Small towns tend to dominate when you visit Alaska, but this one is really worth your time. Haines Alaska has everything from epic hikes to killer local brews. These are our top picks for an inspiring visit in the Adventure Capital of Alaska.
Though Haines only has 2,000 residents that call it home, this fishing-port town has a big heart, and the friendly locals truly make the experience. Prepare to swap stories with flannel-clad loggers, grab a beer with a totem pole artist, and high-five the mayor while you’re there.
You’ll also want to explore the exceptional local trails, find out why the Discovery Channel is filming nearby, and talk to some local heli-skiers about Haines’ candyland of epic peaks and internationally acclaimed powder.
Oh, and you’ll definitely want to be around in September to see over 4,000 eagles arrive for the remarkable annual eagle congregation.
Fun facts about Haines, Alaska
- average age is 49
- has the highest per capita number of artists of any town in America
- approximately 1/3 of the population leaves for the winter
- is home to Klukwan, the lowest inhabited village in America
- world-renowned for heli-skiing
- home to the Discovery Channel’s hit show Gold Rush Alaska
There’s a reason why so many authors, artists, photographers, athletes, and outdoor adventurers tend to extend their stay in Haines, and why so many youngsters are flocking to this outdoor paradise.
Where is Haines Alaska?
Nestled at the base of the Takshanuk and Chilkat mountains, Haines Alaska is a charming, rugged frontier town that offers bucket-list beauty and endless outdoor adventures.
This off-the-beaten-path destination is perfect for adventurers, freedom seekers, and great American road trippers of all ages. So if you’re seeking pristine landscapes, dreamy wildlife, and small-town vibes that rival the rest, this trip is right up your alley.
How to Get to Haines Alaska
Haines is located on the Chilkat Peninsula, on the shores of the northern Lynn Canal (North America’s deepest and longest fjord). There are a couple of ways to visit Haines, but our favorite is the Alaska Marine Highway System, a scenic state ferry from Juneau (see below).
Other ways to visit this off-the-grid gem are by seaplane, or, if you’re coming from the East, to drive across the border from Canada via the Haines Highway.
The Haines Highway, also known as the Haines Cut-Off, connects Haines, Alaska (in the United States) with Haines Junction, Yukon, Canada, by passing through British Columbia and the Canadian border.
Alaska Marine Highway System
The 5-hour ferry trip across the Lynn Canal on the Alaska Marine Highway System is one of the most scenic boat trips that you’ll ever take. It’s a relaxing way to travel and is well worth your time.
Post up in your own private cabin, grab a coffee with another traveler, or hit the deck and scope the water for whales.
The trip begins in Juneau, just 80 miles south of Haines. Cruising along the inner passage, you’ll pass towering mountains, America’s largest fjord, and (if you’re lucky) some bears, eagles, dolphins, whales, and moose.
This is by far one of the best ways to orient yourself with the raw power of Alaska.
To book tickets or learn more, visit their website here. To speak with a reservations agent call: 1-800-642-0066 (The Haines terminal number is 907-766- 2111 or 2113)
Where to Stay in Haines Alaska
Captain’s Choice Motel
Situated along the canal, this clean and comfortable motel delivers breathtaking mountain views and just the right amount of Alaskan charm. It’s perfect for families, solo-travelers, and road trippers alike.
The rooms are complete with modern wood paneling, and comfortable beds — simplicity at its finest.
My spoiled son is used to fancy rooms and immediately commented on how plain this one was, but he immediately followed up with the fact that the beds were very comfortable. This was apparently high on his accommodation check-off list and we agreed – they were quite comfortable.
The mountain views on the canal-side are unbeatable.
There is a basic continental breakfast, but the best thing about the place is how close it is to both the water and the center of town.
You can walk to explore most of the center of town from here, but Captain’s Choice also has car rental agency and is happy to assist with activity planning and free transfers to the ferry/airport.
The rental process is incredibly easy and I highly recommend using it to visit the Kroschel Wildlife Center if you love animals. (more on this facility below!)
Hot Tip: Request a room towards the back of the property, so that you can get the incredible waterfront canal view!
Captain’s Choice 108 2nd Ave, Haines, AK 99827 Toll Free 1-800-478-2345 Phone: 907-766-3111 Fax: 907-766- 3332
What to Do in Haines Alaska
Go on a Guided Bear and Eagle Quest
If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a National Geographic Explorer or a Planet Earth Film Crew, this is your chance to hide out in the wilderness and see some giant bears in action!
Join a group of like-minded travelers on a once-in-a-lifetime bear and bald eagle viewing expedition.
Of course sightings aren’t guaranteed – they are wild animals, right? But more often than not, you’ll probably get to see something!
You might even be able to get up close and personal with a majestic brown bear at Chilkoot Lake. Guided by a local naturalist, you’ll spend time observing these beautiful beasts (at a safe and comfortable distance).
