Alsek Raft and Hike

Alsek Raft and Hike


Custom Dates Available


Kluane, Tatshenshini, and Alsek Parks.





Custom Dates Available


Kluane, Tatshenshini, and Alsek Parks.



Green forests, white and blue glaciers, gray water, and a rainbow of wildflowers are the palette of the Alsek River. Join us for a week of rafting and hiking in a Pleistocene landscape. Ice scoured and raw, the Alsek watershed has only recently emerged from beneath the glaciers of the last ice age, and yet the forests and meadows are unbelievably lush in the brief summer warmth, the contrasts and the beauty luring us to paddle around the next bend and climb the next mountain.


A journey down the Alsek River is a trip into an Ice Age wilderness. The upper Alsek, from Dezadeash River to Lowell Lake, offers excellent hiking in Canada’s Kluane National Park with unique plant species, abundant wildlife, and a first-hand look at glacial geology in action.

Our expedition begins on the Dezadeash River in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, against the impressive backdrop of the Auriol mountains. The river here is slow and clear, winding its way through alder and willow scrub with occasional stands of white spruce. We’ll look for beaver, moose, bald eagles, northern goshawks, and the northern waterthrush, among other species. All able hands will ply oars and paddles, as the upstream winds can be strong.

As we move downstream, tributaries swell the river and the current picks up speed. At the confluence of the Dezadeash and the silt-laden waters of the Kaskawulsh Glacier drainage, we begin our journey on the powerful Alsek River. The upper Alsek, bounded by the Kluane Ranges, is a designated grizzly bear preserve, home to the largest concentration of grizzlies in Canada. We’ll look for brown and black bears foraging for soapberry, kinnikinnick, or bearroot, and turning over logs in search of ants. This section of the river is also prime habitat for moose,  Dall’s sheep, and trumpeter swans.

As the river snakes south, the dramatic folds of the mountains are evidence that we are crossing the Denali and Duke River faults. Along the route, we can hike a geologically recent lava flow, spot glacial erratics, and walk on sand dunes that were once the shores of Lake Champagne, created when the river was dammed by the surging Lowell Glacier. We can explore countless creeks, mountainsides and forested valleys carved by recent glaciation. Weather permitting, we’ll take a dip in the beautiful clear pools we find along the way.

On our journey we will paddle about 45 miles from the dry interior mountains of the Yukon Territory into the heart of glacier country, culminating in a layover camp at iceberg-studded Lowell Lake. Intrepid hikers will summit Goatherd Mountain for vistas of the lake and Lowell Glacier – and perhaps an encounter with mountain goats along the way. On a clear day, the 15,000-foot glaciated peaks of the Wrangell St Elias Range can be seen to the west.

From Lowell Lake we descend into some serious whitewater negotiating several Class IV rapids towards the end of the trip. They are both thrilling and demanding. Just the sound of the water thrashing through the rocks is an experience of true wilderness.

Beyond the rapids we have a final camp and from here another opportunity for a full day’s hike up onto the Tweedsmuir Glacier for a day you’ll likely never forget. The ice seems to stretch forever!

Our trip allows for multiple layover days so we can explore according to weather conditions and group preferences. Rafting the Alsek River is a true wilderness expedition. Challenges such as wind, cold, inclement weather, and swiftly rising or dropping river levels are all part of the adventure.  With the help of our experienced guides, this exceptional trip of a lifetime is suitable for those with a thirst for adventure and a reasonable level of personal fitness.

Please note that this “hike and raft” itinerary is different from most trips offered on the Alsek River. We will linger in the upper portion of the river and spend our time hiking in the dry interior mountains. This trip does not paddle to Dry Bay on the Pacific Coast, preferring to savor the sunny side of the mountains and hike the tundra and glaciers for this summer’s adventure. There is, however, a helicopter ride at the end of the trip from Turnback Canyon to the Haines Highway.

This trip is offered in cooperation with our friends at Haines Rafting Company, in Kluane National Park.

Last updated: August 13, 2022


What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

Day 0

Arrive in Haines, AK in time for a 4 pm trip orientation.

Lodging at the Aspen Hotel in Haines this night is included. Meals this day are on your own.

