Viewing the Trans Alaska Pipeline System is one of many free attractions on the Richardson Highway.
If you’re road tripping on a budget between Valdez and Fairbanks, or along any portion of the route, don’t fret because there are plenty of free attractions on the Richardson Highway to make the trip memorable. These stops range from viewpoints to historical sites to fishing.
Even if you don’t make any stops on the drive it will still be a beautiful and rewarding experience. But here are a few chances to stretch your legs, have fun, and learn something without spending a dime.
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
The Richardson Highway offers great chances to see the pipeline! One good stopping point is at milepost V 215.9 F 146.1. Information boards at viewing area give pipeline history and facts, and detail design solutions used to make the pipeline earthquake-proof.
The zigzag pattern often seen in the above-ground sections allows for pipe expansion or contraction due to temperature changes or movement caused by other forces, such as earthquakes.
Original Valdez Townsite
Milepost signs along the Richardson Highway were labeled before the 1964 earthquake. The present city of Valdez sits four miles from milepost 0 and the old Valdez townsite was heavily damaged during the Good Friday quake and subsequently abandoned.
A 1.7 mile trail winds through the old townsite. Take a self-guided walking tour by downloading information from the Valdez Museum. The site also has a memorial that lists the names of residents of Chenega and Valdez who were killed in the earthquake.
Walk in an old tunnel
15 miles outside of Valdez there’s a paved turnoff for an adventurous jaunt into history. Stretch your legs and walk into an unfinished railroad tunnel.
A sign at the tunnel reads: “This tunnel was hand cut into the solid rock of Keystone Canyon and is all that is left of the railroad era when 9 companies fought to take advantage of the short route from the coast to the copper country. However, a feud interrupted progress. A gun battle was fought and the tunnel was never finished. The Iron Trail by Rex Beach describes these events and this area.”
There are plenty of opportunities for fishing along the 366 miles of the Richardson Highway. One of the most popular is the Gulkana River. There are multiple points along the highway to access the river, which is popular for fishing Arctic grayling, chinook salmon, and sockeye salmon.
Meet Santa’s Reindeer
Stop in North Pole Alaska for a taste of Christmas year-round. The Antler Academy is home to the magical flying reindeer who pull Santa’s sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve.
There’s a paid opportunity to go inside the pen and pet and feed the reindeer. You can also ogle them from outside the fence for free.