Girdwood Alaska – Its Not All Gold Panners and Bush People
I’m not sure why but I never expected a resort style ski village in Alaska, much less a good one. But low and behold, a short 36 miles south of Anchorage is the little resort town of Girdwood and it is totally our kinda place.
We picked up Jason’s mom, Mary, from the airport in Anchorage and we began making our way towards the Kenai Peninsula and Seward, Alaska. I honestly don’t even remember how we came to know about this place…maybe it was the cheap RV camping or the fact that we didn’t want to drive very far, but we knew for sure we wanted to get out of Anchorage. Honestly we didn’t expect much considering our Alaska book labeled it as “parking lot camping” and that doesn’t exactly have much appeal, especially when we’re trying to show mom a proper Alaskan-Good Time.
Perhaps the extreme Alaskan reality tv shows have skewed our perception of the state and now all we imagine is gold diggers panners and bush people. I don’t even watch those shows but I still know of them. However, that image is a far cry from what we’ve experienced so far (yes, we’ve seen some gold panners and bushy looking people but it’s not the norm by any stretch of the imagination). Here in Girdwood, and the Alyeska Resort Village, those typical preconceived notions couldn’t be any further from reality.
There seems to be a little bit of everything here; a sky tram, several ski lifts, mountain biking, hang gliding, paddling, cute stylish cafes and an upscale resort hotel. We only had two days here and with so much to do, we needed some recommendations. We searched out some locals (people are so nice here) and after chatting for a bit we were advised with our limited time to skip the fancy resort stuff and put on our hiking shoes. Oh…am I so glad we took their advice!
The Human Powered Tram
Being such a small Alaskan mountain town, there is no shortage of beauty here in Girdwood. It’s surrounded by lush forest, peaks of the Chugach Mountain Range and seven glaciers that look over the valley. Considering this is a ski village, most people head over to the tram for a quick lift to the top of the mountain. But quick and easy isn’t really our style (although we were told you can hike up the mountain and get a free ride down on the tram).
The Winner Creek Gorge Trail starts near the Alyeska hotel and winds 5.5 miles through lush forest, across suspension bridges, over and around waterfalls, a scenic gorge and the coolest little human powered hand tram we’ve ever experienced. So much fun, but seriously, working to get yourself across on this baby and back…well, let’s just say we’re now more thankful for machine power.
After our first day here, we were ready for more and boy did we get it! While Jason was walking the cats a local running with her baby stroller stopped by to chat. Twenty minutes later they’d swapped life-stories and we scored her recommendation for the best hike in the area! Crow Pass Trail is an impressive trek to say the least and considered to be one of the ultimate hikes in all of the Chugach Mountain Range and National Forest.
We knew it was going to be epic so we invited our friend Lynn and her miniature in size, but not in spirit, dog named Nellie to join us on the hike. They had just arrived to be our neighbors for the night so it was perfect timing. Plus, there is no better way to bond with family and friends than setting out on an unknown adventure together.
End to end, it’s a 21-mile trail that most will spend two plus days trekking but we weren’t prepared for that kind of investment. We did however make it about 5 miles in and enjoyed our lunch and a beer at the striking Raven Glacier before turning back. It is a strenuous hike, especially if you end up on the upper path that Jason made us take, but as you can see from the photographs it’s absolutely gorgeous up here!
Sips and Bites
There were so many little places here that we wanted to check out but with our limited visit we only had time for one. And we picked a good one! Jack Sprat is loaded with quirky charm and has a menu that goes from carnivore to vegan. We delighted in Sunday brunch and bloody marys but the biggest surprise was the raw cheesecake… it was incredible (sorry, no photo it was eaten too quickly)!
Where We Parked It
One thing that makes this resort town very different from some of the other ski resorts we’ve visited…is the affordable RV parking! The Alyeska Resort offers $10 overnight parking in their lot. It’s super convenient as its smack in the middle of everything and at the base of the ski lift. It might be the prettiest parking lot we’ve ever camped in!
Our trip here was way to short but we have epic adventures planned closer to Seward and a couple more family members on their way to join in…so onward we must go. Things will only get crazier from here on out. Stay tuned.
Have you been to Girdwood or know of another hidden gem like this? Tell us all about it in the comments below, after all sharing is good for the soul!
Fuel Prices – Fuel is least expensive in Anchorage so make sure to fill up before you head this direction. For the most recent pricing, check out the free Gas Buddy app.
Road Conditions – The Seward Highway is a beautiful drive and in great condition but can get a little congested with local traffic and construction here and there.
Weather – We had beautiful weather here in the mid 70’s during the day with cool nights. It was perfect!
