The Hike and Kayak Voyage lets you explore the landscape, wildlife and atmosphere of Prince William Sound Alaska from the small ship M/V Discovery with an emphasis on physical activities like kayaking among icebergs and hiking through mountain meadows. The Sound’s bays, coves and quiet waterways are as endless as the mountain meadows and ridge lines, and this trip samples richly from these special places. In addition to some energetic exploration, wildlife viewing, sightseeing, and visits to our favorite locations are also incorporated. The Hike & Kayak Voyage departs from Whittier, located 1.5 hours south of Anchorage.
Arrive to Anchorage
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Arrive in Anchorage and transfer on your own to your downtown Bed & Breakfast (included) for a comfortable night stay. Accommodations offer convenient access to the Anchorage Trail System, a network of developed hiking and bicycling trails throughout the Anchorage area. We recommend a walk or bike ride this afternoon or evening, if time allows. The views of the Alaska Range are spectacular! Dinner on own this evening. A great selection of restaurants are within easy walking distance of your B&B.
Anchorage to Whittier
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Van transfer pick up by Discovery staff at 10:00am for the scenic ride along the Turnagain Arm, known for its tremendous tidal flats and frequent sightings of Beluga Whales. Continue south through the Chugach Mountains to rendezvous with the captain and crew in Whittier for a warm welcome aboard the Discovery. While the crew prepares for departure, relax in the Discovery’s cozy salon and enjoy specially prepared appetizers of smoked salmon or halibut spread with crackers, fresh baked breads, fruits, and a plentiful selection of fine beverages. Leave Whittier, sailing east and south for our first kayaking and hiking destination.
This region serves as a favorite kayak destination, due to the intimate shore side views along both sides of the narrow passage. While enroute, the Discovery crew will orientate all visitors to the use of the kayaks and gear necessary for our first paddle excursion. After everyone is well situated in their kayaks, the Discovery sails ahead and will meet the group in a few hours with a delicious evening meal. After dinner, a shore-side hike reveals a wonderland of tundra pools and vegetation, reminiscent of a Japanese garden. Giant vertical cliffs pour water down their rock faces into streams and ponds. Return to the Discovery and sail for the evening anchorage.
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Mornings aboard the Discovery are usually relaxed with a casual open breakfast served from 8:00 a.m. till 10:00 a.m. works well with guests from various time zones and individual morning routines. Enjoy a variety of warm fresh breads, muffins, rolls, fruits, cereals, various warm egg dishes, juices, coffee and tea. Underway in the morning, the Discovery sails through Knight Island Passage and Dangerous Passage towards Icy Bay.
At midday, the Discovery navigates her way through Icy Bay’s Nassau Fjord. Several miles of icebergs and brash ice (smaller pieces of glacial ice) lay between the fjord entrance and the massive, calving face of Chenega glacier, named after the local native community of Chenega. The massive, 200-square-mile Sergeant Ice field funnels ice down a wide mountain valley, forming a one-mile-long, 200-foot-high wall that topples giant blue chunks into the sea. This active tidewater glacier, with its daunting size and mammoth sounds, offers a remarkable opportunity to experience firsthand the tremendous natural forces that move these spectacles of nature. There are a multitude of kayaking and onshore hiking opportunities available in this region, and we will decide what activities to pursue depending on the weather and everyone’s preferences.
Hundreds of harbor seals make Icy Bay their summer home, using the floating ice as resting platforms and safe places for birthing. The rocky mountainsides around Chenega glacier support a healthy, frequently visible population of mountain goats; binoculars serve as helpful aids in sighting these skillful mountain climbers. Later in the day, the Discovery exits this ice-laden fjord for Bainbridge Passage, where you can try your luck fishing for Pacific Halibut and Rockfish. Late afternoon and early evening provide opportunities for Orca and Humpback whale watching.Enjoy a relaxing dinner while the Discovery travels along Knight Island, into the uncharted narrows of Long Channel for the evening’s anchorage.
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We have multiple options for exploring secluded bays on the southern end of Knight Island, the largest Island in the western sound. Characterized by undulating peaks and intricate shorelines, Knight Island offers some of the regions more "secretive" coves and spectacular mountains. This is a kayakers or small boat paradise. The currents near Knight Island’s southern tip bring fresh seafood into the area, which in turn brings whales, sea lions, and other marine life that follow the food web. The Sound’s most frequent Orca and Humpback Whale sightings are often found along this route, keep your eyes peeled for dorsal fins and blow spouts. If successful, we’ll pass this helpful information on to the local whale researchers of the North Gulf Oceanic Society.
