The Best Whittier Camping Opportunity and 5 Other Activities

By Ryan Wilson

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On a blue bird summer day, there are not many places better to be than Whittier, Alaska. There are few Whittier camping opportunities, but the Whittier Bay Campground is a nice option for exploring the area.

Located less than half a mile after you leave the Whittier Tunnel, the Whittier Bay Campground backs right up to Prince William Sound and offers easy access to the many different activities Whittier Alaska has to offer.

But be forewarned, if it’s a windy or rainy weekend, you’ll be holding up in your tent or camper because the wind can really rip here!

Below I provide an overview of the Whittier Bay Campground, what amenities it offers, and how to get there. I also provide an overview of recreational opportunities when you’re visiting Whittier Alaska!


Whittier Camping Opportunities

There are two established campground in Whittier, Alaska.

Whittier Bay Campground

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Whittier Bay Campground is located a short distance from the exit of the Whittier tunnel. On a sunny summer day, the views from the campground are incredible. You are surrounded by mountains on all sides and numerous glaciers are visible from the campground.

The campground has 25 sites, with 20 suitable for RVs and travel trailers. Five are designated for tent sites only.

whittier bay campground
whittier bay campground

For the all of incredible views that the campground offers, the campground lacks privacy. The campground is largely a gravel parking lot with fire pits and picnic tables on the surrounding grassy areas.

All of the campsites offer spectacular views and are a 1-2 minute walk from the rocky beach.

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whittier bay campground

Whittier camping is less about staying at a luxurious campground, and more about having immediate access to a lot of different recreational opportunities that Whittier, Alaska has to offer.

I would definitely stay at this campground if I wanted to explore the area. But it wouldn’t be a campground I would choose if my goal was just to relax at my campsite given the lack of privacy.

Whittier camping can also be less than ideal because it is often raining given its coastal location. Even on a beautiful day (like the day we visited), the wind can blow pretty hard, especially at Whittier Bay Campground because it’s at the head of the bay.

Amenities

Whittier Bay Campground offers minimal amenities. There are two restrooms but no sources of running water. There are also no electric or sewer hook-ups. 

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One nice feature at the campground is the bear resistant food locker. I’ve noticed a number of campgrounds in the area don’t offer these even though there can be bears around. This is great, especially for individuals that are tent camping and don’t have a vehicle to store their food in.

Season

Whittier Bay campground opens when the snow has melted, which is usually in mid-May. It closes once the snow begins to accumulate. Thankfully these dates overlap with best time to visit Alaska for camping. 

Reservations

Whittier Bay Campground does not accept reservations and sites are first-come first-serve. I’ve never seen the campground full when I’ve visited Whittier. But, if it’s going to be a nice summer weekend, there’s a good chance it could fill up by Saturday.

Whittier Bay Campground costs $20 per night for RV sites, and $11 per day for tent sites. There is a maximum stay of 7 days.

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Campsite can be reserved by either scanning the QR code once your get to the campground or by calling the city’s harbormaster at 907-472-2327 (extension 7).


Creekside Campground

There appears to be a new campground in Whittier in addition to the Whittier Bay Campground. The Creekside Campground is located in the city of Whittier itself and offers 50 sites that can accommodate RV and tent campers. Some sites have picnic tables and fire pits.

Creekside Campground is open from late May until early October. It costs $20 per night for an RV and $10 per night for a tent with a single vehicle if 1-2 people. A tent site is $20 per night for 3 or more people. They also offer long term rates for a single vehicle at $300/month or $950 for the entire summer season.


Other Camping Near Whittier

On the Whittier side of the tunnel, there are only two campgrounds. But there are two additional campgrounds on the other side of the tunnel near Portage Lake.

You likely don’t want to camp at the below campgrounds if you are planning on spending most of your time in Whittier. They would be a great option, however, if you just wanted to take a day trip into Whittier to explore what is has to offer.

Both campgrounds are operated by the U.S. Forest Service.

Williwah Campground is located a few miles from the tunnel to Whittier and offers camping opportunities for all types of campers. The campground has 60 sites and can accomodate RVs. Reservations are recommended especially if you’ll be staying on a weekend.

