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14 Incredible Things to Do in Girdwood, Alaska

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Girdwood is a small Alaskan town with a tight-knit feel. Located at the base of the Chugach Mountains, it’s surrounded by lush green forests and majestic glaciers. Even though it’s small in size,, there are plenty of things to do in Girdwood, Alaska.

From world-class snowboarding and skiing to epic hikes, kayaking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and more, it makes a name for itself as a place for adventure. 

If you’re planning to visit Girdwood any time soon, then do read this guide till the end as it covers various activities you can enjoy in Girdwood at different times of the year.

Things You Should Know About Girdwood Before Visiting

Waterfall in Alaska
Image Source: Unsplash

Before visiting Girdwood, Alaska, remember its weather is notoriously unpredictable, so pack for all seasons with rain gear, layers, and outdoor essentials like sunscreen and bug spray. This outdoor adventure hub requires bear awareness, so learn safety practices and consider carrying bear spray. 

Guided tours are helpful for activities like dog sledding and sea kayaking. Girdwood is accessible from Anchorage, but a rental car will give you more freedom. Note that cell service can be spotty, so download maps in advance. 

While Girdwood is a resort destination, the town itself is small, so stock up on supplies in Anchorage.  Expect Alaskan prices and a laid-back vibe, allowing for flexibility in your trip. Finally, keep your eyes peeled for incredible wildlife like moose, bears, and eagles, always observing them from a safe distance!

Summer Activities to Enjoy in Girdwood

Girdwood summers are full of exciting things to do. From hiking to wildlife viewing, you can enjoy a lot of activities, such as:

Hiking

Three people hiking in Girdwood, Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Location: Winner Creek Trail, Byron Glacier Trail, and Crow Pass Trail

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or out for a family stroll, Girdwood’s got the trails for you. The Winner Creek Trail is a perfect choice for all ages – it takes you through a lush rainforest and even has a fun hand-pulled tram to cross the creek.

Want to see a glacier up close? The Byron Glacier Trail is short but steep, rewarding you with incredible ice views. And if you dream of a true Alaskan challenge, the legendary Crow Pass Trail is an unforgettable multi-day hike with stunning mountain and glacier panoramas.

Biking

A man biking in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Location: Indian Bike Path and trails in Chugach State Park

Hop on a bike and explore Girdwood’s gorgeous landscapes. The paved Indian Bike Path is perfect for a leisurely ride with beautiful views. Feeling adventurous? Head to Chugach State Park, a massive playground for mountain bikers.

You’ll find many trails, from smooth and beginner-friendly to wild and technical, all surrounded by the breathtaking Alaskan wilderness.

Kayaking

Kayaking in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Location: Turnagain Arm, Prince William Sound, Portage Lake, and Six Mile Creek

Try kayaking in Turnagain Arm, where you can see beluga whales and watch amazing tidal waves. Take a sea kayaking trip in stunning Prince William Sound, with tall cliffs and lots of sea animals. For a calm paddle with great views, visit Portage Lake and get close to glaciers. Or, pick Six Mile Creek for a pretty route where you might see wildlife.

Gold Panning

A man panning gold in a river
Image Source: iStock

Location: Kenai Peninsula, Six Mile Creek, and Crow Creek Mine

The Kenai Peninsula is famous for its gold mining past, so it’s a great place to increase your chances of finding the good stuff. Closer to Girdwood, try panning in Six Mile Creek or go full-on prospector at the historic Crow Creek Mine and step back into Alaska’s gold rush days.

Fishing

Fishes in a net in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Location: Placer River, Glacier Creek, Winner Creek, and Turnagain Arm

Fishing is pretty much the same as in Girdwood! Test your skills in the beautiful Placer River, Glacier Creek, or Winner Creek, where you can try to catch different kinds of salmon, depending on the season. For an ocean adventure, book a thrilling fishing charter on Turnagain Arm and target salmon or the mighty halibut.

Wildlife Viewing

Bears on the bank of a river
Image Source: iStock

Location: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Get up close and personal with Alaska’s amazing wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Observe majestic bears, playful moose, graceful caribou, and more in a safe and spacious environment.  Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings while hiking, kayaking, and exploring the area, too.

Winter Activities to Enjoy in Girdwood

Girdwood transforms into a snowy wonderland, perfect for classic winter adventures.  From thrilling ski runs to cozy ice-skating sessions, there’s something for everyone in this Alaskan winter paradise.

Skiing and Snowboarding

A man skiing on a mountain in Girdwood, Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Location: Alyeska Resort

If you love skiing or snowboarding, Alyeska Resort is your paradise! This world-renowned resort offers thrilling runs to challenge every skill level, all with incredible mountain scenery as a backdrop. Beginners and experts alike will find their perfect slopes at Alyeska.

