Take to the sea in a kayak in one of the wildest places on Earth. Along Alaska’s southeastern coast, little is accessible by road. Glaciers tumble down from high mountain slopes, scattering icebergs across inlets and bays. Ferns and moss carpet the floor of the ancient Tongass Forest, and waters rich with salmon and nutrients lure wildlife of every sort, from humpback whales and sea otters to brown bears. Exploring from the intimate perspective of your kayak, encounter the forests and shores of beautiful Chichagof Island close-up. Venture far into Glacier Bay and spend three days paddling through this otherworldly wilderness of ice and mountains.
Arrive at the Juneau airport and meet up for our short air taxi to Gustavus, a tiny community at the edge of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve that is inaccessible by road. Gather for a briefing with our guides and get outfitted for the trip before a welcome dinner in town.
Board a charter boat early this morning and cruise across Icy Strait to Point Adolphus on the northern tip of Chichagof Island. We’ll set up camp in the shelter of the old-growth forest, and then suit up for our first kayak excursion. The nutrient-rich waters of this area sustain an incredible amount of wildlife. Against a backdrop of snow-dusted peaks and thick evergreen forests, humpbacks flash their mighty tails, porpoise arc out of the water, and Steller's sea lions frolic in the shallows. Skim along the island’s shores, taking time to find and observe the exciting wildlife here. Tonight, we’ll have dinner by the water’s edge, listening to the sounds of the wild. (3-6 miles paddling, 3-4 hours)
Continue exploring the shores of Chichagof today, on the lookout for marine life and the bald eagles that are prevalent here. The entire island is part of the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest—the country’s largest national forest, and the largest remaining temperate rain forest on the planet. Paddle along the wild coastline, discovering stunning rock formations, hidden coves, and empty beaches. Break for a picnic and go for a walk in the cool shade beneath ancient spruces and hemlocks. (3-6 miles paddling, 3-4 hours)
After one last morning on Chichagof Island, return to Gustavus by boat and set out on an afternoon hike on an enormous beach created by the retreat of the glaciers. (2 miles paddling, 1-2 hours; 3-5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Spend the day hiking and exploring the small town of Gustavus. During breakfast, your guides will share some history of the town and give you a couple of activity options for the day. When available, enjoy dinner and a talk by National Geographic writer and photographer Kim Heacox. (3-5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Today, we’ll head out on our kayak expedition into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Glide into the bay on a charter boat, passing between shores that were covered in ice just 200 years ago. The glaciers here retreat—and in some cases advance—at some of the fastest rates in the world. See sea lions heaped together on the rocks, look for minke and killer whales, and spot puffins and other seabirds on an island where they come to nest. Once we arrive in the upper glacial reaches of the park, we’ll switch to sea kayaks and paddle off into the pristine, icy wilderness. We have the privilege of spending two full days exploring the park by kayak and by foot. The park is home to some seven tidewater glaciers, which descend from the surrounding mountains and shed icebergs of all shapes and sizes into the bay. Witness the dramatic sight of glaciers calving huge slabs of ice that crash into the water below. Kayak along sparkling walls of ice and skirt magnificent icebergs that glow blue and green. Hike through meadows on the lookout for brown bears, moose, mountain goats, and more. With our naturalist guides, learn about the unique vegetation that has recolonized the land after the retreat of the ice. At night, take in a vast sweep of stars. (Day 6: 5-8 miles paddling, 4 hours; Day 7: 4-7 miles paddling, 3-4 hours)
Wake up in Alaska’s great outdoors one last time, and enjoy another chance to paddle into narrow inlets and hike along the shores. We’ll catch the boat back to Gustavus, moving through the many habitats that compose the national park. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore Gustavus on your own before we celebrate our trip at a farewell dinner. (1-2 miles paddling, 1 hour)
After breakfast, go on an optional hike or explore downtown. Then, transfer to the airport for a charter flight back to Juneau to connect with your flight home. (1-5 miles optional hiking, 1-3 hours)