Whittier Alaska is the Gateway to the Prince William Sound, an area that services cruise ships of those wanting to go into Anchorage. Anchorage is about 65 miles north of Whitter, and the last 65 miles can be done by motorcoach, train, or rental car. Those wishing to drive to Anchorage are able to complete the trip in daylight, as the summer days are 22 hours long. These 65 miles go through a mountain serviced by a tunnel that provides basic service at best. It is closed at night and can become a one-way road at any time due to natural or human events. This is a drive that is so filled with beauty, once you depart the tunnel, that you will almost forget the inconveniences. Whittier, with its wilderness and glaciers, is an area that is overly blessed with spectacular natural beauty.
Princess Cruises, Golden Princess, Island Princess, Coral Princess, and Star Princess, to name a few, are all part of the Princess Cruise family that comes into Whittier, Alaska. In addition to the Princess Cruise Ships, are the Crystal Cruises and Crystal Serenity Cruises. For those that want to go on into Anchorage, they can take the motorcoach, train, or rent a car. If you want to experience some of the magic and uniqueness of Whitter, there are condos, Bed, and Breakfasts, and several small restaurants to enjoy. Then there are those who come from Anchorage to enjoy Prince William Sound at Whittier, before taking a cruise south. Coming or going from Anchorage necessitates driving through the 2.5-mile tunnel which goes through the mountain. It is the longest tunnel in North America.
In addition to the Cruise Ships that use the port, there are pleasure boats and fishing boats that each offer a different view of this amazing town. There are also a few limited small fishing boats for charter if it is your desire to spend your time out on sound fishing.
Like most port communities, as the night approaches, the fog begins to roll on in. This thick layer of fog creates a veil over this small fishing community. The summer nights are chilly and laden with fog, while the days are sunny with a chill in the air. This is to be expected this far North on the sound.
As night comes upon the valley, the fog descends, moving over the valley and the beautiful mountains. At times the air is so still, that you can cut this thick fog with a knife. It’s times like these when the area of Whittier Alaska comes alive in a new and unusual way. We often see whales, seals, and other sea animals enjoying the area.
Welcome to the real Whittier. In Whittier Alaska, you will not see a quaint town filled with cabins, but rather there are tall WWII Barracks that houses the city and most of its 200 residents. The building is 14 stories and made from concrete. It has an obvious military feel to it, with a clear industrial touch. The families who don’t live in this building, live in a second building for the most part. There are few stand-alone buildings of any kind. Everything you need in a city is inside these buildings. There is a grocery store, laundromat, post office, health clinic, city hall, barbershop, etc. The whole city is in these two buildings. You will also find a church in the basement. Life is amazing inside the Begich Towers, where everything you need is under the same roof.
Even the children are protected from severe weather and heavy snowfall. There is a tunnel that leads directly to their school rooms from the main building. How is that for walking to school? With average snow on the ground of 33 inches from December to April, this is a very real blessing to the children. The tunnel keeps them warm and safe during the worst of the winter weather. These harsh winter days often include brutal winds of 60 miles an hour or more. Yes, the tunnel is a blessing to the children of Whittier, Alaska.
One big question that comes to mind, is where do the visitors stay? There are no worries here, as the top two stories of Begich Towers, have an amazing bed and breakfast. These must be the prettiest condos in this unique and tiny village. There are also some small restaurants to meet all your needs. These are so inviting that you may forget that they are not in Anchorage. Life is an adventure and it all begins in Whittier, Alaska.
If you’re looking for more reasons to visit the Whittier Alaska area, then let us suggest the awesome mountainous wilderness that makes up the Chugach National Forest. In the Chugach National Forest, you will find amazing camping opportunities within a misty wilderness that is just waiting to be experienced. But if you want to enjoy this region while camping, having a winter camping tent and camping gear is highly recommended. For example, a collapsible silicone camping bowl is perfect for traveling.
Two major campgrounds that are filled with awesome views and trails are Black Bear and Williwaw. The term “Williwaw” means “big wind.” Black Bear Campground is undeveloped but is an awesome stop for climbers and hikers who are hiking the trails. It is small and great for car camping or tents. Williwaw is a little larger and can accommodate RV’s and trailers, as well as tents. While Black bear Campground has all the beautiful tall trees, Williwaw has the shorter but bushier trees that lead to more private campsites. Because there are fewer of the tall trees blocking the view in Williwaw, you will find there are many views of the beautiful Middle Glacier. There is a paved and wheelchair-friendly trail called Blue Ice, that links both campgrounds with the visitors Center. Both Black Bear Campground and Williwaw Campground are excellent base camps for exploring the Chugach National Forest, with its many trails throughout a vast wilderness. If you are looking for breathtaking vistas of the glaciers, well-groomed, and even wheelchair-friendly trails, then these remote wilderness campgrounds are loaded with adventure especially for you. So let’s get out and discover the thrills of the Chugach National Forest!
