A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Fairbanks: 46°/79°/Partly sunny
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WATER WAYS: Town draws kayakers, scuba fans and cruise ships.
The Prince William Sound community of Whittier is a gorgeous hour-and-a-half drive from Anchorage that leaves city life far behind.
One of the trip's highlights is the two-and-a-half mile Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel -- the longest highway tunnel in North America. Cars and trains take turns traveling through the one-lane tunnel, so you might have to wait a few minutes. Check the schedule in advance at www.dot.state.ak.us/creg/whittiertunnel/schedule.shtml.
While it may be known as a quaint port town nestled at the base of beautiful surrounding mountains and named in 1915 for American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, it is an also important stop on the Alaska Marine Highway, a must-see destination for cruise ship tourists and a turnaround point for many cruise ship operators.
Most activities in Whittier involve water -- cruising, kayaking, wildlife viewing and fishing -- all available through local tour and charter boat operators.
"This is a very popular destination for kayaking and surprisingly, year-round scuba diving right from the beach at Smitty's Cove," said Kelly Bender, vice president of the Whittier Chamber of Commerce. She said the halibut and silver salmon derbies have been combined this year (a targeted weight will be published), and the three contestants closest to the target weight will win.
"Hopefully, the biggest halibut can stay put to encourage people to preserve this important resource, and maybe they'll bring out only the halibut closest to the target weight to win the derby and leave the huge ones behind to breed," she said.
Shrimping during the season is a productive pastime too, Bender said, and snowmobilers enjoy a long season. Smitty's Road has been carved out for a splendid two-mile drive with a scenic turnout on Shotgun Cove Road.
"That drive is spectacular," she said. "I encourage everyone to get down that road and experience it."
While you're in Whittier, step onto land and check out great trails that will bring hikers close to nature through wildlife, glaciers and waterfalls. For the historian in you, Whittier is full of opportunities to learn about the significance of this vibrant port destination, and there are plenty of annual events the whole family can enjoy.
Halibut and Silver Salmon Derby
These derbies have been combined this year and the Small Fry Derby has been discontinued. Another change: Salmon Derby contestants place first, second and third based on true weight. Halibut Derby ticket holders use a published targeted weight, and the three contestants closest to the targeted weight win.
WHERE: Prince William Sound
WHEN: Halibut Derby is May 1 to Sept. 15. Salmon Derby is June 1 to Sept. 15. Weigh-in from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Fee's Custom Seafoods on the Whittier Harbor Triangle
COST: $10 for a daily entry or $30 for the week (separate fee for each fish species) and $100 for the season (includes both species)
Walk to Whittier
The 2.5-mile Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is closed to traffic but open to pedestrians during this walk on Father's Day; the opening is sponsored by the March of Dimes and Whittier Chamber of Commerce.
WHERE: Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, Portage Glacier Highway from Portage to Whittier
WHEN: June 17; registration for the March of Dimes Walk Thru the Tunnel is at 12:45 p.m. ,and the walk starts at 1:30 p.m.
COST: Registration is $25 per person and $50 for a family.
WEB: www.marchforbabies.org; participants must register online prior to the event.
Old Fashioned Family 4th of July
Have fun at this free family event. Just before midnight on July 3, enjoy the fireworks display; then celebrate the Fourth at noon with a parade, games and a free barbecue.
WHERE: Downtown Whittier
WHEN: July 3-4
The museum, created in 2005, showcases Whittier's contribution to Alaska's role in military history.
WHERE: Inside the Anchor Inn, 100 Whittier St.
WHEN: Summer, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; winter, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
COST: Donations accepted
PHONE: 907-472-2354 or 877- 870-8787
A 1,400-foot-elevation boardwalk trail offers tremendous waterfall and Passage Canal views.
WHERE: Follow Whittier Street past the cement barracks, turn right off the paved road and follow the dirt road up the hill. Follow the sign at the fork in the dirt road to Horsetail Falls. The trail begins on the right side of the road at the top of the hill.
WHEN: Year-round, weather permitting
This 1 1/2-mile trail offers a view from the other side of Portage Lake and Portage Glacier.
WHERE: Turn left just before the tunnel and cross the railroad tracks; signs will point the way. Parking is available at the trail head.
WHEN: Year-round, weather permitting.
Bike and Walking Path
A multi-use path begins at the tunnel and runs through town along the harbor. Take a bike, the kids, the dog.
WHERE: Starting at the tunnel, the trail follows Camp Road.
For all hiking and more recreational ideas, visit the Chugach National Forest website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/chugach/recreation/hiking/