Water: Muir Inlet, AK

Paddle along Glacier Bay's dynamic shores.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.


Paddle your kayak along Glacier Bay’s dynamic shores and you’ll literally see land being created before your eyes. As receding glaciers send sapphire-blue icebergs thundering into the bay, they expose new sections of rocky shoreline. And as the weight of the ice lifts, land ringing the bay actually rises—up to an inch per year. McBride Bay, at this trip’s northernmost point, is just 50 years old. Witness it all—and much more—on this five-day, 45-mile journey. In the spring, humpback whales breach the icy waters along with orcas and gray whales.

Grizzlies, moose, and wolves patrol the forested shores year-round. Caution: As you paddle Muir Inlet, remain alert. Rolling icebergs and calving glaciers can create waves large enough to flip kayaks and dislodge careless tie-downs. Be cautious around icebergs, and view glaciers from at least a quarter nautical mile away. Be sure to beach your craft well above the waterline; in late spring (when whales fill the inlet, but before the mosquitoes arrive), the tidal exchange reaches 20 feet.

INFO Permits (free) are required May to September, as is the bear-safety session at the visitor center. (907) 697-2627; nps.gov/glba. Trip data: backpacker.com/hikes/612892

1. Mt. Wright Put-In

0439298E 6516565N; mile 0

Launch northwest along the shoreline for protection from wind and waves. (Departure point changes due to bear activity; ask rangers for up-to-date beta.)

2. Adams Inlet

0441555E 6523427N; mile 6.7

Paddle along the forested south shore to scope a choice campsite. (Note: Grizzlies abound; check with rangers on areas to avoid.) Make the miles easier by timing your arrival with an incoming tide.

3. Goose Cove

0436290E 6535762N; mile 16.4

Sheltered home of an 800-year-old Tlingit tribal village. Camp on the shore of this south-facing cove before paddling northwest, keeping Sealers Island to port.

4. Caution!

0434084E 6543890N; mile 22

Do not enter McBride Inlet. Its bottleneck shape makes for strong rip currents. Use a monocular to scan the glacier’s gravel-streaked walls from a safe distance.

5. McBride Bay

0434384E 6544420N; mile 22.4

Weave around icebergs to the third night’s camp. For the best view, position your tent door to open toward the McBride Glacier.

6. Maquina Cove

0438552E 6526447N; mile 35.4

Paddle back down Muir Inlet the way you came. Hug the eastern bank to reach this beach campsite with unobstructed views of the lower bay’s forested coast. Final day: Meet the ferry 10.3 miles south at the Mt. Wright pick-up.

Paddle Away

See more trip options.