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Girdwood Travel Guide + 5 Things to do in Girdwood
Updated April 2020, Girdwood Travel Guide + 5 Things to do in Girdwood was originally written in February 2020
This coastal ski town with hippy vibes set in a picturesque valley just an hour’s drive south of Anchorage is a favorite getaway for locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend visit, Girdwood is a perfect getaway from busy Anchorage or stop to add on a Kenai Peninsula road trip adventure. The most popular reason people make the jaunt south of Anchorage to visit Girdwood is to go ski and snowboard at Alyeska Resort. Not to worry if shredding down the mountain isn’t you’re thing- there’re plenty of things to do in Girdwood year-round.
Start planning your Alaskan adventure: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide
Things To Do In Girdwood
Go Skiing & Snowboarding At Alyeska Resort (Or Hike In Summer)
Alyeska Resort is Alaska’s premier and biggest ski area with 5 chairlifts and an aerial tram. Typically the mountain is open from late November through April for skiing and snowboarding. In summers you can hike up or take the tram to the top for epic views of Turnagain Arm below. If you’re into downhill mountain biking there’s a track set up on the mountain in the summers.
The historical Alyeska Roundhouse Museum (free admission) at the top of the tram is dedicated to the history of Girdwood Valley. Adjoined in the same building is Seven Glaciers Restaurant, among the top wine restaurants in the USA. If you have reservations at Seven Glaciers you will get a complimentary tram ride.
Visit Crow Creek Mine
Crow Creek Mine is a historic site worthy of a stop while you’re in Girdwood. I’ve been to a number of weddings hosted at Crow Creek Mine and it is quite the scenic spot. You can try your hand at gold panning ($24 adults 13+, $15 kids 12 and under), or walk around the site ($12 adults 13+, $5 kids 12 and under). Nearby to the mine is the popular 22 mile Crow Pass Trailhead that connects to the Eagle River Nature Center on the other side.
Walk To Virgin Creek Falls
Virgin Creek Falls is one of my favorite places to go to take photos when friends come to visit me here in Alaska. From the street it’s a short about 0.5 mile walk to the falls, but take care as the trail can be muddy and slippery at times.
Take The Hand Tram On The Winner Creek Trail
Winner Creek Trail is a maintained trail that starts from the base of the tram at Alyeska and ends at Crow Creek Mine Road (or vice-versa), the main feature of the trail is the hand tram used to cross Winner Creek Gorge. Note that the hand tram car is removed in the winter and isn’t placed back on until after Memorial Day weekend (I can attest from personal experience!). The Winner Creek Trail is 4 miles one way.
Take A Flightseeing Tour To A Glacier
Alpine Air offers awesome helicopters and small plane flightseeing tours and landings on glaciers in the surrounding area.
Back in 2016 I was taken on an epic date by helicopter to Spencer Glacier with Alpine Air and can say if you have one thing you splurge on during your Alaska trip, flightseeing is going to be likely the best option. Do note that flightseeing is dependent on weather, so cancellations are quite common.
Another great option for visiting Spencer Glacier, in particular, that’s pictured above is to take the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop Train. Read about how I did the whistle stop train a few years back, here.
Book an epic helicopter glacier landing tour with Alpine Air
Things To Do Nearby To Girdwood
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation, research, and preservation of Alaska’s wildlife, located just south of Girdwood near the old ghost town of Portage. With over 200 acres of land, AWCC is probably the best place to go to see bears, moose, caribou, muskox, wolves, wood bison, fox, bald eagles and more. AWCC is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily. Entrance for adults over 18 is $17, kids and teens 7-17 are $13, and children 6 and under are free. Other wildlife encounters are bookable online for an additional fee.
Check out this AWCC, Portage, & Beluga Point Tour from Anchorage
Portage Ghost Town
When the second-largest earthquake in recorded history rocked southcentral Alaska with a magnitude of 9.2 in 1964, much of Alaska’s coastal communities were wildly damaged. The town of Portage was wiped off the map, but several ruins of the original buildings are still visible at the old townsite, located right next to AWCC.
