Driving the Whittier Tunnel in Alaska: How Does It Work?
Driving through the Whittier Tunnel – officially called the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – is a truly unique experience.
Stretching over 2.5 miles, it is the longest land vehicle tunnel in North America and links the city of Whittier, Alaska to the Port of Anchorage.
Over the years, the tunnel has played a crucial role in the development of the Port of Anchorage, which is now one of the busiest ports in North America. The tunnel is also an important transportation link, as it allows vehicles to avoid the often-treacherous conditions of the Alaska Highway.
The tunnel cuts through the Chugach Mountains, and its walls are lined with glaciers. As you drive through the tunnel, you can’t help but be awestruck by the natural beauty all around you. The experience is unlike any other, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Alaska!
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About Whittier, Alaska
Whittier, Alaska is a small town with a big personality.
Nestled at the base of a glacially carved valley, it is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Founded in the early 1900s as a gold-mining town, it has a long and storied past.
Today, the town is a popular tourist destination, known for its majestic scenery and friendly residents.
How to get from Anchorage to Whittier
The best way to get from Anchorage to Whittier is by car.
The drive takes about an hour, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. You can also take the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Whittier, but the trip takes longer and is way more expensive.
How does the Whittier Tunnel work?
If you’re planning on driving through the Whittier Tunnel, there are a few things you need to know.
The Whittier Tunnel is a one-way tunnel, so the traffic in the tunnel alternates every half an hour. Meaning, that the tunnel opens for each direction (into or leaving Whittier) every thirty minutes and then closes for the traffic to flow from the opposite direction.
For example, you can enter the tunnel going into Whittier from 6:30 to 7, but after that, it would be necessary to wait half an hour to cross again because the tunnel will open for the people going to Anchorage for the rest of the hour.
The Whittier tunnel suggests arriving 10 minutes before your opening.
Whittier Tunnel schedule
There are two different schedules for the Whittier Tunnel depending on the season. Y
You can see the fully updated schedules for the Whittier Tunnel on their website.
How long does it take to drive the Whittier Tunnel?
The Whittier Tunnel is 2.5 miles long, and it takes about 8 minutes to drive through the tunnel.
However, because the traffic in the tunnel alternates every half an hour, you may have to wait a while before entering the tunnel.
What is the cost of driving through the Whittier Tunnel?
The cost of driving through the Whittier Tunnel is $13 per regular vehicle. For vehicles pulling trailers and larger recreational vehicles start, the price is $22.
Hours of operation
The Whittier Tunnel is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, as mentioned before, the traffic in the tunnel alternates every half an hour. This means that you may not be able to enter the tunnel at all times.
When is the best time to drive through the Whittier Tunnel?
The best time to drive through the Whittier Tunnel is early in the morning or late at night when there is less traffic.
Whittier Tunnel History
The Whittier Tunnel is a historic landmark and an essential part of Alaska’s history.
It was constructed during World War II as a connection between the Alaska Railroad and the town of Whittier. The Army needed a safe route to move troops and supplies between Anchorage and Whittier, and the tunnel was built to provide that link.
The railway was used to transport goods and passengers between the two towns, but it was eventually abandoned in 1949.
In 2000, the tunnel was reopened to vehicle traffic after undergoing a major renovation.
Tips for driving the Whittier Tunnel
- Taking a cruise? Plan to catch the tunnel opening that is 1.5 hours before your cruise ship leaves.
- The Whittier tunnel is a single-lane, so take your time and be patient.
- There are no services inside the tunnel, so make sure you have everything you need before you enter.
What to pack for Alaska
Having a good packing strategy is essential when planning for a trip to Alaska.
Here are some essentials you should have in your bag:
Best things to do in Whittier
Whittier may be small, but it’s so full of charm! Half a day is all you need to explore the town.
Here are some of the best things to do in town:
Prince William Sound Glacier Tour
I would say that the Prince William Cruise is the number one reason why people make their way to Whittier.
It is simply breathtaking. This tour will take you right up to the glaciers where you can see them calving, and get very close to some of the wildlife that calls this area home.
Walk around town
Whittier is small but very charming. You can explore the little shops and cafes, or take a walk down to the water. The views of the mountains and glaciers are stunning.
Bike or hike to Portage Glacier
Portage Glacier is just a short bike or hike from Whittier.
It is well worth the effort to get there, as the glacier is simply beautiful. The trail is relatively flat, so it is suitable for all levels of fitness.
Go on a Wildlife Walking tour
This is a great way to see some of the animals that call Alaska home.
The guides are very knowledgeable and will help you spot wildlife, including bears, moose, eagles, and more.
Have a nice cup of coffee at the Lazy Otter Cafe
The Lazy Otter Cafe is a great place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.
They have a wide selection of coffee and tea, as well as some tasty pastries. The cafe has a cozy atmosphere, and the staff is very friendly.
Paddle a kayak in the bay
Whittier is located in a beautiful bay, and paddling a kayak is a great way to explore it.
You can rent a kayak from one of the many outfitters in town, or bring your own. Either way, you are sure to have a great time.
Hike the Horsetail Falls Trail
This is a short but very pretty hike that takes you to a beautiful waterfall. The trail is well-marked and easy to complete.
Go salmon fishing
Salmon fishing is a popular activity in Whittier, and for a good reason.
The salmon here are big and plentiful. You can either go on a guided tour (Crazy Rays Adventures is very well-reviewed) or rent a boat.
Stay at one of the U.S. Forest Service cabins
There are several U.S. Forest Service cabins located near Whittier, and they make for an excellent base for exploring the area.
The cabins are very rustic but well-equipped, and they offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.
To get to them, you can get a water taxi from the harbor.
Learn more about Whittier’s history at the Prince William Sound Museum
The Prince William Sound Museum is a great place to learn more about the history of Whittier and the surrounding area.
The museum has a small but interesting exhibit, and the staff is very knowledgeable.
Go on a jet ski tour
If you want to see the glaciers up close, a Whittier jet ski tour is a great way to do it.
Depart directly from the heart of Whittier and cruise 60+ miles of stunning coastline into Blackstone Bay, viewing up to ten glaciers
Best time to visit Whittier
The best time to visit Whittier is in the summer when the weather is warm and the days are long.
However, if you want to see the glaciers, you should visit in the spring or fall, when they are more visible.
Wrap-up: How does the Whittier Tunnel work?
That’s a wrap! Now you have all the information you need to know before driving the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.
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