Whether you’re in the mood to kayak through a valley of glaciers or you’d rather have a fine dining experience of fresh Alaskan seafood, the tourist town of Girdwood is one of the best places to do it from. The vacation destination is favored by nature lovers as there’s so much to see, such as mountains, glaciers, glacier valleys, rivers, and rainforests.
1.Winner Creek Trail
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Winner Creek Trail in Alaska is a favorite place for locals and visitors to head out to when they’re in the mood to enjoy Girdwood’s natural beauty. Though there is an upper 9-mile trail that offers spectacular views of the mountains, it’s the lower 3-mile trail that is the most popular. The trails are well developed and a short while in, you’ll be able to get on an exciting hand tram to slowly pull yourself over the thrashing Glacier Creek. Though it’s completely safe, the creek roars a hundred feet below you, making it an exciting experience in the metal-caged tram that takes you across.
2.Byron Glacier Trail
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The Byron Glacier Trail is one of the most family-friendly trails in Girdwood; it is suitable for hikers of all ages and is only 1.4 miles long. You’ll go through the serene alder/cottonwood forest before heading toward the cascading whitewater creek to get up-close views of the Byron Glacier and the rugged mountains that surround it. There are so many things to see and do within the trail area, including bicycling, fishing, hunting, and picnicking as well as partaking in water and winter sports activities. Camping is also allowed there; you can choose to pitch your own tent or rent out one of the many isolated cabins scattered throughout the area.
3.Portage Glacier Cruises
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Portage Glacier is one of Alaska’s most popular attractions, and rightly so as it’s a towering relic of the last ice age that is sure to take your breath away. Portage Glacier Cruises takes you within 300 yards, right to the face of the glacier, on the MV Ptarmigan, which is the only boat licensed to operate on Portage Lake. You’ll have a fully narrated experience so that you gain an in-depth knowledge of the glacier and its surroundings during your tour. The boat is fully enclosed and heated but has expansive windows for you to enjoy the views as ice breaks off the glacier and crashes into the water below. If you’d prefer being outdoors, opt to sit on the topside view deck so that you’ll get panoramic views while enjoying the fresh air.
4.Alyeska Aerial Tram
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The Alyeska Aerial Tram offers a fun, family-friendly way for you to spend the day in Girdwood. The tram is a 5-minute scenic ride from Hotel Alyeska all the way to the top of Mount Alyeska. During the ride you’ll be able to see gorgeous 360-degree views of the surroundings, which include the peaks of the Chugach Mountain range, various glaciers, and the Turnagain Arm. During the summer months, be sure to keep an eye out for bear and moose sightings, which are common from the aerial tram. Once you’re at the peak’s observation deck, you’ll get an even clearer view of the sparkling streams, majestic mountains, and resident wildlife; it’s a great place to enjoy your lunch or take in the glowing sunset.
5.Chugach State Park
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Comprising around 495,000 acres of land, Chugach State Park is one of the largest state parks in the United States. The park’s rugged topography and diverse landforms have made it popular with nature lovers and adventure seekers. There are many aspects of the park that shouldn’t be missed, such as the Wrangell Mountains and the expansive ice fields. There are over 280 miles of trails that allow you to explore the park; popular activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, and exploring with ATVs. There are many camping sites where you can pitch a tent as well as several cabins that can be rented out for an overnight stay.
18620 Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99516, Phone: 907-345-5014
6.Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
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The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a lovely facility that takes care of orphaned and/or injured animals of all sorts in a 200-acre habitat that is spacious and mimics the natural wilderness. It’s a great place for visitors of all ages to learn about how they preserve Alaska’s wildlife, while getting to see many of the furry residents “in the wild.” It is not uncommon to see wood bison roaming on pastures and brown bears playing in the water during your visit. You can tour the vast acreage via car or on foot; there is a scenic 1.5-mile loop that encircles a variety of animal enclosures. At the end of it all, be sure to get some great souvenirs to take back with you from their gift shop.