High, vertical cliffs, and dramatic scenery encircle the bays in this region. Migratory waterfowl make their home in these protected waters, and Bald Eagles soar above in search for food. After the kayak excursion, join the Discovery for lunch while we sail for northern Knight Island and a shore hike, which reveals grand vistas of the Chugach Mountain range bordering Prince William Sound to the north and west. Following the hike, we will head across northern Prince William Sound to a protected and quiet evening anchorage.
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The theme of a casual morning breakfast continues as the Discovery sails north up a long fjord which houses a tidewater glacier at its tip. Near the glacier, enjoy a kayak excursion that enables you to thread through the many icebergs that have recently fallen from the 200- to 300-foot face of the glacier. Sea otters and hundreds of harbor seals make the inlet their summer home. If you’re quiet and lucky, you can paddle up close to seals resting on the bergs. Arctic Terns, Bald Eagles, and other birds frequent the area, and kayaks serve as a gentle and quiet mode of travel to access this magical fjord.
Enjoy a shoreside hike, which takes you up the hill adjacent to the glacier and opens a tremendous view of this river of ice, bending down through the mountain valleys. This glacier's terminus has been slowly advancing down Unakwik Inlet while most glaciers globally are receding. The scene for visitors is one where the sides of this massive hundred-foot-plus blue-white face is pushing into the temperate rainforest consisting of not just mosses, ferns, and lichens, but also huge 400-year old western hemlock and Sitka spruce. A short visit here to see this ongoing event is a must. Afterwards relax on board with appetizers. Enjoy the sounds of ice tumbling into the sea, while the chef prepares a fine evening meal and the Discovery turns to head southward again to a quiet evening anchorage.
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Today’s hike, which serves as a portage between two bays, traverses a mountain meadow clothed in grandeur best described by the early explorer (1899) and naturalist Charles Keeler. He writes:
“Another day during our stay in Prince William Sound we visited one of the alpine meadows which are so characteristic of the forested portions of Alaska. It is with a thrill of pleasure that the traveler encounters one of these secluded meadows hemmed in on all sides by trackless forests or untraveled waterways. Imagine an open glade half a mile in length, with gently undulating surface, and here and there a dwarf spruce or an alpine hemlock, twisted and gnarled, looking in its fantastic shape like the handwork of a Japanese gardener. A carpet of dense moss, in which the feet sink at every step, covers the ground, and here and there are pools of water, imagine the frail flowers, which sway upon their banks. Here grow the golden geum, the dainty little white stars, both the pink-belled and white-belled heathers, the small bunchberry or ground dogwood, the beautiful purple nodding dodecatheon, the waving white fluffs of the cotton grass, and the minute little purple bells of butterwort…”
Keeler describes the essence of perpetual meadow beauty encountered on this two hour hike. While we traverse across, the Discovery sails around to meet us at the head of the next Bay. Back on board, we then continue on our journey along the shores of the bay to an impressive, 300-foot-high waterfall. We will then sail for Barry Arm with a delicious lunch of fresh seafood served on the way. Travel north through a thin, snake-like waterway, banked by the luscious greens of the Chugach National Forest. Anchor in Barry arm for the evening.
Barry Arm, depart for Anchorage
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Guests awake to a casual breakfast and an exciting day of some of the world’s most spectacular scenery–corridors of breathtaking beauty, sprawling glaciers and a panoramic skyline of mountain grandeur. Harbor seals and sea otters hauled out on the flotillas of icebergs watch closely as the Discovery navigates the icy, blue waters of Barry Arm. The enveloping mountains of this inlet stretch skyward to nearly 10,000 feet, with glacier after glacier descending the terraced mountain valleys. Alaska’s lush rainforest vegetation drapes the hillsides in green as streaming waterfalls fall from the rocky cliffs.
Listen to the cracks, pops and thunderous roars of the Cascade, Barry and Coxe glaciers while the Discovery, dwarfed by blue and white walls, drifts silently by these actively calving rivers of ice. From Barry Arm the Discovery sails to the face of the Surprise glacier, for more glacier phenomenon. Kayak the Southern shores of Harriman Fjord and enjoy a picnic lunch in the grassy meadows prior to a hike up the surrounding hills for a matchless view of Mount Muir, Mount Gilbert, and Mount Gannet rising high from the coastal shores.
Join the Discovery for your final journey back to Whittier. Passing through Port Wells, where you’re entertained by families of playful sea otters foraging the shellfish-rich shallow waters of their favorite feeding ground. As a protected species, these otters exhibit little concern for human presence, offering great opportunities for photos and up-close observations. Nature offers few chances to see animals in the wild as adorable as these mothers with young pups. Appetizers are served while taking in the final sights of Passage Canal prior to docking in the Whittier Harbor and your van transfer to Anchorage. Overnight in Anchorage.