Save or Splurge: Kayak Southeast Alaska

Tour the wildlife menagerie that is southeast Alaska on two kayak trips

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What you get

A 3-hour cruise aboard a 40-foot charter boat gives you a taste of what’s coming: You whoosh past Resurrection Bay’s hanging glaciers, needle-sharp mountains, and charred-black sea stacks en route to Holgate Glacier, in Kenai Fjords National Park’s sheltered Aialik Bay. You pass islands where 50,000 seabirds, including horned puffins and black-legged kittiwakes, gather to raise babies and dive-bomb distracted fish. For the next 3 days, you’ll paddle past sea lion rookeries, dodge “bergie bits” (floating chunks of iceberg), and fall asleep to the groans of ancient glaciers. The price covers tents, hearty food, kayaks, the charter, guides, gear, and instruction. Bring a sleeping bag and a bottle of wine.

Why It’s Cool

The Harding Icefield is a 300-square-mile Ice Age remnant responsible for Kenai Fjords’ wilderness of craggy cirques, deep-water valleys, and 40-plus hanging and tidewater glaciers. The walls of ice creep down through rain forest to shed 200-foot-high slabs of ice into a sea churning with seals and salmon. From your basecamp at Holgate Arm, you’ll paddle 6 to 7 miles a day, poking around offshore rock formations and ambling into hidden white-sand coves and protected lagoons where 30-ton humpbacks have been known to surface under kayakers and “kiss” their boats. You’ll hike glacier moraines in search of black bears and wolverines, then snack on cream-cheese-and-salmon pizza while you glass Dall sheep tiptoeing on the surrounding cliffs. Wildlife sightings or not, you’re guaranteed an intact-wilderness experience, where you can ride the tides into a world that is as it was a thousand years ago.

How To Do It

Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking Company:

(907) 224-8810;



What You Get

One of the first ever commercially guided trips into a stretch of saltwater so remote that Glacier Bay National Park rangers say it’s visited by “point 5” people a year. The 7-day, 40-mile sea-kayaking tour–run for the first time this July–starts with a 4-hour charter-boat ride to the mouth of the Pacific. Continue west, and you’re off to Japan. Turn north, and you’re headed to nutrient-rich Dundas Bay, a 9-mile-wide inlet (and your home for the next week) near the Inside Passage. Here, orcas, humpbacks, and minke whales join seals, sea lions, otters, and bald eagles for the seafood buffet. Guides, boats, fresh-caught food, park fees, and charters are included; you bring your personal gear and sleeping bag.

Why It’s Cool

Where else can you slip your boat into waters where commercial fishermen once watched a pod of orcas take down a moose swimming across open water? (Don’t let that scare you off: Orcas don’t eat sea kayakers.) And where else can you go on a trip that’s guaranteed to be one of a kind-because the land is rising an inch a year and the glaciers are shrinking so fast the maps ought to be redrawn every decade? In krill-and-phytoplankton-rich Dundas and Taylor Bays, you and your guides do recon together: paddling in crystal-blue waters where all five species of Pacific salmon congregate before heading up the Taku, Chilkoot, and Chilkat Rivers; poking around untouched tide pools; hiking wildflower-festooned ridges; and camping hard up against the Fairweather Range’s 15,000-foot peaks. You’ll still have time to take a bucket bath, tuck into blackened salmon and cheesecake, and read a book by the light of the 11 p.m. sun.

How To Do It

Alaska Mountain Guides & Climbing School:

(800) 766-3396;

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