Hiking and sight-seeing in Valdez, land of waterfalls. Part 1: Keystone Canyon Pack Trail of 1889

As a continuation of our weekend road trip, we set off from McCarthy early in the morning, went back onto McCarthy road, Edgerton highway, then onto Richardson highway and headed South towards Valdez. Edgerton Highway and McCarthy road have beautiful views and you can see some pictures of the scenery in my earlier post on McCarty and Kennicott. You can also read about the Bonanza Trail Hike, a beautiful hike up the challenging Kennecott Bonanza mine trail in that post.

It was a beautiful drive from McCarthy to Valdez, and could have been more beautiful if not for the rain and clouds that day, blocking out some really great views of Thompson Pass.  At milepost 30.1 of the Richardson highway, there are large turnouts both sides of the highway with excellent views of Worthington Glacier. A short way down at mile 29, you arrive at Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site. There are two hiking trails there. The steeper and more difficult Ridge trail will bring you much right to the edge of the glacier. Another paved trail there gives you a good-enough shot of the glacier, such as the one taken below.

The scenery just gets better from here. You arrive at Thompson Pass at mile 25.9 and enter Keystone Canyon at mile 15.7. and from there, you will see quite a few waterfalls along the face of the mountains you drive past. Of course, the most beautiful ones are Bridal Veil Falls (milepost 13.9) and Horsetail Falls (milepost 13.5) shown below.

An interesting place to visit in Valdez would be the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. Unfortunately, it being late May, wasn’t salmon spawning season yet and the hatchery was closed. We couldn’t access the walkway that lead us to a self-guided tours on the outside of the hatchery. Hopefully, we will get to come back later in summer in when the salmon comes back to spawn. Bears can be seen then near the hatchery feasting on the fish.

The hike: Keystone Canyon Pack Trail of 1889

The first hike we did at Valdez was the Keystone Canyon Pack Trail of 1889. This historic trail was used as a military pack trail as the best glacier-free route from coastal to interior Alaska. You can read more about the history of the trail here, here, and here. The last link provided also gives some directions to the trail.

Directions:

We started this hike from the large paved turnout across Bridal Veil Falls. Near the south end of the paved turnout, you will see the trail head of Goat Trail. Start from there; it will later split into two paths leading you to either the Canyon Pack Trail, or the Wagon Trail.

Just a word of caution if you are extremely afraid of heights like me.  I felt more terrified on this trail than at the much steeper hike of Bonanza trail (3800 feet elevation) I did the previous day. Shortly getting onto the pack trail from the goat trail, you will get to a section where there’s a rope at the side for you to use. I am just so very glad we did the trail from this direction; I very much prefer to be going up at steep slippery places than coming down. At a particularly steep and slippery section, I had to just take a pause of 30 seconds to brace myself and haul myself up. It’s a completely do-able trail but just that if you are like me who will feel your knees buckle just looking out a 10-storey high balcony, the first part of the trail will make you a bit nervous because of the narrow path and steepness.

Opposite Bridal Veil Falls:

The section with the rope. It didn’t look like much but it was rather steep and slippery from the rain the previous day. 😖

                

Another plus of hiking back to goat trail trail head along the highway is that you get to see Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls again, plus the river and smaller waterfalls on the face of the mountains along the highway.


    

I hope you will get to hike this trail when you are in beautiful Valdez! Will be posting my hike up Worthington glacier and Thompson Pass soon!

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4 thoughts on “Hiking and sight-seeing in Valdez, land of waterfalls. Part 1: Keystone Canyon Pack Trail of 1889

  1. Great pics! And I know that pictures never capture what you really see and feel when you’re out there.

    In case you don’t have one, or a set, yet you should get yourself a good walking stick to help with those tricky spots. And if you are walking on ice at altitude you definitely should get yourselves some crampons. Some people also recommend an ice axe in case you do fall, to catch yourself. Happy hiking!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, midmiocene! Yes! You are absolutely right in suggesting that I should get a good walking stick or hiking poles. I’m quite new to hiking, and don’t have a lot of gear yet, and the lack of experience means that we often wish we had this or that halfway on our trails – often too late! hahaha! I remember how much of help it was when once, on a guided hiking trip, we were given hiking poles. They definitely made it easier and gave scaredy-cats like me the confidence and support when hiking down steep slopes. I must remember to bring my hiking poles next time! Ah! Good suggestion about the the ice ax! That really makes a lot of sense!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t forget the crampons if going on ice. I once almost slipped off a high, steep, narrow trail covered in ice in the mountains of Yosemite. It would have been a long way down. Sorry to lecture. :/

        Liked by 1 person

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