Little in 21st century Valdez is left to remind the visitor of the tragic 1989 oil spill that most associate with the area. The road in, connecting the city to Anchorage and Fairbanks, is splashed with waterfalls and provides surreal vistas of glaciers and mountains spread out along the coast. Sea lions now bask unconcernedly on oil-free rocky beaches outside of Valdez, and sea birds, dead in droves after the spill, again call the area home.
If touring the old town of Valdez, leveled in the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, doesn't satiate your historical urges, visit the Valdez Museum for pictures of the Exxon Valdez spill or leg it out of town on the Mineral Creek Trail for an abandoned mine. Several other hiking opportunities offer glacial views and waterfalls as well as numerous unofficial camping spots.
In winter, enjoy an average snowfall of 25 feet and a network of cross country ski trails. The cold brings ice climbers to frozen falls—plenty from which to pick—around Valdez and if you feel the need to prove your cool, join the Ice Climbing Festival in early March.
Like most other Alaskan coastal towns, Valdez has plenty of water for kayaking or scenic cruising and more biking opportunities than other, southerly regions that are sea-locked. Many of the unpaved trails around Valdez are great for off-roading, though even in early summer these are often completely blocked by snow.
Cordova, southeast of Valdez, is accessible only by air or sea. In addition to an array of scenic attractions and the added lure of isolation, Cordova has rapids, mostly class II and III, to be rafted. Choose between day trips on the Sheridan River or longer trips down the Copper River—but beware, these can be booked out in advance, so check ahead.
Valdez is 366 miles south of Fairbanks and just over 200 from Anchorage by road. The Alaska Marine Highway connects Valdez to Whittier, Cordova and other ports of call by sea.