Tram Ride

Mount Roberts Tramway
Image Source: iStock

Location: Alyeska Resort Tram

The Alyeska Resort Tram isn’t just for skiers! Take a ride to the mountaintop and experience the incredible 360-degree views of Girdwood’s snowy landscapes.  It’s the perfect way to appreciate the beauty of winter in Alaska, and you might even spot some daring skiers and snowboarders showing off below.

Snowmobiling

A man on a snowmobile

Location: Winner Creek Trail, Chugach State Park, and Alyeska Resort

Ready for an adrenaline rush? Hop on a snowmobile and explore Girdwood’s stunning backcountry. Guided tours will take you zooming through snowy trails in the Winner Creek area, the untouched wilderness of Chugach State Park, or even across majestic glaciers! It’s an unforgettable way to experience Alaska’s winter wonderland.

Ice Skating or Hockey

People playing hockey while ice skating
Image Source: iStock

Location: Outdoor rinks in Girdwood and outdoor rinks in Anchorage

Girdwood’s cozy outdoor rink (when conditions allow) is the perfect place to glide under the open sky and take in the crisp Alaskan air. If you’re craving even more ice time, Anchorage is just a short drive away and offers a choice of indoor and outdoor rinks, perfect for both leisurely skating and thrilling hockey games.

A Winter Tip:  Dress warm and in layers for all your Girdwood adventures. Alaska winters are beautiful, but the temperatures can be chilly.

Year-round Activities to Enjoy in Girdwood

Girdwood isn’t just about summer and winter!  There are awesome things to do all year round, so whenever you visit, you’re sure to find something exciting.

Dog Sledding on Glaciers

Dogs attached to a sled
Image Source: iStock

Location: Punchbowl Glacier

Tours departing from Girdwood will take you to the scenic Punchbowl Glacier, where you’ll meet a friendly team of Alaskan Huskies and mush your way across the glistening ice. It’s a truly unique and unforgettable way to see Alaska.

Attend a Local Festival

Summer Festival in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Location: The Slush Cup and Forest Fair

Get a taste of Girdwood’s fun-loving spirit by attending one of its unique festivals. The Slush Cup in the spring is a hilarious spectacle, and the Forest Fair in the summer is filled with music, food, and local crafts. It’s a great way to connect with the locals and experience the heart of Girdwood.

Explore Glacial Valley

A woman sightseeing the Portage Glacier
Image Source: iStock

Location: Portage Glacier and Begich Boggs Visitor Center

Visit the Begich Boggs Visitor Center to learn about the area’s glacial history, then get up close to the majestic Portage Glacier. You might even take a boat cruise on Portage Lake to see it from a different angle.

Visit Spas

Location: Alyeska Resort and Glacier Valley Day Spa

Treat yourself to a luxurious spa day! The Alyeska Resort offers a pampering experience within its hotel, while the Glacier Valley Day Spa is another option for indulging in massages, facials, and pure relaxation.

Cool Facts & Figures About Girdwood

  • Girdwood gets an incredible amount of snow each year – over 60 feet! That’s a winter sports enthusiast’s dream.
  • The Alyeska Aerial Tram whisks you up 2,300 feet, offering breathtaking views during the ride.
  • Chugach State Park is enormous, with almost half a million acres! It’s a true wilderness playground.
  • The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center cares for roughly 200 animals, representing many of Alaska’s iconic species.

Bottom Line

Aerial View from a mountain in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Girdwood isn’t about ticking off a checklist – it’s about feeling the magic of Alaska. Hike a trail, breathe in that glacier air, and you’ll understand. Maybe you’ll pan for gold and strike it lucky or watch a moose wander by. 

Whether it’s the rush of speeding down a snowy slope or the quiet paddle across a lake, Girdwood will awaken something inside you.  This isn’t just a vacation. It’s a feeling you’ll carry home, a reminder of what it means to live truly. So, what are you waiting for? Girdwood is calling!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Girdwood known for?

Girdwood relishes its reputation as Alaska’s only true resort community. Girdwood, located 45 minutes south of Anchorage, is home to the magnificent Alyeska Resort, exciting and entertaining festivals, and endless opportunities for year-round outdoor action amid breathtaking mountain scenery.

2. Is Girdwood walkable?

Girdwood has a fantastic isolated walking route that is suitable for both pedestrians and cyclists. The walkways, combined with GVT, make all parts of the town easily accessible.

3. Is Girdwood worth visiting?

Girdwood offers several fantastic hiking opportunities within North America’s northernmost temperate coastal rainforest. One such trail is the Winner Creek Trail, which winds through beautiful woodland and features a unique hand tram crossing Glacier Creek, suspended 100 feet above the ground. It’s a breathtaking experience amidst the lush surroundings of this remarkable ecosystem.

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