Alaska - Whittier


What? : Small harbor & train station town at Kenai Peninsula, nothing much to do in this town itself except short visit, there are few nice glaciers nearby. Known to be the “one building town” and deep harbor for cruise and ferry service.


Where? : Located 58 miles southeast of Anchorage.

Google Map Link


My thoughts: This is not a must-visit town, you can spend a few hours visiting here on your way from/to Kenai Peninsula.

A half day visit can be done by drive the 2.5-mile-long train/car tunnel, see the one house town and hike to the glacier viewpoint.


The visit:

Whittier history started at the WW2 as a hidden deep-sea base for the US navy.

In order to provide the Navy-base a land access a 2.5-mile-long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was dig in the mountain connecting it by train to Anchorage.

At the year of 2000 the tunnel was modified to become multi use purpose both for cars and train on the same narrow one-way tunnel.

There are gates that moderate the traffic, on the hour it is open to traffic driving from Whittier out and on the half-hour, it is designated for traffic going into Whittier. 


All cruise that visits Anchorage as well as Alaska ferry service are using Whitter as their main harbor, the ferry to Valdez is departing from here.


The Army maintained Whittier until 1960, leaving behind the 14-story Begich Towers building, where most of Whittier’s residents live today.

All town residence under one roof, the post office is near the entrance and the police station is right down the hall, they even have laundromat, a little market, convenience store, health clinic and even small church in the basement.


There is also large old Buckner Building in town, which was damaged by the 1964 earthquake and close to access.


Interesting place to see is the pedestrian tunnel that connect the harbor to the main town section under the railroad tracks. This place reminds me Doug and Tony from the late 60’s “Time Tunnel” TV show. This is 10 min stop, park your car and walk into the tunnel and take some pictures.


Unlike the ugly “industrial” town looks of Whitter the landscape surrounding it is the complete the opposite.

The town is located at the end of narrow Passage Canal, an offshoot of Prince William Sound, nested underneath towering mountains from all sides.

Whittier receives almost 200 inches of precipitation a year. It is wet weather that makes the landscape so distinctly beautiful with running waters and waterfalls from the mountain cliffs.

Because Whittier proximity to Anchorage the small town is very popular for day activities, from boating and kayaking to fishing and whale-watching tours.


There are also few hiking options at the town.

For us it was heavily raining when we visit Whittier and we decided not to stop for the planned hike (Portage Pass Trail).


Portage Pass Trail:

TH is just when getting out from the tunnel.

This is 4.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back with 1400f elevation. The trail climbs to the ridge and from there you have the view to Portage Glacier on the other side of the lake below.


On the way to Whitter:

Black Bear Campground:

We did not camp here but rather stop for a short hike along the Williwaw Creek. There is a well-maintained boardwalk and a large bridge that allows a great view of the Williwaw Creek.


Begich Boggs Visitor Center:

Portage lake and glacier Visitor center offering exhibits on glacial activity, interpretive programs.


Byron Glacier Trail:

From Portage lake loop road, you can get to Byron Glacier Trail, park at the Byron Glacier Trail Head parking lot on the right side of the road.

This is about 1.5-mile easy hike to the glacier; you can get right up to the foot of the glacier.


Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center:

Located on the junction of hwy 1 and the road to Whittier.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where you can see many local animals in an open area. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation, research, education, and animal care.