Rip & Go: Shoup Bay Kayak-n-Hike

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Do it Explore the 40-square-mile Shoup Glacier as it crashes into a secluded bay on this 19.4-mile float-and-hike 250 miles from Anchorage. Begin your two-day trip from a kayak put-in (1) just inside the mouth of Shoup Bay (paddle or get there via a water taxi out of Valdez Harbor). Floating northwest toward the white-mantled, 12,000-foot Chugach Mountains, paddle 1.1 miles through a 150-foot-wide slot (2). (Look for sea otters cracking open mollusks.) Glide by a 100-foot-tall rock island (3), where 20,000 black-legged kittiwakes rear their chicks every summer. Finger-like cascades spill over 1,000-foot-tall black cliffs on either side of your boat and seals poke silvery heads above the slate-green water. At 3.1 miles from the put-in, pull your boat 20 feet onto the beach (4). Set up camp (5) among shrubby, wavy-leaved Sitka alders (above high-tide line) and switch to hiking boots for a 3.4-mile out-and-back. Hike .5 mile north along the shoreline to the top of a house-size rubble mound (6) for a view of the glacier’s redwood-size ice spires, each poised to peel into the frigid water. Continue west to a gushing, 20-foot-wide creek. Follow it through hot pink alpine fireweed, past a multitiered cascade, and bear north, skirting the base of a 150-foot-deep slot canyon (7). A 10-story ribbon of water flows off the far rim, filling a turquoise pool at your feet. Ascend the mountainside away from the canyon to a moss-covered, 1,500-foot-tall shelf (8) for a misty view of the skyward cliffs you paddled beside earlier. Return to camp by the same route, and fall asleep to the gentle lapping of waves. Next morning, paddle south out of Shoup Bay and turn east toward Valdez. Look for an abandoned gold mine tucked into the trees to the north and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to the south. Kayak 5.1 miles—watching for sea lions, orcas, and humpback whales—to Port Valdez (9) and your car.

GET THERE From Valdez, go south on Meals Ave. and veer left in .1 mile onto N. Harbor Dr. Park in the public-use lot above the docks. Paddle from here or meet your water taxi (about $50/person with kayaks, but rates vary; make reservations in advance at kimberlinswatertaxi.com) at the marina. (Check tides on NOAA.org; you’ll want to use the water taxi if going there or back against the current.)
GEAR UP Pangea Adventures (kayaks run $50/day); 107 N. Harbor Dr., Valdez; (907) 835-8442; pangaeaadventures.com
SEASON July through early September for the best wildlife viewing and best weather
CONTACT (907) 262-5581; bit.ly/ShoupBay
PERMIT None TRIP ID* 2255695

Fun Fact In 1890—when Captain Cook first laid eyes on Shoup Glacier—its terminus lay alongside the fjord leading to Valdez Harbor. The glacier has receded more than 3 miles in 120 years, exposing Shoup Bay.

No-boat alternative From Valdez, hike to the glacier on the 8.5-mile Shoup Bay Trail. More info: bit.ly/ShoupBayTrail.