Haines, Alaska, is a quiet place; even when a cruise ship is in town (only about once a week), it has a much less touristy feel than other popular southeast Alaska destinations. You'll see plenty of locals wearing practical rubber boots, going out in their boats, and doing work unrelated to tourism. They're friendly, too, since they're not as overwhelmed with cruise ship crowds.
The natural setting couldn't be better -- it's nestled between mountains and turquoise water. Hiking is good, though the trailheads don't start in town, so you'll need transportation or extra walking stamina. Mt. Ripinsky is the most challenging, gaining almost four thousand feet across just under four miles. Mt. Riley is also popular, and provides good views. For an easier walk, try the pleasant Battery Point trail, which ends at a pebble beach where you can scramble around rocks and tide pools, exploring as far as you want along the shore. A bike is another a good way to get around, and several businesses will rent you one. A popular destination is Chilkoot Lake. You can also join various guided bike tours.
Haines is a wildlife haven. While hiking or biking, keep an eye out for sea life -- eagles, bears, and moose. Chilkoot River has good bear viewing, especially during the salmon runs (roughly August through September). Organize a tour in town or rent a car and drive. The same goes for the Bald Eagle Preserve. You'll see a few eagles there year round, but from November to January, it hosts the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world, come to gorge themselves on a late salmon run. Right in town, the American Bald Eagle Foundation museum has live bird shows daily.
Don't miss Fort Seward, an old military base with a big parade ground and coordinated architecture. Some of the buildings are still homes. Plaques around the base explain interesting bits of history, and in the Alaska Indian Arts Center on the grounds they display native art. If you're lucky, you can even see totem-pole carvers or metal workers creating their art.
In town, visit the various other museums and unique shops. The library is a beautiful, new building where you can use the internet or learn more about local history and Native American culture. You can also explore the movie set for the frontier town in "White Fang," and get some local beer from the brewery. Groceries, as elsewhere in Alaska, are expensive, but buying food and cooking in your Haines hostel is definitely the cheapest dining alternative. Haines hostel options are limited, but don't let that keep you from this beautiful southeast Alaska destination.
Hi, I'm Melinda Brasher,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Haines hostels. Welcome.