Portage & Byron Glaciers
Portage & Byron Glaciers are located just south of Girdwood by turning off the Seward Highway at Portage Glacier Lake? Road. Byron Glacier is accessible by a relatively short hike from the trailhead parking lot. At times there are ice caves at Byron Glacier, but do note that they do collapse and reform quite often. Going into ice caves has some serious risks, such as death and severe injury so go at your own risk. Nearby Portage Glacier is best viewed from the shores of Portage Lake, or by Portage Lake Cruise. On the shore of Portage Lake is the Begich Boggs Visitor Center (admission is $5 for adults) where you can learn more about the nearby glaciers and Chugach National Forest.
Book your Portage Glacier Lake Cruise here
Beluga Point is a pull off and park on a rocky outcrop along the Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood. Beluga Point is a great scenic stop for views of Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm, as well as a popular spot for whale watching and seeing the Bore Tide from.
Hike In & Around Girdwood
- Winner Creek | 4 miles one way | 1,200 feet elevation gain | moderate
- Virgin Creek Falls | 0.5 miles one way | 120 feet elevation gain | easy
- Moose Meadow Park | 1.6 mile loop | 120 feet elevation gain | easy
- Byron Glacier | 0.8 miles one way | 120 feet elevation gain | easy
- Crow Pass | 22 miles one way | 3,290 feet elevation gain | strenuous
- Bird Ridge | 2.5 miles one way | 3,215 feet elevation gain | strenuous
- Northface Alyeska | 2.2 miles one way | 2,000 feet elevation gain | strenuous
- Portage Pass | 2.2 miles one way | 1,580 feet elevation gain | strenuous
For even more hiking ideas check out my 16 best day hikes in & around Anchorage post
Please note that all Girdwood festivals appear to have been canceled this year (2020) due to Covid-19
Slush Cup & Spring Carnival
Slush Cup is southcentral Alaska’s spring carnival, held in mid to late April in Girdwood each year. Several events span the weekend, with the most well know being the annual Slush Cup where skiers and snowboarders in crazy costumes attempt to skim across a pond.
The Girdwood Forest Fair is held the first weekend of July each year celebrating local arts, music, and crafts. The festival has three rules: no politics, no religious orders, and no dogs.
Alaskans go nuts over blueberry season. Head out on many an alpine hiking trail and you’ll find heaps of us out there with 5 gallon buckets collecting as many of these tart little berries as we can. Every mid-August Girdwood holds a weekend Blueberry Festival dedicated to Alaskan’s favorite fruit. You’ll find blueberry dish and dessert cooking demonstrations, pie-eating contests, music, arts, and crafts.
Where To Stay In Girdwood
The Loft at Alyeska
| Booking.com |
| Booking.com |
Best Restaurants & Bars In Girdwood
Bake Shop: Located at the base of Alyeska near chair 3 the Bake Shop serves up breakfast, coffee, pizza, and my favorite: soups and sandwiches.
Girdwood Brewing Company: Technically it’s a brewery, but thanks to Alaska’s ridiculous rules placed on breweries they cannot serve food unless they purchase a full-blown liquor license. Not to fear, it’s perfectly legal to have a food truck rocked up outside. Girdwood Brewing has a rotating selection of food trucks. Click here to see a list of food trucks you can find rotating through the Girdwood Brewing Parking Lot
Sitzmark: A favorite to head for aprés ski at the base of Alyeska right next to Chair 3. With a full bar and serving up yummy sandwiches, hamburgers, nachos and more. All winter long there’s live music every weekend evening.
Chair 5: Is a restaurant and bar serving up pretty good pizzas, hamburgers and bar food in Girdwood.
Fine Dining In Girdwood
Seven Glaciers Restaurant: At the top of the tram on Mt. Alyeska, Seven Glaciers is ranked among the top wine restaurants in the USA. Serving up contemporary American and Alaskan dishes. Aside from the wine, order a Fizz… it’s not on the menu, and they’re delicious.
Double Musky Inn: Known for the French pepper steak, Double Musky serves up great steaks and seafood with a Cajun twist. I’m not a big red meat eater, but the French pepper steak here is to die for. Double Musky does not take reservations.
Jack Sprat: Serves up a creative menu of world food, with great vegan and vegetarian options and focus on healthy cooking and raw ingredients. On weekends and especially in summertime try to make reservations a day in advance cause this place books up quick.
Have Any Questions About Visiting Girdwood Or About Any Of The Things To Do In Girdwood Mentioned Above?
Ask your Girdwood travel questions in the comments section below.