Girdwood is a ski town located about 45 minutes south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway. Upon our arrival, our focus was on overnighting in the Alyeska Resort’s gravel parking lot ($10 to dry camp overnight/5 nights max), the Winner Creek Trail and Crow Pass Trail. What we didn’t expect was to find a small town with a lot of character and gorgeous scenery to go along with it.
The large gravel lot at the Alyeska was picturesque in and of itself. When low hanging clouds weren’t obstructing them, lush green mountains with some lingering snow at the top were visible on all sides, capped off with views of hanging glaciers. (Girdwood used to be named, “Glacier City”, for a reason!). We were stationed right next to the ski lift that cost $25/person in summer or is free with reservations for dinner at the fine dining restaurant up top. We didn’t check it out but imagine there are some spectacular views to be had at the top.
As we checked out more of Girdwood, we had some great Pad Thai from the food cart downtown, played a jumbo homemade game of chess, and visited “America’s #1 Laundromat” – the “Laundromall”, which was pretty darn nice, we had to say! And started by a guy from Jersey, no less!
We also took time to walk around town to admire the electic architecture. From fences built out of skis to ultra modern new construction to some of the most immaculate log cabins we’d ever seen, every house really drew us in for different reasons and made us wonder what stories might lie behind them.
Though we just missed their big Forest Fair, we also happened to be around for the finish line of the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon – the hardest of its kind in North America, including a 2.6 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 27 mile run. It made us unimaginably exhausted just thinking about it, but the athletes seemed to handle it like champs! If we’ve learned one thing about Alaska from being up here, it’s that they LOVE mountain races and their extreme sports!
Winner Creek Trail
The Winner Creek Trail is best known as the “hand tram” hike. After traveling three miles through a temperate rainforest from the Lower Winner Creek trailhead (we added an extra 0.6 miles starting at the Alyeska), hikers are met with a self-propelled cable car that traverses 100 feet above the fast-moving Winner Creek. The car can be operated by its occupants by pulling on ropes connected to a pulley system, or anyone on the platform can help pull the ropes as well. There were plenty of people helping one another, but we decided to give it a try ourselves – with the caveat that if we were taking too long, we’d ask others to help us to move things along. We were glad we tried as it was definitely a thrill!
Girdwood was one of the coolest small towns we found in Alaska and we’d love to see it in its glory in winter sometime. The architecture, the food, even the local radio had a very cool vibe! At only an extremely scenic hour’s drive on the Seward Highway from Anchorage (see cover photo), we’d definitely recommend putting it on your to-do list when RVing Alaska!