Alaska backpacking tours are an opportunity to travel lightly through the Arctic wilderness. These guided trips offer a chance to appreciate the landscape step by step, and to experience the arctic at your own pace.
With spectacular destinations like the Romanzof Mountains and Gates of the Arctic National Park you will be as delighted by the Brooks Range scenery as you are by our professional guides.
Summer in the Brooks Range is serene with daylight as our constant and companion. The complete lack of darkness frees us of a time-oriented schedule and so we eat when hungry, walk when inspired, and sleep when the sun circles lazily along the northern horizon. Backpacking in the Brooks Range is an adventure.
What to Expect from Alaska Backpacking
Backpacking in Alaska is always an adventure. We frequently use streams as highways, as do the migrating wildlife. There are vast gravel bars where we can take long strides and take in the magnificent views of the mountains. There are dry ridges where we will feel as if we are walking amongst the clouds.
Backpacking in Alaska, and especially in the Brooks Range, is an off-trail experience, so a 6-mile day leaves us happily tired but with some energy left over for exploring near camp. We will typically travel around 35 miles over 8 days with one or two days devoted to hiking without our packs, watching wildlife, or just enjoying the beauty of the Brooks Range from camp.
Alaska Backpacking Preparation
While Alaska backpacking is appropriate for both experienced backpackers and newcomers in good shape, it is a very good idea to have some experience with overnight backpacking prior to the trip. Each hiker will get 15-20 pounds of food and community gear to carry, expect to start the trip with a pack weighing close to 50 pounds.
Conditioning is highly recommended for everyone. We recommend walking as often as possible with 25-30 pounds in your backpack. Use the boots you will be hiking in. A couple weeks before your trip, add weight until your pack weighs 40-45 pounds. You can alternate this with the Stairmaster or bike riding. The better condition you are in, the more you will enjoy your backpacking trip.
Glacier Bay is a land of enormous proportions with glacier cloaked peaks erupting from the sea and icy rivers flowing in great torrents through ancient spruce forests. Most people only see the heavily traveled Glacier Bay, but we want to share Glacier Bay’s wild coast with you this spring.
Glacier Bay’s rugged outer coast is a land of superlatives where everything seems bigger than you thought was possible. The broad Pacific beach, pounded by storms all winter arcs north over the horizon. Above the gray sands, huge logs battered and tossed by the surf are strewn like match-sticks. In the woods, the brown trunks of enormous coastal spruce stand in contrast to the brilliant green of the mosses carpeting the forest floor. And if we follow the bear trails through the moss inland we quickly enter the mountains. The Fairweather Range in Glacier Bay National Park rises as steeply as any mountains on earth, gaining fifteen thousand feet in just 12 miles! From these severe peaks flow innumerable glaciers and ice fields carving deep lakes, polished spires and ice falls, with ice spilling right onto the coast. We have a full week to explore the beach, forest, and mountains along this wilderness coast. Mountains, ocean, glacier, and forest all in one spot!
We think a leisurely backpacking trip is the best way to explore and enjoy the area. It is less than 20 miles from the La Perouse Glacier to Lituya Bay and if we alternate backpacking days with lay-over days we establish a nice rhythm of moving to see new country and getting to know each camp area intimately. Most of the hiking is on the broad sandy beach between the crashing waves and the dark green woods. But in some areas we negotiate cobbles and on occasion need to work our way through the big trees or past a small river. On the days when we leave our tents set-up and explore unburdened by our backpacks, we have a great variety of destinations to choose from. We can walk right up to the ice of the glacier, we can hike through the woods to a deep, gray glacial lake and near trip’s end we can explore into Lituya Bay made famous by the 1958 tsunami that sent a wave 1700 feet up the mountain. We can also elect to stay near camp and beachcomb, or sit in camp and watch the changing light on the mountains and waves. There is no end to the adventures we can have and no pressure or rush either.
May is a perfect time to explore Glacier Bay’s lost coast. Usually May is the driest month in Southeast Alaska and we can get good long stretches of sunny weather. The lengthening days pull birds north from the world over and great skeins of waterfowl migrate just off the coast each year. Shorebirds by the millions transit the coast as they head north to the Arctic. May is also the best month for hikers along the coast. Cool temperatures in the mountains prevent the glaciers from melting and the numerous creeks and small rivers which cross the beach are much easier and safer to cross at this time of year.
If you are eager to spend a week on the rugged Pacific Coast in one of Glacier Bay’s undiscovered corners, this is the trip for you.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Haines, AK. Lodging on your own.
Right from the start you know you are in for a spectacular flight! After climbing out of the Chilkat Valley we quickly find the ice fields and jagged peaks of Glacier Bay National Park. Then (in good weather) we get breath-taking views of Mt. Fairweather and north into Canada’s Kluane Park. After an hour of flying we descend and land right on the beach. In perfect conditions you can hear the glacier cracking from our first camp at the edge of the trees and the sun setting over the Pacific.
We have 5 full days to explore this remarkable place and only about 20 miles of backpacking. This leaves ample time to day-hike, beachcomb, bird-watch, and relish the wild beauty of the place. Approach the ice of the glacier? Hike inland for mountain views? Search the beach for glass fishing floats or whale bones? Cast a line in a clear creek? Hike the forest prime-evil and nap in a bed of moss? The week is yours to enjoy the wilderness as you like. Your guide can advise, lead, educate or leave you in peace to enjoy the surf and forest. We will hike carrying packs for parts of 3 days. The beach makes for decent backpacking most places but there are some areas of soft sand, some areas of cobbles and boulders and several creek-crossings which slow progress and present challenges.
Weather permitting, our pilot arrives mid-day for the flight back over (through or around) the mountains and back to Haines. It is worth spending a few extra days in Haines after your trip to allow for weather delays and to enjoy the friendly town.
Air transportation starting and ending in Haines, AK.
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear, backpack, tent. See complete equipment list.
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Select Rental Equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Rain is likely; snow and frost very unlikely; sunshine very probable. Temperatures are usually in the 50’s and 60’s. Overcast and damp conditions are common but we can also get some gloriously clear and sunny days. The month of May has sunniest weather of the whole year, but being Southeast Alaska, it still might not be all that warm or dry. Expect few to no bugs.