Nature January 01, 2019
The Unrivaled Canyon Hike In Alaska Everyone Should Take At Least Once
Alaska has a large amount of incredible natural wonders, and Keystone Canyon is an excellent example of what this fine state has to offer. One of the most easily accessible canyons in the state, it can wow even the most seasoned Alaskan. With a couple of great hikes on offer, the Keystone Canyon Pack Trail wows with some of the best views! Don’t forget to check out the abandoned rail road tunnel on your way in, as well.
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Keystone Canyon is around 12 miles outside of Valdez, Alaska, at about 300 feet elevation. The canyon walls themselves rise up an impressive 600 feet in height.
Keystone Canyon is located between miles 14 through 17 on the Richardson Highway. After coming up and over through Thompson Pass, you descend into the canyon through some spectacular scenery.
The Lowe River, which is only 30 feet at its widest, flows down the floor of the canyon. This river sits side by side with the Richardson Highway as you drive through the narrow canyon walls.
The Lowe River is a popular rafting and kayaking spot, and many people climb the slate rock walls of Keystone Canyon. In the winter it's the scene of fantastic ice climbing, and the Valdez Ice Festival holds its yearly get together every February.
Located along the Old Richardson Loop is a south trailhead. The north trailhead starts at the Bridal Veils Waterfall parking lot.
It is much easier to hike from this parking area, going down the Richardson Highway. You do have a short, steep elevation gain at the beginning of the trail, but it slowly descends down the rest of the hike.
Bridal Veil Falls is a perfect landmark to find to start your hike. The parking lot is across the road from this beautiful waterfall. Bridal Veil Falls is a stunner at 600 feet, and one of the most photographed waterfalls in Keystone Canyon. Because of its height, this is a favorite for ice climbers in the winter.
The Keystone Pack Trail is 2.6 miles long, and approximately 2 hours one way. This trail was the original "Gold Rush Route" through Keystone Canyon.
At one point on the trail, you come to a gorgeous overlook of Horsetail Falls. This stunner deserves at least a short rest stop! Horsetail Falls empties into the Lowe River and is around 330 feet high.
The entire trail was originally built in 1898 by the US Army as the "All-American" route to the Klondike Goldfields. By 1910, it was upgraded to a wagon road and was considered one of the most important routes into interior Alaska.
The Keystone Canyon Pack Trail fell into disrepair for almost 90 years before being re-routed and hand cleared in 1997 and 1998.
The entire trail is filled with interpretive signs, and you can even see the original telegraph lines along the trail. The views are stunning, as the trail cuts through spruce and hemlock forest as you hike the series of switchbacks.
This is definitely a trail that is guaranteed not to disappoint, as even bad weather can make the waterfalls more ethereal. After your hike, find out
Why Valdez Is One Of The Most Important Towns In Alaska, And Loaded With History.