While you are out there, learn how use a high-powered scope, discover the history of the native Tlingit fishing grounds, and photograph the spawning pink salmon.
The guides at Alaska Nature Tours provide a safe and informational tour (with plenty of punny bear jokes to keep it entertaining)!
Hot Tip: Brown bear viewing is best during the peak salmon run season (August-September) so aim for then! Definitely pack your camera and a few extra snacks.
Alaska Nature Tours 109 Second Avenue, P.O. Box 491, Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-2876
Raft through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
If you’re a waterbaby, this trip will inspire you. Explore the breathtaking landscapes of south-eastern Alaska on this 4-hour float trip along the scenic Chilkat State Park River.
This family-friendly trip does not require any paddling (the guide does it for you) so that you can sit back, relax and take in the unique sights and sounds of the river at your own pace.
One of the coolest things about the Chilkat river is that it is home to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where thousands (yes, thousands) of Great American bald eagles come every fall to take advantage of the late spawning season.
It’s also possible to see other wildlife along the way including bears, moose, swans, otters, and sometimes even wolves!
Definitely bring your camera but also remember to put it down and simply enjoy the here and now of this experience so you will be able to close your eyes and take home the smells, sounds and colors to enjoy any time you want to relive the serene.
Depending on the weather, some tours float right past the village of Klukwan, a Tlingit community. Every tour is different and calibrated to the pace of the group and the local conditions. The guides are friendly and know the secret spots!
Another gem of the Rainbow Glacier Adventures Float Tour is the celebratory picnic at the end. This trip is perfect for anybody (aged 8-80), so pony up, and get your float on!
Hot Tip: Ask for Steve or Dave – both are amazing sources of local knowledge and we enjoyed our conversations as much as we enjoyed the scenery!
Rainbow Glacier Adventures P.O. Box 1103, Haines, Alaska 99827 (907) 766-3576
Hike or Trail Run at Battery Point
Locals agree: this 1.2 mile one-way trail is a simple, yet spellbindingly beautiful hike. It is short and flat (so you won’t be out all day), but it’s perfect for a mid-morning stroll, a sunrise trail run, or even a picnic lunch.
The first part of the trail winds through coastal rainforest, and the second part spills out onto the rugged ocean.
Dogs are allowed, and there is a nice pebbled beach to swim in or picnic at. In May and June, you can usually see whales from the lookout point!
Hot Tip: If it’s raining or if you are up for more of a challenge, consider hiking at the nearby Mt. Riley trail. It’s under the cover of the trees so you won’t get as wet and can still enjoy the beauty.
Get your Climb on at Mt. Rapinski
If you want to bag some peaks while you are in Alaska, Mt. Rapinski is the place to be. The challenging climb tackles roughly 3600 ft of elevation gain and is only for those in excellent physical standing.
The views from the top are unbeatable – you can see the ant-sized town of Haines, the emerald blue Chilkoot Lake, now-capped peaks, and brilliant green alpine meadows below.
The hike takes around 10 hours round trip, and can be split into a multi-day trek. The most easily accessed trail-head is less than a mile from the center of town.
Be sure to check weather and trail conditions before heading out!
Hot Tip: If you’re going in the summer bring mosquito repellent, those devils can be tricky in the forest section! And, if you’re going in the winter…snowshoes are a MUST.
Lock Eyes With America’s Signature Raptor
When you are in the Eagle Valley of America, you kind of have to go see the bald eagles!
The American Bald Eagle Foundation offers educational tours, presentations, a natural history museum, and a sanctuary for twelve live birds recovering from injuries and illnesses.
It’s definitely worth a quick stop to this small sanctuary, and it is fun for the kids to see how big the birds (eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls) are up close!
Hot tip: Every fall, Haines hosts the largest congregation of bald eagles in the U.S. They come from all over to feed on the late salmon run in the Chilkat River. Visit in the November for this incredible festival and town-wide celebration!
American Bald Eagle Foundation 113 Haines Hwy, Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-3094
Play Eye-Spy at The Hammer Museum
Disclaimer: this may be the weirdest museum you’ll ever visit. But, we have to admit it, it’s still pretty cool.
The first thing you’ll notice is the two-story hammer out front. Step inside and you’ll find wall after wall adorned with hammers from almost every feasible time period (from ancient Egyptian models to modern day Alaska).
There are over 2000 hammers on display, and 5000 more in the rotating collection. They were collected by David Pahl after his wife bet him he couldn’t collect more than 100 unique hammers.
Talk about a bet gone wrong (or wildly right if you ask David).
Hot Tip: There are eye-spy-like scavenger hunts available for the kids. Adults can play too!
Hammer Museum 108 Main Street , Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-2374 Closed on Sundays
Get Inspired at the Kroschel Wildlife Center
Owner Steve Kroschel is a quirky naturalist and independent filmmaker who devotes his life to rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals.