Day 1

Morning van departure up the Chilkat Valley, across the Canadian Border (you must have your passport and proof of vaccination. Plus possibly other requirements), through the spectacular high alpine of Chilkat Pass to the interior mountain valley of our raft put-in at Haines Junction, Yukon Territory. Once arrived, we’ll eat lunch and launch on a small tributary of the Alsek. If the upstream winds are particularly stiff, we’ll hike into our alternate put-in at Serpentine Creek.

Day 2

As we move down the Alsek River, we’ll spend a couple days exploring the rivers, valleys, and mountains of Kluane National Park and Preserve. This is grizzly bear and moose country so we’ll have cameras and binoculars handy. The open, dry alpine environment with stunted trees and tundra-like terrain is ideal for wildlife viewing. The scenery is spectacular, and rich with stories about geologic, natural, and human history.

Enter the heart of glacier country, and move back in time to an Ice Age wilderness. The Alsek picks up speed and turns from clear blue to the color of chocolate milk as it converges with the silt-laden Kuskawulsh River. The river is splashy and fast and we begin to get a sense of the jaw-dropping immensity of the St. Elias Mountains towering 9,000 ft above the river.

Day 3 and 4

Just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, we raft through a series of splashy, fun rapids and then into iceberg-studded Lowell Lake. We’ll lay over at the lake. Weather permitting, we’ll take a sunset paddle on the lake to get a closer look at icebergs and other glacial features. In the morning, the intrepid will set off to hike Goat Herd Mountain, where we may see mountain goats, and get a bird’s eye view of the lake, Lowell Glacier, and the sublimity that surrounds.

Day 5

Rapids Day! Roll that dry-bag carefully and check that your dry-suit seals are seated. Today we leave Lowell Lake and enter the top of the Alsek Canyon. We will paddle lots of fun, splashy, and stunningly beautiful rapids as the Alsek pours from the lake and rushes towards the sea culminating in our careful descent of a single Class IV rapid. It is an exciting day.

Day 6

A final day on the river. The Alsek remains powerful, but the big rapids are behind us and we can refocus our attention on scanning the mountains for wildlife and taking pictures of the icy crags all around us. At the end of the day we make a final camp near the flank of the Tweedsmuir Glacier in preparation for a day-hike the following day.

Day 7

Our last day on the Alsek is truly stunning. It is not an easy hike, but with some effort (the long days help) we can gain the high-ground above the river and eventually walk right onto the Tweedsmuir, a tongue of ice flowing from Canada’s highest peaks which (below our camp) nearly blocks the Alsek.

After a long day of adventure we will return to camp and the now familiar sound of the Alsek’s silt laden water rushing over rocks.

Day 8

The last morning, we will break down camp, shuttle to the landing area across the river, and weather permitting, prepare for the 45-minute helicopter ride from the Alsek to the Haines Highway. A van shuttle will be waiting for us when we land. The drive back to Haines is less than an hour. 

Time for a hot shower!

Stellar guides!

They went above and beyond the typical guide responsibilities and there was never a demarcation between guide and client–we were one pack of unruly rabble-rousers, loving every breathtaking minute on that wild river.  One of the best trips of my life.
Thank you!

- Nancy, Indiana, USA



Transportation from Haines, AK

Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, oars, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

One night lodging at Aspen Hotel in Haines the night prior to your trip (double occupancy)

Select Camping Gear is available and included


Lodging other than one night in Haines

Any non-camping meals

Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List

Gratuity for guides


Rain is likely; snow and frost almost impossible; sunshine intermittent. Temperatures are usually in the 50’s and 60’s. Overcast and damp conditions are common but this trip focuses on the interior portion of the river and we will likely avoid some of the wet weather on the pacific side of the mountains. July has the nicest weather of the whole year, but at this latitude “nice” might not be all that warm. Bugs should be very few. But bring a little DEET just in case.


Our recommended sequence is to spend the night before the pre-trip meeting in Juneau, then take the morning ferry on the day before the trip arriving in time for the pre-trip meeting.

At trips end, spend the night in Haines and ferry to Juneau the day after. Or if you are interested in spending more time in Haines, we have lots of suggestions for other adventures in Haines.


Love Finds You in Glacier Bay by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

The Land of Ocean Mists by Francis Caldwell

The Complete Guide to the Tatshenshini River: Including the Upper Alsek River by Lyman, Ordonez, Speaks

Jimmy Bluefeather by Kim Heacox

"The wilderness was spectacular, the leadership perfect."
"I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!"
"Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive."
"That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou...that will stay with me a long time"
"Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!"
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Eileen - Canning River