Girdwood, Alaska - Best of the Last Frontier
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
Girdwood, Alaska, is an idyllic little place in the Last Frontier with many claims to fame. Not only has it been named among the top 10 greatest mountain towns in the world by Smarter Travel, but even National Geographic continuously ranks Girdwood as the world’s best ski town. This humble hamlet located at the foothills of the Chugach Mountains was formerly known as “Glacier City” due to the colossal rivers of ice that blanket the surrounding mountains. The scenery is larger-than-life and sure to blow even the most frequent of visitors away. In town you’ll find that the vibes are simple, happy and delightfully laid back. Girdwood has a special community feel that makes it easy to fall in love with and never want to leave. [caption id="attachment_9185" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Frank Kovalchek[/caption]
Located roughly 40 miles south of Anchorage, accessing Girdwood along the picturesque Seward Highway is an experience in itself. This winding route that leads down the Turnagain Arm is both an All-American Road and a National Scenic Byway, and was voted America's Most Outstanding Scenic Byway by Scenic America. [caption id="attachment_9188" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Larry Eiring[/caption]
The roadside attractions leading into Girdwood from Anchorage are as good as it gets. McHugh Creek at Mile 111 is a great place take a hike to an unbelievable summit, or to enjoy a picnic in the Anchorage foothills of Chugach State Park. Beluga Point at Mile 110.5 offers the opportunity to view adorable beluga whales from mid-July through August. [caption id="attachment_9186" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - jai Mansson[/caption]
Bird Creek at Mile 101 is a true angler’s nirvana and also has observation platforms that nature photographers flock to. Bird Point at Mile 96 is another scenic stop that you won’t want to miss. [caption id="attachment_9193" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Peter Rintels[/caption]
Girdwood is home to an annual population of less than 2,000 residents. The community revolves heavily around the incredible skiing and snowboarding opportunities at Alyeska Resort. Girdwood's heavy snowfall and mountain slopes form an ideal combination for winter sports. [caption id="attachment_9192" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - pauljoelhancock[/caption]
Other wintertime activities include snowshoeing, snow-machining, flightseeing, ice-climbing, and more. [caption id="attachment_9194" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Samir Luther[/caption]
Girdwood is also a year-round adventure destination. Once the snow melts, the warm spring, summer, and fall months offer all types of outdoor recreational activities. Whitewater rafting and kayaking from Girdwood is a great way to beat the heat on a hot summer day in the Last Frontier. [caption id="attachment_9190" align="aligncenter" width="681"] Flickr - Melanie Chiavatti[/caption]
Hiking trails including Winner Creek, Crow Pass, and Penguin Peak are just a few of the many excellent options that visitors to Girdwood can enjoy. [caption id="attachment_9187" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Jennifer Pack[/caption]
Anyone who has been to Girdwood knows that it is a very dog friendly town. Man’s (and woman’s) best friend is treated like royalty in Girdwood. From casually sitting outside the local Chair 5 Restaurant while collecting scraps from passersby, to posing for photoshoots overlooking ample mountain peaks—dogs in Girdwood know a thing or two about what it means to live the Last Frontier dream. [caption id="attachment_9191" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Pablo Paiz[/caption]
Crow Creek Gold Mine is a great place to learn and experience Alaska’s gold rush days. With the discovery of gold, the mine was established in 1896 and became one the of the most productive placer mines in Alaska. Today, visitors can pan for gold, hike along the Historic Iditarod Trail, or visit the local mess hall, which is the oldest building in the Municipality of Anchorage and on the National Register of Historic Places. [caption id="attachment_9183" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Ayleen Gaspar[/caption]
Bring the family to enjoy the nearby Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to learn about and view the many different species of orphaned animals including bears, wolves, caribou, musk-ox, and much more. [caption id="attachment_9184" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner[/caption]
Girdwood is also home to lots of awesome annual events, including the Forest Fair, Blueberry Festival, and the Slush Cup. [caption id="attachment_9195" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Savannah[/caption]
Girdwood is known for its delicious “foodie” scene. Local area restaurants such as the Double Musky Inn, Jack Sprat, The Bake Shop, Seven Glaciers, Silvertip Grill and Chair 5 are highly raved about. [caption id="attachment_9189" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Lynn D. Rosentrater[/caption]
The Sitzmark Bar & Grill has a great nightlife scene going on with live bands, outdoor fire pits, and vibrant hospitality. [caption id="attachment_9197" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Yelp - Chris R.[/caption]
If you’re someone who prefers to casually take in the sights and local culture without any real plan in mind—Girdwood, Alaska, will not disappoint. This charming mountain town has an easy, breezy feel that is warm, welcoming, and just waiting for you to dive right in. [caption id="attachment_9196" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - vofuth[/caption]
Looking for more where that came from? Check out Girdwood's neighboring town of Portage - the sunken Alaska ghost town that nature is reclaiming. Or read about Whittier - Alaska's gateway to Prince William Sound, was named the weirdest town in America. Be sure to check out this up close and personal view of a day inside the alluring town of Seldovia. Also, check out why Homer, Alaska was named one of America's happiest seaside towns.
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Written by Courtney Dowd-Stanley
I can’t believe they didn’t mention the world famous laundromat with all its artwork. It was even voted the "Most beautiful Laundromat in the country.
In the 70’s Girdwood was growing fast. My wife and I roofed the Jade shop and spent part of the day picking berries. [ remember we had about 20 hours of daylight]
I remember Girdwood from 1956-1960, before there was a ski resort, and a population of 2000 people. One of my favorite places to do day-climbing in the surrounding mountains overlooking Knik Arm.
I visited Girdwood last summer and it truly is everything you stated in your article !
Sorry I missed it, did get to Whittier and homer spit
Been there done that, lived in Alaska since 1966