Black Bear Campground is the other campground option near Whittier. It offers 12 sites and is a first-come first-serve campground. RVs are not recommended at this campground.

Where is Whittier Alaska?

Whittier Alaska is located on the western reaches of Prince William Sound. The drive from Whittier to Anchorage is approximately 60 miles and the drive takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The drive from Whittier to Anchorage is one of my favorites. The views are incredible the whole way, with mountains jutting straight up out of the water. There are also lots of wildlife viewing opportunities along the way.

You can also reach Whittier by taking the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage. The Whittier to Anchorage train ride takes about 2.5 hours.

Whittier Tunnel

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To get to Whittier from Anchorage, you must pass through the Whittier Tunnel. The Whittier Tunnel is 2.5 miles long and is the longest highway tunnel in North America. The tunnel used to only be open to trains, but it is now open to one-way traffic.

The Whittier Tunnel switches which direction traffic is allowed every 30 minutes, with some slight delays (less than 15 minutes) when a train needs to pass through the tunnel. Be sure to check the Whittier Tunnel schedule when planning your trip because you could easily miss a cruise or other activities if you don’t time it right.

The Whittier Tunnel has a toll which varies based on the size of. your vehicle or if you’re towing a trailer. For standard vehicles and pickup trucks, it currently costs $13 for a round-trip through the tunnel.


Things to Do in Whittier

While the city of Whittier itself doesn’t have a lot to offer, the main draw is its access to recreation, especially for exploring Prince William Sound. You could literally spends days basing out of Whittier to participate in a variety of activities.

Hiking

There are numerous opportunities for hiking around Whittier Alaska. My favorite, by far, is the Portage Pass Trail which I provide additional details about below.

Portage Pass Trail

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The Portage Pass Trail is a 4-mile round trip hike up to Portage Pass which offers exceptional views of Prince William Sound and Portage Glacier! The 4 miles takes you all the way to Portage Lake. But you can cut the distance in half by just climbing up to the pass and you will not be disappointed!

Glacier Cruise

Whittier is a great place to take a glacier cruise. There are two primary operators based out of Whittier with full day and part day cruises available. You won’t see as much wildlife on these cruises as you will with glacier cruises based out of Whittier, but they are much better for seeing a lot of glaciers up close! Check out Phillips Cruises for their current offerings. There are also smaller operators you could consider too.

Sea Kayaking

Prince William Sound is a sea kayaker’s paradise. There are lots of coves to explore and many public use cabins you can reserve to have a real Alaskan wilderness experience. If you are lucky enough to have your trip overlap with great weather, you’ll be in for a real treat.

There are many outfitters to consider for sea kayaking trips, ranging from guided to unguided trips. You can also hire a water taxi to take you to more remote areas to paddle around and then get picked up at a later date.

Beach Combing

While not a huge number of options for walking along beaches, there are a couple of options. The first is the beach right in front of the Whittier Bay Campground. Emerald Cove, just past “downtown” Whittier also offers some nice beach combing and a day use picnic area to explore.

Fishing

Whittier is a great place to set out on a fishing charger for salmon, shrimp, halibut or lingcod. There are numerous fishing charters available but be sure to book them early because slots fill up months in advance.

You can also fish for salmon from shore around Whittier, but be sure to check current sport fishing regulations to make sure there are no emergency closures or rule changes.


Summary

Whittier is one of my favorite places to visit as a local even though the city itself doesn’t offer much, especially outside of summer. But the scenery and recreation opportunities make up for the amenities lacking in town.

The Whittier Bay Campground is a great option for camping if you want to spend a day or two around Whittier Alaska exploring. Just be aware that it can get quite windy there and the weather can be rainy more often than not.

Still planning your trip to Alaska? Check out our guide on the best time to visit Alaska. You can also look at our reviews of other Alaska campgrounds.

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Author

Ryan is an avid outdoorsman who loves camping, hiking, and backpacking. He was initially reluctant to join the camper world, but after his first camping trip in one, he became a convert. He especially loves how camper ownership extends the camping season and makes it easier to be more adventurous with young kids. When not enjoying his free time, he works as a professional wildlife biologist studying the ecology and conservation of large mammals in Alaska.