The U.S. Army arrived at Valdez during the Gold Rush to build a trail into the interior. They found the Valdez Glacier impassable much of the year. To bypass the glacier, they cut a narrow trail along the walls of rugged Keystone Canyon. The "Goat Trail" quickly became a popular route to the interior.There Must be a Better WayIn 1898 the Army found a route though Keystone Canyon as an alternative to Valdez Glacier. Despite dense vegetation, high walls, and a fast, icy river, a crew led by Corporal Robert Heiden hacked a rough trail through snarls of alder bushes and thorny devil's club.
Improving the TrailThe next year, Congress appropriated money to build the Trans-Alaska Military Road linking Fort Liscum at Valdez with Fort Egbert at Eagle City on the Yukon River. Improving Heiden's four mile canyon trail with only saws, axes, picks, shovels, and sledge hammers took 35 days. Axmen hung onto brush with one hand and chopped with the other. The section above where you are standing became known as the Goat Trail for its location along the edge of the canyon walls.
True to its NameThe Goat Trail was difficult, but safer in the summer than crossing Valdez Glacier: Winter travelers preferred the frozen river through Keystone Canyon or the glacier route until the trail was improved to a wagon road. Replace after World War II, by the present highway, the Goat Trail is now a hiking trail. It begins 200 feet to the left.