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.