Historic 1899 Trans-Alaska Military Trail

and Wagon Road

Keystone Canyon to Thompson Pass

brought to you by: The Valdez Trail Association

Trail Access:

Can you see the mule and prospector?
Prospector on the TransAlaska military Pack trail through keystone Canyon, Miles Brother photo, 1903, Valdez Museum Archives.  This section of the trail remains much the same today as when first built by soldiers and destitute prospectors hired by the Army in the summer of 1899.
1. West Keystone Canyon Pack Train Section: The trail begins from the old Richardson Highway loop just west of Keystone Canyon on the north side of the highway. Red flags mark the trailhead. This section leads through the old growth Sitka transitional rainforest which is good habitat for black and brown bears as well as some moose and Sitka deer. The original log culverts and retaining wall rockwork can be seen along the trail. After a steep slide (imagine what this was like for women riding sidesaddle in skirts), the pack train trail encounters the wagon road which was constructed on top of the original trail. If you turn right (west), you will end up at the Bridal Veil Falls trailhead. Left leads to Snowslide Gulch. (Distance from West Keystone Canyon to Bridal Veil Falls: approx. 2-1/2 miles).
 2. "Goat Trail Section":  Park at Bridal Veil Falls. There is a dirt path next to the highway which leads to the old wagon road locally known as the "Goat Trail." The Valdez Boy Scouts maintain this section of the trail. About 100 yards up the trail, the pack train trail enters on the left. The best views along the pack train trail are heading west. The Goat Trail passes through a section of  steep, alder covered hillsides. Note the cuts the early trail builders made in the cliffs to create the trailbed. If you look carefully, you will see remains of the old telegraph line (WAMCATS), the first telegraph system to connect Alaska to the rest of the world. The Goat Trail leads to Snowslide Gulch (3.), a distance of about 2-1/2 miles.  Because the stream is often impassable, hikers should expect to turn around at this point. Funding has been obtained to install a bridge in 1999. There are some spectacular vistas of Keystone Canyon's waterfalls, rafters running the Lowe River, and the Dutch Flats area. Corporal Heiden named the area after a group of Dutch prospectors who helped the Army scouts across Bear and Sheep Creeks and fed them.
The Canyon as it appeared years ago
Looking south from the pack train trail through Keystone Canyon towards the Lowe River Delta.  The Richardson Highway now runs along the river.  Miles Brother photo, 1903, Valdez Museum Archives. 
Click here to see a current photo from this perspective.  Courtesy Jim Shephard
A familiar view...
For many years, the Valdez to Fairbanks Trail was the major transportation route to interior Alaska.  Most freighting was done in the winter when travel was easier.  Today, this is a major winter recreation area.  PS Hunt photo, 1903, Valdez Museum Archives.
4. Dutch Flats Wagon Road Section: Walk along the Bear Creek dike towards the Bear Creek Bridge, which was built in 1943 by the Army as part of the WW II effort. Near the hillside a trail leads off to the right and connects  to the old wagon road and early Richardson Highway. Warning: The surface of Bear Creek Bridge is rotten with some holes large enough for children to fall through. Parents are encouraged to keep watch on their children. If you follow the old road to the east (right), you will not come near the bridge. This is a very pleasant walk, nearly level, through a Sitka spruce forest. Take the trail exit to the Richardson Highway at the Mile 18.5 Pullout (5).(Distance from Bear Creek to Mile 18.5, approx. 2 miles). 
News articles Trail Breaker News Coming Soon!
Trail Map
Volunteers are still working to reconstruct the section from Mile 18.5 (5) to Thompson Pass. It is scheduled for completion during the summer of 1999. YOU CAN HELP! Call Frank Cook : 835-2551

Leave No Trace:

Valdez Trails Association members, boy scouts,  and businesses have volunteered many hours to relocating and restoring this historic trail.  We hope that you will enjoy the trail and that we will be able to extend it further. However, our ability to extend the trail depends on you, the users, and how well you help to maintain the trail.  If volunteers must spend many hours picking up trash, then they will not be able to relocate and restore new sections.  There are no camping areas, but there are several scenic spots for a picnic.  Please carry a litter bag for your trash and help us by picking up any items left by others.

 Historical Artifacts:

Historical remains are protected by state and federal laws.  Please take nothing but photographs!

Centennial Celebrations:

Sept. 5, 1998: Discovery of  the Keystone Canyon Route
Sept. 4, 1999: Opening of the Trail
Come help us Celebrate the Centennials of the Discovery and Opening of the Trail through Keystone Canyon!
 historic map of the area

\Click this map to a view a trail diagram/

Trail Guide Patrons

Guided nature & historical hikes: Matt Kinney, 907-835-4817  - Website -
Local Transportation to Trail: Avis Rent-A-Car, 835-4774 
Valdez U-Drive, 835-4402
Lodging: Valdez Village Inn, 835-4445;  
Lake House B&B, 835-4445 
Thompson Pass Mt. Chalet, 835-4817 -Website-
Outfitting: The Prospector, 835-3858 
Beaver Sports, 835-4727
Prince William Sound Books Valdez Gold Rush Trails 1898-99 -Website-
Valdez Convention & Visitor's Bureau 835-2984; 800-770-5954; - Website -
Valdez Museum 835-2764 - Website
The Valdez Gold Rush
Destination Valdez
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Visitor's Bureau - travel info!