Whittier is a town with breathtaking views, an interesting history, and even a fun tunnel! What more do you need in a town? Visitors can enjoy the exquisite vistas, spot stunning wildlife, and also learn about Whitter’s significant past.
If you are looking for what to do in Whittier Alaska, you’ll find plenty of activities in and around the town, including hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Plus, the town is steeped in history and culture. One of the best reasons to visit Whittier is its incredible scenery. The Chugach Mountains offer stunning views no matter what time of year you visit.
Keep reading for more info on planning your day in Whittier.
Overview Of Whittier, Alaska
Whittier is a peculiar but beautiful amalgamation of majestic glaciers and verdant mountains. The town is small, with a population of only 272 people as of 2020. However, many people flock to the town to bask in its natural splendor.
Most of the town’s inhabitants live in a 14-story building called Begich Towers that also houses a post office, a church, a notary, a grocery store, and a school.
The town was named after American poet John Greenleaf Whittier after a nearby glacier was named for him.
Prince William Sound can be easily accessed from Whittier. Whittier is also close to the world’s largest concentration of tidewater glaciers. There are several activities to indulge in and around Whitter.
Whittier is a tiny town, yet it has a few inordinately interesting attractions to visit. Many of these sites can be visited on a private walking tour, and you can also check out the unique wildlife via a wildlife walking tour. (Be sure to take your binoculars!)
Prince William Sound Museum
Situated in the Anchor Inn Hotel, the Prince William Sound Museum charges $5 admission and gives a detailed exposition of Whittier’s history. Totaling thirty-two exhibits, the museum is brimming with information about Whittier’s World War II Past and its role during the Cold War.
It also contains information about the town as it stands and the industries that support it. It’s a must-see for that history buff in your family!
Although not in Whittier’s town center, Portage Glacier is a short drive from Whittier and is not to be missed. You can also take a boat tour to the glaciers or hike there via the Portage Pass Trail.
The hike takes you in the footsteps of Russian fur traders, Alaskan native tribes like the Sugpiaq people, and early settlers. The trail is four miles out and back and is rather difficult, so you might want to leave young kids for this one!
The view of Portage Glacier is an incredibly rewarding one, and you can picnic on the gravel beach on Portage Lake as a further reward.
Best Activities For Families
Given the splendid natural landscapes that can be found in and around Whittier, there are plenty of activities that would make any family member smile! Families will be at no loss to find something to do.
Cruise To Prince William Sound
Owing to the spectacular views that can be observed at Prince William Sound, booking an excursion cruise for the Sound is one of the most popular activities in Whittier. During this half-day trip, you will see dozens of glaciers, and you can be so lucky as to see seals, sea otters, and possibly even whales.
You will be entranced by the stupendous waterfalls and monolithic glaciers, from which ice will fall in a spectacular fashion. It’s definitely a bucket list item.
Hike Horsetail Falls Trail
Another way to get up close and personal with some waterfalls Is to hike the Horsetail Falls Trail. This hike is appropriate for people of all fitness levels at two miles long and with no impossibly steep sections. The whole family can take part in observing these beautiful waterfalls.
Take A Sea Kayaking Tour
There are a few options for sea kayaking tours to Prince William Sound. This is perfect for the more adventurous family and grants an unparalleled view of the mountains and glaciers. Kayaks are also less disturbing to animals, so you can get closer to sea otters and even whales.
Ride A Jet Ski
For the adrenaline junkies, taking part in a jet ski tour to the glaciers is possible. The advantage over sea kayaking is that you can cover more territory and thus see more. Whittier is the only place in Alaska where you can book a jet ski tour. It will truly be a day to remember!
Hike The Emerald Cove Trail
This 6-mile trail is of moderate difficulty. The trail leads to a lagoon just perfect for swimming on a hot day. In summer, feel free to pick blueberries and salmonberries in the area. Just be warned that there might be bears in the area with the same idea!
Wear appropriate footwear and, if possible, have trekking poles with you as there can be some mud on the trail. You will be treated to views of both glaciers and waterfalls along this trail. It is a great option for families as it is not too difficult, and its beauty will encourage the kids along the way.
What is Whittier, Alaska, Known For?
Whittier is known for being the gateway to Prince William Sound. Here, at Prince William Sound, you can feast your eyes on mammoth glaciers, terrific waterfalls, and varied wildlife.
The only terrestrial access to Whittier is also quite well known as it constitutes North America’s longest tunnel. The tunnel is known as the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, named for the previous mayor of Anchorage, and accommodates both trains and vehicles.
The tunnel, also known as the Whittier Tunnel, is only made up of one lane and must be shared between cars and trains traveling in both directions. There is a schedule that determines when cars may enter the tunnel. It stretches 2.5 miles.
The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is only a part of a larger story about the history of Whittier. The town was constructed and controlled exclusively by the armed forces during World War II. It was used as a transport hub that aided the US military in the defense against the Japanese invasion.
Begich Towers also has interesting roots. It was constructed for bachelor officer quarters and family housing starting in 1953 and was then known as the Hodge Building.
The military transferred the building to the State of Alaska and subsequently deeded it to the City of Whittier in 1973. It was then renamed Begich Towers to honor Congressman Nick Begich, Sr., who vanished while aboard a Cessna 310.
Whittier is a great place to explore the natural beauty of Alaska. With plenty of hiking and fishing opportunities and wildlife viewing, there is something for everyone in this lovely town. Plus, Whittier is steeped in history and culture, providing an extra layer of interest for those who want to learn more about Alaska. No matter what time of year you visit, the Chugach Mountains offer stunning views that are well worth capturing on camera. Start planning your visit today!