Chilkat Guides (907/766-2491 or 888/292-7789, www.raftalaska.com, $94 adults, $66 children) guides an excellent four-hour float trip down the Chilkat River. This is a leisurely raft trip (no white water) with good views of the Chilkat Mountains, glaciers, and roosting eagles. They also guide multiple-night adventures around Alaska.
River Adventures (907/766-2050 or 800/478-9827, www.jetboatalaska.com) runs half-day jet-boat tours up the Chilkat, and Chilkoot Lake Tours (907/766-3779, www.alaskaeagletours.com) has two-hour pontoon boat tours of this turquoise lake for $85.
Glacier Valley Wilderness Adventures (907/767-5522, www.glaciervalleyadventures.net) offers a variety of trips that include a flight into a gold mining camp at the base of DeBlondeau Glacier followed by a rafting or jet-boat trip down the Tsirku River, then past the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve to Haines. Overnight accommodations are also available in a cabin or tent at the base camp.
The Haines area has a number of excellent hikes, ranging from the easy (Battery Point) to the strenuous (Mt. Ripinski). For more details, pick up the Haines Is for Hikers pamphlet from the visitors center (2nd Ave. near Willard St., 907/766-2234, www.haines.ak.us).
One of Alaska’s premier adventure programs, Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School (907/766-3366 or 800/766-3396, www.alaskamountainguides.com), is headquartered in Haines and has a wide range of trips that include sea kayaking along with rock and ice climbing. Sea kayak rentals are available.
Haines is increasingly becoming a destination for heli-skiers, with phenomenal snow and relatively mild weather. Local heli-ski companies are Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (907/766-2009 or 877/617-3418, www.skiseaba.com) and Alaska Heliskiing (907/767-5745 or 877/754-4242, www.alaskaheliskiing.com).
Three trails lead to the top of 1,760-foot Mt. Riley, from which you get a panoramic view of Lynn Canal, Davidson and Rainbow Glaciers, the Chilkat River, Taiya Inlet, and 360 degrees of snowcapped peaks. The shortest and steepest route (2 miles) starts three miles southeast of Haines on Mud Bay Road. A small parking area is opposite the trailhead. You can also follow FAA Road from behind Fort Seward to another trail. This one is four miles long and follows the city water supply route for two miles before splitting off to join the more direct trail.
An easy and relatively level four-mile path starts from the end of the road at Portage Cove and follows the shore to a campsite at Kelgaya Point and across pebbly beaches to Battery Point.
The full-day hike up and down Mt. Ripinski (3,610 feet) offers unparalleled views of mountains and inland waterways, but it’s strenuous and long (10 miles round-trip). You may want to camp in the alpine country and make this a two-day hike. From Haines, take Young Road north until it intersects with a jeep road that follows a buried pipeline around the mountain.
The trail begins about a mile along this dirt road and climbs through a spruce and hemlock forest to muskeg and finally the alpine area at 2,500 feet. You can continue along the ridge to the north summit (3,160 feet) or on to the main peak. Return the same way, or via a steep path that takes you down to a saddle and then to the Haines Highway, seven miles northwest of Haines.
Mt. Ripinski is covered with snow until midsummer, so be prepared. Don’t go in bad weather, and do stay on the trail in the alpine areas.
For a gentle, long, and very scenic beach walk, head to Chilkat State Park campground, seven miles southeast of Haines on Mud Bay Road. Seduction Point is on the end of the peninsula separating Chilkoot and Chilkat Inlets, a five-mile hike from the campground. The trail alternates between the forest and the beach, and it’s a good idea to check the tides to make sure that you’re able to hike the last beach stretch at low tide. This hike also makes a fine overnight camping trip.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition