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Anchorage, Matsu & Cook Inlet
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Anchorage, Matsu & Cook Inlet



Chugach State Park

Seward Highway (AK9)--Portage to Anchorage

Girdwood & Alyeska

Portage Glacier Recreation Area (Chugach National Forest)

Knik Arm

Glenn Highway (AK1)--Anchorage to Parks Highway Junction





Hatcher Pass

Independence Mine State Historic Park

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Girdwood and Alyeska

Location/Climate: Girdwood is 30 miles east-southeast of Anchorage on Turnagain Arm. See Hope (chapter 10) for climate info.

Population: Several hundred, variable.

Travel Attractions: Alyeska Ski Resort, access to Chugach National Forest and Chugach State Park via Crow Creek Road, access to Portage Glacier, several hiking trails, bike route, cross-country skiing, summer tram rides.

Getting There: Vehicle access via Seward Highway (AK 1) from Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula; charter small-plane air service; possible rail to Portage with shuttle to Girdwood.

Information: Chugach National Forest Office, P.O. Box 129, Alyeska Access Road (just north of railroad crossing), Girdwood, AK 99587; check with ski resorts, area businesses, or Alyeska Prince Hotel (see below).

Girdwood is a classic ski village. Small clusters of chalets, cabins, and condos are concentrated near the base of Mount Alyeska and the Alyeska Ski Resort, while others are scattered through the rest of Glacier Creek and Crow Creek valleys. The new Alyeska Prince Hotel, the queen of Alaskan resorts, is a large ski hotel that probably could have used another million for exterior architecture. It is, however, luxurious in that ski-boots-and-kids-welcome sort of way.

The funky, tiny town of Girdwood is home both summer and winter to friendly, active people who spend a lot of time with the wind in their hair, www.girdwoodalaska.com.

Things to See and Do in Girdwood

Alyeska Tramway—Girdwood’s big attraction is a gondola ride to the 2,300-foot level of Mount Alyeska. Here you’ll find ski runs or hiking trails, depending on the time of year, and the Seven Glaciers Restaurant—a great place to enjoy a drink or a meal with a marvelous view. (For a quick, less-pricey bite, the Glacier Express has some tasty goodies.) Though you can basically be sure of a ride within a half hour during the day throughout the summer, call for specific hours of operation. Things change depending on the season and the tram maintenance schedule. The station and ticket windows are behind the Alyeska Prince Hotel—you’ll have to walk a ways from the hotel parking areas or wait a bit for the shuttle bus. 1000 Arlberg Avenue, (800) 880-3880, 754-1111, www.alyeskaresort.com. $16.

Crow Creek Road and Mine—North of Girdwood, Crow Creek Road follows the path of the original Iditarod Trail, a winter route which ran from Seward to Nome. The road climbs 7 miles into a narrow valley to the head of Crow Creek Trail, which climbs 3 steep miles to a mining ruin and reservable Forest Service cabin. The longer route continues north to Eagle River (see Historic Iditarod Trail in Chugach State Park Trails, above). Three miles up Crow Creek Road from its junction with Alyeska Access Road, the century-old Crow Creek Mine National Historic Site features eight original buildings, a gift shop, and campground. 278-8060, www.crowcreekgoldmine.com, open May 15–September 15 daily 11:30 a.m. to dusk. $8 for gold panning, $4 for kids, camping $5.

Hiking Trails—Several short and easy trails suitable for day hikes are found in the valley around town. Great views and fun scrambles can be enjoyed from the tram station at 2,300 feet. For a map of possibilities inquire at the Forest Service office, Monarch Mine Road, just north of rail crossing, 783-3242.

Where to Stay in Girdwood

Alyeska Home Hostel, Alpina Road, 783-2099. Rustic and small, $10 members and $13 non-members.

Alyeska Prince Hotel, 1000 Arlberg Avenue, (800) 880-3880, 754-1111. $145–$1,500. At the foot of the Alyeska Tram and ski slopes, this is Alaska’s top resort hotel.

Additional Listings—There are many small B&Bs and rental ski chalets in Girdwood. For a good list, visit the Chamber of Commerce site, www.girdwoodalaska.com/accommodations.html.

Where to Eat in Girdwood

Alpine Diner and Bakery, Girdwood Station Mall, Mile 90 Seward Highway, 783-2550. Open daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Italian dishes, burgers, sandwiches, baked goods, espresso drinks.

The Bake Shop, Alyeska Ski Resort, 783-2831. Open daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (until 8 p.m. Saturday). Breakfast, soup, pizza, sandwiches.