Haines Parks & Trails
Haines offers scenic hiking close to town. While nearby Juneau and Skagway feature great hiking trails, the continuous summertime helicopter tour traffic can be disruptive. That’s something you won’t have to worry about in Haines. Another plus: Haines experiences less rainfall than Juneau, Ketchikan, or Sitka. Still, come prepared with rain gear, as well as sunscreen, bear spray and a water bottle. Then hit the trails, which include several mostly flat coastal hikes, and two steep trails that access alpine tundra.
This trail, popular for shore excursions off cruise ships, offers the smoothest, flattest trail into the woods around Haines. It leads to two spots ideal for a rest, picnic or a dip on a hot day.
By far the easiest and most popular coastal hike is the Battery Point Trail. Starting about a mile south of Fort Seward at the end of Beach Road, this recently rebuilt, rolling trail straddles an old-growth hillside and after a mile delivers hikers to Kelgaya Point, a wide, stony beach with views north toward Haines and Skagway. Dall’s porpoises often are seen here. If you hear a bell ringing, that’s a navigational buoy across the inlet, warning mariners of shallow water offhshore Katzehin Flats. Crossing the stream there and hiking south into the woods leads another .7 miles to Battery Point and a south-facing cove perfect for beachcombing. Good stuff that falls off fishing boats sometimes washes ashore here.
A favorite of local families and casual hikers, this gradual trail is rarely steep and, from its summit, offers a great overview of local geography, including the upper Chilkat Valley and branches of Chilkoot Inlet, the fjord extending into Lutak Inlet and to Skaway.
At 1,760 feet, Riley is the shorter of the two. This wooded, winding climb starts on a flat, muddy trail at 2 Mile Mud Bay Road on a hilltop just south of Carr’s Cove. At the summit, hikers enjoy expansive views of Chilkoot and Chilkat inlets. Be patient. It’s a gradual, winding trail with several false summits along the way. For a longer day hike that combines seaside hiking with a journey to the alpine, combine the Battery Point hike and connect to the Mount Riley trial via a little-used back trail.
Haines Hiking Trails
Haines offers great biking, both along mountain bike trails and roadside bike lanes. Its road system deservedly serves as the final two legs of the annual Kluane-Chilkat International Bicycle Relay, a 160-mile, all-day race from Haines Junction, Y.T.
Until the early 1970s, Fort Seward and downtown Haines were separate cities, with not much in between. This route allows riders to much of what the town has to offer in an afternoon, capped with drinks at a craft distillery and brewery.
Chilkat State Park, seven miles south of Haines, is less visited than Chilkoot Lake, probably because it’s further from town and the road is gravel. But don’t let that stop you. The park is quiet, it’s one of the best local areas to look for moose, and the view of the Rainbow Glacier — a hanging glacier with a huge waterfall dropping from its face — is world-class.
This popular trail offers an easy jaunt out to a pebble beach — the first half of the mile-long path is even paved. Travelers, locals, and guide companies all enjoy the walk so you won’t find solitude here unless it’s a stormy day. But hiking the trail is a great way to check out the forest and enjoy the water, where you may see surf scoters, seals, sea lions, and humpback whales, especially in May and June. So bring some binoculars and a… ...more
Each October and November, between 3,000 and 4,000 bald eagles descend upon this 48,000-acre preserve centered on river bottomlands a few miles north of Haines to feast on late runs of salmon. Eagles can be found throughout the preserve, however, with an estimated 300 to 400 of the birds in the area throughout the year.
For decades just a wide spot in the road, this new, pocket park captures the most emblematic scene in Haines, the stately buildings of historic Fort Seward against the relief of the towering Chilkat Peaks.
This seven-mile coastal trail can be a rugged scramble over beach rocks at times, but it rewards hikers with a sun-bathed orientation and opportunities to see moose, bears and sometimes whales, sometimes at close range.
This is a rarely visited group of islands south of Chilkat State Park. Unpredictable winds, huge tides, and strong currents make them a challenging destination to visit. Combined with the lack of any public transportation, these islands remain a near-pristine wilderness left for the serious boater to explore.
This trail through an urban forest offers a close view of a muskeg, a swampy wetland critical to the health of rainforest rivers and fisheries. It’s flat and easy, with long sections of boardwalk, plus park benches.
Accessed either from Mount Ripinski or from the 7 Mile Haines Highway, this climb is a thigh-burning beast that will reward the fit and the willing with great views, extended time in the alpine, bright wildflowers, great blueberry and salmonberry picking, and the chance to see mountain goats and bears. The shortest route is from the 7 mile trailhead, which climbs nearly 4,000 feet in 2.5 miles! It’s steep and challenging all the way, from… ...more
Just south of the Chilkat Island is Sullivan Island, and at its southern end, you’ll find Sullivan Island State Marine Park. It has the same accessibility issues as the Chilkat Islands; the easiest way to see these islands is to look for them as you cruise via ferry or cruise ship down the Lynn Canal between Haines and Juneau.
The park has a few campsites, but no outhouses. The dock at the park provides public access to Mosquito Lake, which offers great fishing, especially for cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden char. The lake fills with migrating ducks in the spring and fall, and trumpeter swans use the lake as a stopover on their migrations. Up to 80 swans have been seen at one time on the lake. In the winter, locals like to ice fish and cross-country ski on the lake ...more
Some would rather avoid it, but climbing to the top of Fort Seward puts cyclists in range of the town’s prettiest beaches – along Chilkat Inlet. You won’t regret the extra work required.
Built to take eagle photographers out of harm’s way along the Haines Highway, this 1.5- mile trail includes lookouts and interpretive panels about the adjacent Bald Eagle Council Grounds, where thousands of eagles gather each year. Warm upwellings of river water keep sections ice-free, providing birds with an important meal.
A site of historic sawmills and a now-closed road, nature has reclaimed this former industrial site, which has become one of the town’s most attractive and tucked-away trails. It’s less than a mile from town, but is secluded and can be thick with wildlife.
This trip requires some logistics, including renting bikes and arranging for a lift to Canadian border, but it’s worth it. The wall of mountains to the west provides a staggering vista and you can see wildlife to boot.
If you’re in shape and ready for a climb, this towering yet gentle peak above town makes for a great hike. You’ll experience the different ecosystems of a Southeast Alaskan mountain — lush forest, subalpine stunted trees, alpine meadow, and rocky summit. The weather can be variable at the top, so bring layers, food, and plenty of water. Also bring a camera and binoculars, to look for the resident herd of mountain goats that populate these alpine… ...more
This trail — a steady climb of almost 2,000 feet in 2.5 miles from the Mud Bay trailhead to the top of Mount Riley — affords amazing panoramic views of rivers, oceans, mountains, and glaciers. You’ll walk through old-growth coastal forest, sub-alpine stunted trees, and boggy alpine muskegs, all while surrounded by glacially-striated rocks. Hike up and back from the Mount Riley side, or make a bigger trip of it, climbing point-to-point from the… ...more