Mile 79 Seward Highway, Portage, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2025
7.Alyeska Resort Ski Area
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The Alyeska Resort Ski Area is a winter wonderland for visitors of all ages. No matter if you’re a beginner or an expert skier, you’ll find the perfect spot for you in the 1,610 acres of skiable area. With nearly 700 inches of snow annually, the ski area houses 76 named trails that are fun and exciting. You’ll be able to challenge yourself on the several ski trails, which are reputed for being steep and deep. There are seven lifts, which take you 2,500 feet in the air, as well as two fixed quads, two high-speed detachable quads, two magic carpets, and a 60-passenger aerial tram.
8.Crow Creek Gold Mine
© Crow Creek Gold Mine
Relive the historic gold rush of Alaska at the Crow Creek Gold Mine, which was established in 1896. The mine was one of the most renowned hydraulic gold mining operations in the state as well as one of the largest gold deposit producers. Though it has since shut down, the historic mining camp is well preserved and gives you an in-depth look at how it once ran. The authentic experience is perfect for visitors of all ages, and you will get to see rare mining equipment, explore the antiquated buildings, and take in the beautiful gardens that surround it. The hiking trail accessible from the gold mine will put you on the renowned Iditarod Trail and give you amazing views of the mountain scenery.
601 Crow Creek Rd, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-229-3105
9.Alpine Air Alaska
© Alpine Air Alaska
Alpine Air Alaska was established in 1991 to provide incomparable flightseeing tours as well as air transport services to locals and visitors. Their helicopter tours are sure to be unforgettable; places you can explore include one of the most glaciated mountain ranges in the US, the Chugach Mountains. There are 30-minute tours, 60-minute tours, and 90-minute tours, all of which include a guide teaching you about the history of the area along with several little-known facts. The 60 and 90-minute tours also feature a landing either directly on a glacier or right beside it, depending on weather conditions.
599 Mt Hood Dr, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2360
10.Girdwood Brewing Company
© Girdwood Brewing Company
The Girdwood Brewing Company was founded by a group of friends who were enthusiastic about creating fresh, flavorful beer. Their 3,040-square-foot brewery and taproom is a place for locals and travelers to come together, relax, and have memorable conversations on mountain biking, catching a trophy fish, and other Alaskan adventures. The beer is concocted in a 10-barrel premier stainless brewing system using recipes perfected by brew engineers and twin brothers, Rory and Brett Marenco. Popular choices include the house IPA, the IP-AK, their chocolatey coffee stout, the Hippy Speedball, and their fruity and dry saison, the Salmon Slayer.
2700 Alyeska Hwy, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2739
11.McHugh Creek Recreation Area
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The McHugh Creek Recreation Area is a wonderful way for the entire family to spend the day enjoying the lush Girdwood nature. They have amenities such as parking, restrooms, and a picnic area for you to use during your stay there. You’ll find a 20-foot waterfall just a short walk from the parking area and it is a fun thing to do if you’re not up for a longer walk or hike. The McHugh Trail offers a moderate hike that elevates over 1,500 feet and takes you nearby 6.5 miles. During the hike you’ll be able to see panoramic views of the mountains and the Turnagain Arm as well as McHugh Lake, Rabbit Lake, and South Suicide Peaks.
111 Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99507, Phone: 907-269-8400
12.The Roundhouse at Alyeska
© The Roundhouse at Alyeska
The Roundhouse at Alyeska is the only mountaintop museum and interpretive center in the entire state. The original structure was built in 1960 and served as a warming hut and later as a popular gathering place in the mountain complete with lounge and restaurant. Renovations on the Roundhouse began in 2003 to turn it into the interpretive center and museum; today, visitors will be able to view various photographs taken from 1896 to 1904 in the permanent James Girdwood Collection. Other events that take place in the structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, include author visits, book signings, readings, and much more.
100 Arlberg Ave, Girdwood, AK 99587
13.Virgin Creek Falls Trail
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Virgin Creek Falls Trail is a slightly difficult footpath that takes visitors through the lush rainforest of Virgin Falls. It is a 1-mile hike one way from the beginning of the path to the waterfall and is a great way to explore Girdwood’s outdoors if you have little ones in tow. You’ll be able to walk the worn paths through the thick forest while being shaded by moss-covered pine trees; hikers will come across many streams, which they can cool off in during your trek. The hike is completely worth the stunning view you’ll get of the falls, as they are surrounded by the vibrant greenery.
14.The Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts
© The Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts
The Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts is a cooperative, non-profit gallery that houses the works of over 30 Alaskan artists. The local venue is operated by volunteers, who have worked hard to make it a homely place for artists to share their work with the rest of the world. The pieces that you will come across are from a wide variety of media, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, and much more. There are events and shows held throughout the year such as the Alaska Wild Series, which is a fun showcase of the fierce and furry creatures that can be found in the state.
Olympic Mountain Loop, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-3209
15.Potter Section House Historic Site
© Potter Section House Historic Site
The Potter Section House Historic Site can be found within Chugach State Park. The restored house, railroad car, and outbuildings were once a part of a railroad section camp. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is the only structure to remain of the four section houses that were on the Anchorage stretch of the railroad. Visitors will love exploring the place that railroad workers once considered home, which now houses the park headquarters as well as the Kenai Visitor Center. There’s so much to do within the park during your visit there, including hiking, camping, rafting, skiing, and much more.
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Ascending Path has been operating since 1995 and in that time has perfected adventuring in Alaska so that their customers have the most amazing experience. Their authentic and unique packages give you the choice of going on a guided hike through the rainforest, glacier hiking, or paddling a tandem sea kayak through a valley of icebergs. Some of their most popular adventures including helicopter tours, rail tours, glacier tours, and day hiking. Ascending Path also offers opportunities to go on an ultimate overnight glamping trip on Spencer Glacier, which includes all camping and hiking gear, catered meals, and a scenic helicopter ride.
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17.Alaska Backcountry Access LLC
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There’s no better way to explore the glacier snowfields and bustling rivers of Alaska than with the experts at Alaska Backcountry Access LLC. Their guided adventure activities are created from years of experience in the area and will allow you to see the state’s mountains, glaciers, glacier valleys, rivers, and rainforests. Activities may include hiking, canyoneering, jet boating, kayaking, whitewater rafting, trekking snowmobiling, and exploring some of the renowned gold mines of Alaska – you can combine what you’d like to see and do based on your interests. Some of their most popular tours are snowmobiling the Nelchina Glacier and jet boating in Alaska’s backcountry.
1 Girdwood Pl, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-3600
18.Jack Sprat Restaurant
© Jack Sprat Restaurant
A community favorite in Girdwood, the Jack Sprat restaurant serves high-quality cuisine combined with impeccable, family-friendly service. In this relaxing and fun atmosphere, you’ll come across an array of foods for both vegans as well as carnivores, which is something the restaurant really prides themselves on. All of the meals focus on being healthy and are created with sustainably produced seafood, humanely raised meats, and locally grown vegetables. Their menu changes often so that they can make the most of ingredients that are freshly available that season. Weekend brunch at Jack Sprat is extremely popular, and items on the menu that you should try include their vegetable curry with organic red quinoa and the Misty Isle Farms ribeye with a side of the house steak sauce.
165 Olympic Mountain Loop, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-5225
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19.Double Musky Inn
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The Double Musky Inn originally started in 1962 as a ski bar; customers would come from far and wide as they explored Alaska’s vast lands to enjoy a steak dinner they cook themselves over a fire or to have a go at dancing to a local polka band. It was taken over by the Persons in 1979, who slowly converted the inn to an establishment that is now recognized by such publications as Bon Appetit, Fodor’s, the New York Times, and Esquire, who described Double Musky as “the last great American roadhouse.” Their menu has an assortment of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, many of which focus on Cajun flavors; be sure to try the stuffed halibut served with Creole beurre blanc sauce, their pepper steak, or the shrimp and sausage jambalaya.
