In addition to the terminal in Bellingham, WA, hikers can board Alaska Marine Highway System (800-642-0066; www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs) ferries in Prince Rupert, BC, 550 miles northwest of Vancouver. Ferry tickets are sold by the leg; the most expensive (about $200) is the initial journey from Bellingham to Ketchikan.
On the ferries, a ticket entitles you to free camping on the deck. Pick up backcountry camping permits for Glacier Bay at Bartlett Cove. U.S. Forest Service cabins are available on some islands for minimal fees; Raven’s Roost, outside of Petersburg, and 20 others on adjacent islands go for $35 a night (www.nps.gov/aplic/cabins/fs_cabins.html).
One thing is certain on the Inside Passage: rain. July through September is the best bet for dry weather.
Adventure Guide to the Inside Passage and Coastal Alaska, by Ed and Lynn Readicker-Henderson ($18), and Along the Alaska Marine Highway, by Alissa Crandall ($10), cover all the bases.