The pleasant and friendly town of Haines (pop. 1,400) provides a transition point between the lush greenery of the Southeast and the more rugged beauty of Yukon and Alaska’s Interior. As the ferry sails north to Haines on the Lynn Canal—at 1,600 feet deep, it’s the longest and deepest fjord in North America—the Inside Passage gets narrower, and you sense that this unique waterway, and your passage on it, are coming to an end.
To the east, waterfalls tumble off the mountainsides, while to the west, glaciers lumber down from the ice fields of the Chilkat Range. The long river of ice you see 40 minutes before Haines is Davidson Glacier. Rainbow Glacier, also on the left, hangs from a cliff just beyond. Both originate from the same ice field that forms part of Glacier Bay National Park.
Haines lies 90 miles north of Juneau, straddling a narrow peninsula between Chilkoot and Chilkat Inlets. Its mountain-ringed setting seems to define the word spectacular: From the ferry you catch a glimpse of the white Victorian buildings of Fort Seward in front of the 6,500-foot Cathedral Peaks.
Haines has a wealth of outdoor experiences, almost as many for those without cash as for those with. Plenty of hiking trails run up surrounding peaks, camping is right next to town, and travelers will discover a pleasant mix of working stiffs, fishers, and artisans.
It could serve as the poster child for what most folks expect in an Alaskan town: cozy, homespun, and earthy—the kind of place where the local radio station broadcasts birthday wishes, road updates for drivers heading over the pass, and bush messages for folks without a phone.
Unlike nearby Skagway, where a tidal wave of tourists inundates the town daily, Haines only sees a few large cruise ships. Most Haines visitors arrive by ferry and head on up the highway (or vice versa), but Haines is also becoming a popular weekend getaway for Canadians from Whitehorse. With “only” 60 inches of precipitation a year, the weather here is decidedly drier than points farther south.
Getting to Haines
By Ferry: The Haines ferry terminal (907/766-2111) is 3.5 miles north of town on Lutak Highway. Ferries arrive in Haines almost every day during the summer, heading both north to Skagway and south to Juneau. They generally stop for 1.5 hours. For information call Alaska Marine Highway (907/465-3941 or 800/642-0066, www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs).
Alaska Fjordlines (907/766-3395 or 800/320-0146, www.alaskafjordlines.com) operates a high-speed catamaran with daily summertime runs from Skagway to Haines and then on to Juneau. The boat leaves Haines at 8:45 a.m., arrives in Juneau at 11 a.m., and then heads back at 5:30 p.m., reaching Haines at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $155 adults, $125 children round-trip, including a bus to downtown Juneau. A light breakfast and dinner are included, and the boat stops for wildlife and photo opportunities. One-way trips ($100 adults, $80 children) and overnight stays in Juneau are allowed; reservations are recommended.
Haines-Skagway Fast Ferry (907/766-2100 or 888/766-2103, www.hainesskagwayfastferry.com, early May–late Sept., round-trip $68 adults, $34 children) has high-speed catamaran service between Skagway and Haines, with several departures each day.
By Air: The airport is 3.5 miles west of town on the Haines Highway. The flight between Juneau and Haines is pretty spectacular; on clear days you’ll be treated to views of glaciers along both sides of Lynn Canal. Wings of Alaska (907/789-0790, www.wingsofalaska.com) has scheduled daily service to Juneau and Skagway. There are no scheduled flights for Air Excursions (907/697-2375 or 800/354-2479, www.airexcursions.com), but they typically fly between Haines and Juneau several times a day.
Mountain Flying Service (907/766-3007 or 800/766-4007, www.flyglacierbay.com), a few doors up from the visitors center, offers charters and flightseeing trips over Glacier Bay starting at $160 per person for one hour. A longer trip ($299) includes two hours in the air and a beach landing within the park, providing the chance to see bears and other wildlife.
Drake Olson of Fly Drake (907/723-9475, www.flydrake.com) isn’t your standard bush pilot: A competitive auto racer and winner of the 1985 Porsche Cup, he is also an accomplished backcountry skier and mountaineer. He can land on beaches, glaciers, or remote air strips to get you into the wild places. Trips start at $160 per person for a one-hour flight to Glacier Bay National Park.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition