Girdwood is just a 45-minute drive south of Anchorage, nestled near the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet at the base of Mount Alyeska, the main ski resort in Alaska. While it’s close to the big city, it’s an entirely different world, surrounded by glaciers, rushing rivers, and towering peaks.
The only true resort town in the state, some might be under the impression that it’s only a place to enjoy skiing and other snow sports, but there is a wide range of things to do in Girdwood, Alaska.
The town got its start in the 1890s as a supply camp for gold miners and has quite an interesting past to explore. Visitors can also take part in a wealth of year-round outdoor adventures, relax while soaking up jaw-dropping scenery, and much more.
One of the top ski resorts in the state, Alyeska Resort offers over 1,600 skiable acres with trails for beginners, intermediates, and the advanced, making it a fabulous winter destination.
After a day of any kind of play, you can bliss out at the spa. Located in a private, forested outdoor environment in a building nearby, it offers a decadent menu of treatments, including pampering massages, a Nordic hydrotherapy experience in outdoor hot and cold pools, along with multiple other facilities.
Alyeska Resort also recently debuted a 600 foot long Veilbreaker skybridge! Suspended 2500 feet above the valley floor, the two skybridges span the peaks of Alyeska Mountain, Mighty Mite, and Glacier Bowl and offer stunning views of Alaska’s wild landscape! It’s the perfect addition for any summer vacation bucket list.
Alyeska Aerial Tram
The most popular attraction in Girdwood is the perfect place to start. The Alyeska Aerial Tram runs from the base of Alyeska Resort to the top of Mount Alyeska, providing a stunning panoramic view over Turnagain Arm, glistening glaciers and the Chugach Mountains.
Along the ride, you’ll get a stunning perspective of the scenery that surrounds you. At the top, there are trails for downhill skiing, biking, and hiking, if you’re up for an adventure. You’ll find a small cafe and the gourmet Seven Glaciers restaurant here too, along with a museum, which brings us to our next thing to do in Girdwood.
The Roundhouse Museum
If you want to learn more about Girdwood and its history, while you’re at the summit of Mount Alyeska, be sure to visit The Roundhouse. An octagonal building originally built to be a warming hut and ski lift terminus, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now serves as a museum and interpretive center. You’ll see various displays depicting the history of skiing and mining in the area, including historic skiing equipment.
Did you know that you can go summer dog sledding in Girdwood? You can head to a glacier by helicopter for a thrilling dog sledding tour through the snow. The journey to get there is part of the adventure, as you’ll get a bird’s-eye view over snow-capped peaks as you travel into the heart of glacier country.
Pan for Gold
Gold panning was very popular in the 19th and early part of the 20th century, particularly in places known for big finds that helped kick off a gold rush like Alaska.
Goldmining is responsible for birthing Girdwood, and today, visitors can try it firsthand at the Crow Creek Gold Mine. It was established in 1896 and produced around 700 ounces of gold every month at its peak. You’ll be provided with expert tips and all the necessary equipment, an activity fun for the entire family. The property also features a number of historic buildings from the mining era to explore.
There may be no better way to see the remote backcountry of the Girdwood area than by air. A flightseeing tour will reveal some of the most unspoiled wilderness in a safe way, without having to spend a significant amount of time exploring on foot.
You’ll marvel at sweeping vistas which include the endless glacier-filled terrain, dramatic snow-capped mountain peaks, and a variety of unique geologic features. You might even spot some remarkable wildlife below – the expert pilots at Alpine Air Alaska are great at pointing them out, thanks to their eagle-like eyes and years of experience flying in Alaska.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
If you want to enjoy guaranteed encounters with a wide range of Alaskan wildlife, head to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It’s not a zoo, but rather a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s animals through research, conservation, care, and education.
The conversation center includes everything from moose and brown bears to lynx and wood bison in a spacious, 200-acre habitat that mimics their natural environment. Most of the animals here were orphaned or injured, and the center allows them to thrive in their new home. It’s an ideal place for all types of visitors to see Alaskan’s furry and feathered residents “in the wild.”
Chugach State Park
Chugach is the third-largest state park in the U.S., covering 9,000 square miles, with breathtaking terrain that’s ideal for hiking, rafting, kayaking, and more. With the help of Alpine Air Alaska and Chugach Adventures, you can access spots deep within via helicopter to enjoy some unforgettable activities.
During our heli adventures, you’ll fly, float, and hike while watching for wildlife, with this once-in-a-lifetime experience kicking off by soaring above the rivers and glaciers. After landing, you’ll embark on the heart-pounding thrill of kayaking or whitewater rafting through rushing waters before topping it all off with a hike through untouched forest.
Local Food and Shopping
If you want to purchase souvenirs or gifts for friends and family, Girdwood offers some fantastic options where you can find locally made items. Girdwood Center for Visual Arts, Mother Hubbard’s Co., and Slack Tide Gallery, for example, offer everything from pottery and artwork to clothing and jewelry. There are also local shops specializing in outdoor gear, including ski equipment for rent and for sale at the Powder Hound Ski Shop.
When it comes to local dining and drinking spots, you’ll have some excellent choices. Girdwood Brewing Company is a local brewer with a unique Alaskan vibe and a timber-framed taproom. On a pleasant afternoon or evening, there’s a beer garden with seating and fire pits providing the perfect spot to sip a cold brew. A series of rotating taps plus four core beers and non-alcoholic beverages are available, along with a rotating variety of gourmet food trucks to pair with your drink. Sit back and enjoy the fun, relaxing local mountain town atmosphere!
Jack Sprat Restaurant is a local favorite you won’t want to miss with a wide range of options focused on delicious and healthy. The menu includes something for everyone from carnivores to vegans, including humanely raised meats, sustainably produced seafood, and locally grown vegetables.
Plan your Adventure in Girdwood, Alaska
No matter what tempts you most, perhaps flightseeing, dog sledding, or even a heli adventure, contact Alpine Air Alaska to make it happen. We offer the longest-running helicopter tour service in the region, with an extensive safety record and exceptional customer service that’s likely to make you feel as if you’re visiting friends or family. Contact us today for more information!