One of the newest major attractions in the Chugach National Forest is the “Glacier Discovery Train’s Whistle Stop Service.” You can begin your adventure in Anchorage and travel to Grandview. You will be making stops in the towns of Girdwood, Portage, Whittier, and Spencer and Portage Glaciers. What a great adventure to add to any cruise up the Inside Passage of Alaska. On the Glacier Discovery Train’s Whistle Stop Service, you will experience parts of the Chugach National Forest that few have ever discovered.
A perfect view of this magnificent glacier while hiking the Blue Ice Trail in the Chugach National Forest near Whittier, Alaska. This view alone makes the hike well worth the effort. This is only one of the spectacular views you will experience while on this amazing trail.
The Whittier entrance to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the beginning of a monumental drive through a complete mountain. Built-in 1943 as part of the war effort, it was originally a railroad tunnel built under Maynard Mountain, and currently services both vehicles and rail cars. When in Whittier, this is the only way to come and go by land. There is only one lane built for vehicles and it is monitored closely during the day and closed at night. Only one-way traffic can go through at a time. This is the longest highway tunnel in North America, and will both start and end your Whittier adventure if Anchorage is your point of entry and departure.
Coming out of the tunnel at Whittier, a sign directs vehicles to keep to the left and enter the highway, whereas trains go straight ahead on the track. Notice the light for the train to enter the tunnel, as there is only one lane for all to share. Without this unique tunnel, Whittier would be cut off completely for land travel.
The Chugach National Forest is a lovely forest of a variety of trees and shrubs. As you walk through the forest the aroma is magnificent. Many of the pines and the Black Spruce produce medicinal oils that are always in great demand. A forest of this caliper is the perfect piece of paradise to make your base camp. Just think of the natural and healing oils that will be a part of your days and nights. This is the perfect formula for a truly restful and healing adventure. During the day you can explore the many trails and gaze at the beautiful and fascinating glaciers.
Be sure to visit the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center when near Black Bear Campground and Williwaw Campground. At the visitors center, you will be able to discover all the amazing benefits this forest has to offer. Gather the history and culture behind how these trees, shrubs, bushes, and berries were used by the native peoples for hundreds of years. Learn about the wildlife that calls the forest home, and enjoy unlocking the amazing secrets of America’s second-largest national forest.
During the summer months, there is a fireside program presented by an interpreter of the forest service. These are held on Fridays and Saturday nights at the Williwaw Campground. Come learn about the cultural heritage of the area, and explore the fascinating lives of the salmon that live in the waters of the park. Delve into the habits of the different bears that coexist in the national park. These presentations are free of charge and family-friendly.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sundays there are guided hikes down the Bryon Glacier Trail. The trail is easy walking, well kept up, and suitable for all ages. This hike leaves from the Bryon Glacier Trail-head at 2 PM. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the glacier and its history, as well as the park that surrounds the many glaciers.
The Chugach National Forest is a haven for forgers of berries, mushrooms, and leaves that are used for medicinal teas. If you know what you are doing in the forest, it is a forgers haven, but for those who are clueless and are new to forging, it can also spell danger. This beautiful mushroom is just gorgeous on the forest floor, but it is very dangerous and causes one to have hallucinations. This is a perfect example of something pretty to look at, but best left on the forest floor. There are many groups that teach forging skills and take new forgers out for their first experiences forging in the forest. If this is something you are interested in doing, ask around at the different visitor centers. You will find more information about the different mushrooms, leaves, barks, and berries at the visitor’s centers, also. So as you hike through the forest, enjoy the different species and remember, that pretty can be dangerous.
The official State Tree of Alaska honor was given to the Sitka Spruce in 1962. The Sitka Spruce receives its name from the Sitka Sound, where this amazingly tall tree grows abundantly. The Sitka Spruce is the tallest of the conifers throughout the world. The misty ocean air and the thick fog all help this amazing tree to thrive and grow so large and beautiful.
Alaska is home to an amazing population of Bald Eagles. These tall trees provide the perfect spot for Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons to roost. Its tasty green foliage is food for the elk, bears, hares, deer, and rabbits. This beautiful tree can be found on the coast from California all the way to Alaska. The Sitka Spruce is just another piece of our special American heritage.
The Sitka Spruce is also another piece in the economy of Alaska, as many things are made from her wood. Some of the world’s best-sounding boards are made from this beautiful tree and can be found in the piano, guitar, and other musical instruments. Perhaps the next time you go to a concert you will be listening to an instrument with a sounding board made from her beautiful wood. So relax and enjoy yet another piece of the history of the beautiful Chugach National Forest in Alaska.
If you are looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Alaska, then Whittier, Alaska is a perfect starting place. A Whittier adventure will include some of the most spectacular glaciers and the Chugach National Forest is full of surprises. Accommodations are available and you will find them unique and high quality. So why not make this the year that you take a cruise up the Inside Passage, with a side trip to Whittier, Alaska?