instead of the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge (it was too expensive for them). They were supposed to meet us in Girdwood 3 days later, but called and said they weren’t coming: “We have decided to stay in Homer the rest of our lives.” Just kidding; they showed up in Girdwood a day late with a very nice halibut we grilled for dinner.
Nice thread. Thanks to those who have contributed... has me thinking about Alaska.
Thank you, Donna for the link, this is what I was looking for. I once drove from Anchorage to Seward and the scenery was spectacular until I got Whittier. After that it was a boring drive to Seward. You and Lola have given me some excellent advice.
I guess it's true what they say, you take where you live for granted. I just suggested places that I know most tourist like.
MaryPat, they should plan on 6-7 hours of driving from Anchorage to Valdez. Google maps will tell you 5.5 hours but it doesn't take into account getting behind a slow RV, road construction, accidents or the weather or that most of the trip is 2 lanes. Plan to add an hour at least to what any map service tells you if driving anywhere in Alaska. While I never drove to Valdez I have driven to Tok and it is a nice drive.
Heading South from Anchorage I think would be a better choice. Either Whittier or Seward for glacier seeing and the rest of the Kenai for sightseeing. Of course everyone else heads there too! Really it depends on what else they plan to see.
As far as I know Alaska Airlines doesn't fly into Valdez (VDZ) but Ravn Air (https://ravnalaska.com/) does just not every day.
Thank you for your feedback tdw, it’s greatly appreciated. You pointed out some good facts that I can relay to my friends and that driving times vary and expect it to take longer than what Google says for all the examples you provided.
In 2002 I went to Seward and took a marine wildlife tour, but did not see glaciers. It might be because I took a half day cruise instead of a full day. It’s hard to remember the details and my journal does not specify the length of the boat ride. What I do remember is that I was overwhelmed by the gas fumes and grateful when it ended.
Do you know that Childs Glacier is in Cordova, which is only accessible by boat or plane. So they would have to take the ferry from Valdez or Whittier (not very practical) or fly (not cheap). And at this time Childs Glacier is no longer accessible by road from Cordova. Don't know if you can kayak to it or not. So I would suggest glacier viewing on a cruise out of Whittier. They take you out to over 2 dozen glaciers.
If you let us know what other interest they have we can help more.
EDIT: The Childs Glacier is named after John H. Childs so no ' before the s.
Another thing for those who may choose to drive: https://themilepost.com/ There is a wealth of information in it. We found it well worth the money. We bought it in advance and I went through and highlighted things of interest, campgrounds, rest areas, view comments, and the like. It was important for us for example, as with our car hooked up, we were 53' in length and couldn't pull over or stay just anywhere. The comments about where to see Denali from the road, oh yeah! Some libraries may carry it, but if you purchase it, get the most recent copyright.
And, for what it's worth, there are plenty of rental RV options in Anchorage, should that interest some.
tdw - after I posted this I learned that Child's Glacier was in Cordova. Does Whittier offer tidewater glaciers?
Donna - I picked up The Mile Post at the library to help me understand what I would be passing when I drove from Anchorage to Denali back in 2002. My favorite stop was Talkeetna where I talked to the bartender and listened to what life was like during the winter. The clam chowder was good while I washed it down with a local beer. I did not see Mount McKinley on the way to Denali so I stopped in Talkeetna again on my way back and luckily it popped out of the sky. It was an incredible sight.
MaryPat, Whittier glacier cruises go out into Prince William Sound.
Glacier cruises from Whittier:
More information and another company:
The cruises out of Whittier focus more on Glaciers than the Seward cruises, and stay in calmer waters.
You can stay in Whittier or in nearby Girdwood, home of Alyeska ski resort. If younstaybthere, younwill have to drive through a "timed"tunnel shared with the railway. It opens for car traffic one way at a time, on a schedule.
Whittier is interesting in that originally everyone in town lived in the same large building. Some of the apartments in that building have now been converted to vacation rentals, with great views. But it is not exactly everyone's idea of typical Alaska lodging.
We like Girdwood a lot.
Which place is best for tidewater glaciers, Whittier or Seward? I want my friends to experience the sound of ice floes calving.
Whittier for sure. You have to pay for the tunnel and parking but save gas as it's close to Anchorage. As far as seeing one calve there's no guarantees. There isn't much of anything else to do in Whittier as it use to be an Army post way back when. As someone stated before everyone lived in one building that also has the store, post office, school and government offices. Now there's a few houses and businesses around. The harbor is home for the cruise ships and other major shipping. Also where the Alaska Railroad loads / unloads goods shipped by boat. You can take the train from Anchorage and back, once down in the morning and back in the late afternoon for about $100/person rt.
Here's the city's website: https://www.whittieralaska.gov/
Alaska railroad: https://www.alaskarailroad.com/
It is the glacier itself that calves, and the falling ice creates icebergs and ice floes (which are flat ice, as opposed to icebergs which can tower high above kayakers). I corrected my entries above, as it is inverting icebergs that one must avoid. You see the calving before you hear it. . . .
Glacier ice is beautiful, crystal clear with no air bubbles. When we kayaked to Aialik Glacier, we were encouraged to pick up chunks of the floating ice and bring them back to the lodge for drinks at the bar. 🍹🥃🍸
Thanks everyone, Whittier is closer to Anchorage so I think I'll recommend Prince William Sound.
Basing in Anchorage, a trip out of Whittier is your best chance of seeing a tidewater glacier . I disagree about boring scenery on the way to Seward or Homer: moose, Dall Sheep, mtn goats, bears (black & brown), spawning salmon, fireweed, various birds, volcanoes, snow-covered mountains, rushing creeks & rivers, turquoise lakes, inlet bore tides, Beluga whales, and more are often visible from the road. Stay about 100 to 200 yards behind a slow moving RV and enjoy the trip. Let the locals pass but beware that head-ons happen. Pull off when they bug you enough or to look at something of interest. Exit glacier near Seward is interesting but you can no longer get too near it. Off the Portage Glacier access road, there are a couple of glaciers you can hike to - maybe even touch. To be able to play on a glacier, the Matanuska is the best accessible. In Seward, the Sea Life Center is worth a visit. Homer is one of the most beautiful locations in the world. If you can manage it, a day trip on a boat to Halibut Cove with a meal at the Saltry and a stop at Bird Island is hard to beat. Homer has the Islands & Oceans Visitor Center and the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies, both with nature trails. In & near Anchorage: the Alaska Native Heritage Center; the Anchorage Museum; The Eagle River Nature Center and trails; and numerous hikes all over - easy to strenuous. Take a trip north to Denali for a bus into the park to see wildlife and (maybe) a good view of the mountain. Living near Anchorage and working & traveling throughout the state for 44 years has given us wonderful experiences and memories. You can find your own adventures and memories - just keep your mind and eyes open.
Thank you Larry, your comments are very helpful.