Mile 3 Crow Creek Road, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2822
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Perfect for a fancy, romantic dinner, Seven Glaciers is a mountain-top restaurant that is housed within the famed Alyeska Resort. The AAA Four-Diamond award-winning restaurant has an elegant atmosphere and a varied menu that will suit the palates of various diners. Be sure to pair your meal with a delicious glass of wine from their ‘Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence” wine list. At the end, don’t leave without trying out their Baked Alyeska – a dessert that is so popular with their patrons that it’s best to order it off the menu at the beginning of your meal.
Alyeska Resort: 1000 Arlberg Avenue, Girdwood, AK 99587
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21.The Bake Shop
© The Bake Shop
The Bake Shop is a family-owned and operated endeavor that serves homemade gourmet baked goods for locals and visitors to enjoy. It is known as one of the best places to enjoy a hearty and healthy breakfast in a cozy home-style environment. You’ll be satisfied just walking in to the Bake Shop as the smell of freshly baked breads along with steaming cups of coffee hit you when you open the door. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with popular items on their menu being sweet rolls, their Alyeska sourdough pancakes, and their specialty sandwiches, such as the BLT or chicken salad sandwich.
194 Olympic Mountain Loop, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2831
22.Chair 5 Restaurant and Bar
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Home of Alaska’s original “deep dish square pizza,” the Chair 5 Restaurant and Bar has been serving locals and visitors with freshly ground gourmet burgers and other culinary concoctions since 1983. It is a great restaurant to try out some of Alaska’s seafood, prepared in a variety of styles to meet the diverse palates of their patrons. There is a separate kids’ menu filled with chicken strips, pasta, and grilled cheese sandwiches so that younger visitors have something they’ll love too. Be sure to pair your meal with one of the 60 microbrews or 40 varieties of tequila for the ultimate Alaskan dining experience.
5 Lindblad Avenue, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-2500
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22 Best Things to Do in Girdwood, Alaska
- Winner Creek Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Pangzz - Fotolia.com
- Byron Glacier Trail, Photo: Courtesy of tiva48 - Fotolia.com
- Portage Glacier Cruises, Photo: Courtesy of Roger Asbury - Fotolia.com
- Alyeska Aerial Tram, Photo: Courtesy of Mathias - Fotolia.com
- Chugach State Park, Photo: Courtesy of 6 AXIS AERIAL - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Photo: Courtesy of jon manjeot - Fotolia.com
- Alyeska Resort Ski Area, Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Mortimer - Fotolia.com
- Crow Creek Gold Mine, Photo: Crow Creek Gold Mine
- Alpine Air Alaska, Photo: Alpine Air Alaska
- Girdwood Brewing Company, Photo: Girdwood Brewing Company
- McHugh Creek Recreation Area, Photo: Courtesy of JT Fisherman - Fotolia.com
- The Roundhouse at Alyeska, Photo: The Roundhouse at Alyeska
- Virgin Creek Falls Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Cyrsiam - Fotolia.com
- The Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts, Photo: The Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts
- Potter Section House Historic Site, Photo: Potter Section House Historic Site
- Ascending Path, Photo: Courtesy of Mathias - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Backcountry Access LLC, Photo: Courtesy of Alexander - Fotolia.com
- Jack Sprat Restaurant, Photo: Jack Sprat Restaurant
- Double Musky Inn, Photo: Courtesy of augedigital - Fotolia.com
- Seven Glaciers, Photo: Courtesy of Vankad - Fotolia.com
- The Bake Shop, Photo: The Bake Shop
- Chair 5 Restaurant and Bar, Photo: Courtesy of BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Mathias - Fotolia.com