Dates Visited – July 18 – July 20, 2015
Resources – We would suggest some good hiking boots while here (and everywhere). We always chat up the locals for area suggestions but we also consulted the milepost, and read the Church’s Alaskan Camping book.
We are going this july with 2 boys (6,9) and I think they will dig the hand powered tram. Were there any wild camping spots along the way or is the parking lot the best option? We have a 25 ft suncruiser that we are hoping is going to make it all the way up from Los Angeles
Enjoying the photography and video, may I ask what equipment you use? Also, which RV did you use for your Alaskan trip?
We love picking wild berries. Two summers ago while visiting sis-n-law in North Pole it was a bumper crop of raspberries and blueberries. For the blueberries we had to drive up to the hills NW. of Fairbanks in the fields cleared for the fire breaks to pick blueberries. This Aug. we landed some mountain blueberries in NE. PA. and Vermont, Wine-berries in Southern OH. Ended up canning 50 jars of jams from the summer trip to sis-n-laws two years ago. Next year will be our first RVing trip to visit her. Her double wide gravel driveway will make a good boon-docking site. Taking many notes from your travels.
50 jars of jam?!? Sounds like we need to connect with you sometime down the road 🙂
The photos are amazing!!! What little bit I saw was most breathtaking and you guys have captured the beauty in you’re photos for all to see!!! I enjoyed it so… I loved the trail your mom, Lauren and I took in Girdwood on our way back to Anchorage to catch our flights. It was like a fairy tail trail loaded with colorful mushrooms,eatable berries, and moss & ferns throughout! I’d go back just for that trail!!!! We tried to eat at the Double Musky Inn (my nic name for Uncle Mike) but it was packed!!!
Awesome photos Jason! Thanks for sharing. I love following your adventures.
Great blog on Girdwood. We met Jason on the way to Anchorage. Had a great Alaskan adventure except for Dianne’s broken ankle at Bird Creek CG. We have to say the doctor in Anchorage was top notch and the entire medical community friendly and helpful. But we have a lot to go back and do. Now we’ll add Girdwood to the list. Did you get a chance to pick wild blueberries and cranberries? We found them delicious and picked several varieties of edible mushrooms too. Randy and Dianne
Oh yes!!! We still have blueberries and cranberries in our freezer. It was berry heaven and we still get to enjoy it all winter long!
enjoy your blog, look at it often
we are taking our new 27ft travel trailer on maiden voyage from Nor California home to Zion, Bryce Canyon and North Rim Grand Canyon, leaving this Saturday 🙂
Oh baby, that’s gonna be a cold trip! May the weather be on your side 🙂
Brian, if you like good hikes and don’t have acrophobia, I recommend, if weather/conditions permit, the chain-assisted hike to Angel’s Landing in Zion. Did it about a month ago and it was spectacular.
Impressive to say the least … I’ll second you on that one. Be hard to leave here, huh? Wonderful pics of a gorgeous spot on God’s Green Earth.
I wish you wouldn’t post photos of food … it always makes me hungry (and I just ate lunch). Now I have to rummage around in the fridge for a “snack!”
(Check my blog to see where we’re headed next)
Hi Nikki & Jason-
Girdwood looks fantastic, thanks for the pics and info. Adding Girdwood to my list of places to visit!
Unrelated question that you might be able to help with: I know you guys make your living on the road with your videography, ( at least I think that’s what you do). If I wanted to work on the road and sell at RV Shows and related events would you know if there is a resource that lists RV Shows nationwide? And from your experience have you noticed a product that RVers and others might be interested in at a show or event?
Keep the videos coming and thanks for your help!
You can find a list of all of the RV shows at RVIA and there are a wide range of products sold at shows.
How did I miss this place? Gotta go back now. Thanks for sharing. BTW I had to replace my hiking boots while in Alaska. The wet, sharp gravel, and Miles took their toll.
Thank you for your photos;It sure looks beautiful
Very pretty. Still, I admit to looking forward to your return to do perhaps at least one full video just on your batteries 🙂 I miss the RV stuff.
You got some beautiful photos. I’ve done the Winner Creek trail many times and just love it. Only done the hand tram a couple of times because it’s so much arm work even when you have others helping you get across. My hiking book says at the T if you take a left you go to the gorge and the hand tram (the way you went) but if you go right there is the remains of a gold miner’s cabin. I’ve gone looking for it a couple of time but have never found it. I always thought it would be fun to run across. Still the hike is so lovely it doesn’t matter much.
I’ve lived in Alaska more than 20 years. Even so it’s been a joy to read and watch your posts about your discovery of this amazing place. It’s like discovering it all over again.
Great blog, Nikki! From the written details to the fantastic photos – thanks for taking us along for the ride!