His work has been featured on BBC science specials, PBS, the GIAM channel, and in the movie “Everest” starring Keira Knightley and Jake Gyllenhaal (in addition to many other programs).
Steve works hard to connect people and wild creatures. He welcomes visitors to his unique wildlife center located just 28 miles north of Haines for up close wildlife tours, photography lessons, and educational opportunities.
Stop by to connect with this revolutionary wildlife filmmaker or to snap an insta-worthy picture of a moose!
Steve has humble Minnesotan roots and is a great host. He loves telling stories and it’s no surprise he has a lot of fun ones to tell.
This was one of our most favorite memories of our entire 10 day Alaskan adventure, and should be on your MUST DO list when you visit Haines.
Hot Tip: If you don’t have a car, you can always take the Haines Shuttle. And while you’re there, be sure to pick up a homemade journal or postcard in the gift shop. All proceeds go back to the animals.
Kroshchel Wildlife Center 1.8 Mile Mosquito Lake Road, Haines, Alaska 99827 (907) 767-5464
Experience Chilkat Tlingit Culture at the Klukwan Village
To get a true feel for the depth of Alaskan culture, you have to understand the history of the native Tlingit.
Located 22 miles north of Haines, the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center provides tours of the last remaining Chilkat Tlingit village. It’s the perfect, non-touristy place to learn about Tlingit culture right from the families who have lived there for thousands of years.
Klukwan is the longest inhabited village in America and has just under 100 inhabitants.
While you’re there, be sure to visit the long dance house to see the Knock on Door Dance and the Salmon Fishing Dance. You can also check out the whale house, watch how traditional food is smoked, see how an ocean canoe is made from local resources, or just take in the stunning scenery.
The village is located right alongside the river, near a beautiful and isolated forest. Make time to visit if you want to delve deeper into Alaskan culture. As a friend put it, this place is as impressive as the Smithsonian.
Hot Tip: Call ahead to reserve your tour. Keep your eyes peeled for the seal and sea lion hats in the gift shop.
Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center 9 Chilkat Ave, Klukwan, Alaska (907) 767-5485 Closed Sundays
Step Back in Time on the White Fang Movie Set
Did you know that the Disney movie White Fang, was filmed in Haines back in 1991?
The film brought an estimated revenue of $2.6 million to the small town, and locals were invited to contribute to almost every aspect of the production including catering, acting, scouting locations, and more.
Haines asked Hollywood to keep the film set (a gold-rush-era mini-city) intact for the Alaska State Fair.
Today, (though it sometimes still looks like an abandoned ghost town), the former gold rush film set (now called Dalton City) is home to charming breweries and shops.
Beer Fest takes place here every May so if you happen to be in the neighborhood during this epic celebration, you’re in for a treat.
If you’re not around in May, be sure to pop in Haines Brewing Company for a Spruce Tip beer or head on over to the Klondike to enjoy a meal and play some full contact frisbee golf.
Hot Tip: There are tours you can book, but honestly – just explore on your own. If you have kids, look for the playground in the grassy area just outside the town set.
Dalton City is located one mile west of Haines at the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds and is a must-see attraction.
Celebrate Haines at the Haines Sheldon Museum
The Haines Sheldon Museum is an ode to all things Haines. Stop by to learn about the town’s native culture, fishing, mining, and logging roots.
Discover expert puppet-makers, hand-carved totem poles, and mountain culture. Look through lighthouse lens, marvel at the handwoven Chilkat blankets, or discover the work of Haines’ current artists. There’s plenty to explore here!
Hot Tip: If you plan to visit multiple museums in Haines, buy a discount pass (it will be less expensive overall). There are also great benches outside by the waterfront here if you want to pack a picnic lunch.
Haines Sheldon Museum 11 Main St, Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-2366
Where to Grab a Local Beer
Haines Brewing Company
Founded in 1999, this small mom and pop brewery offers seven of its own beers on tap. The tasting room is small and fills up quickly, but it is definitely worth swinging by. There’s also an outdoor beer garden if you are visiting during warm weather.
Stop in to sample the quirky chocolate-coffee Black Fang, or stick with the fan-favorite Spruce Tip Ale (brewed with the sap from local spruce trees).
Whatever you do, try the homemade root beer, it’s some of the absolute best. And buy a growler for the road!
Meet the groovy owners in this video and learn what they are doing for the Haines community (think Solar Panels)!
Hot Tip: Cash only (but there is an ATM on site). Fun fact – the brewery is housed the the same building that was used on the set of the Disney movie, White Fang in 1991.
Haines Brewing Company 327 Main St, Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-3823 Closed Sundays
Port Chilkoot Distillery
Located in the historic Fort Seward, this is definitely the place to unwind after a hard day’s play. Originally celebrated for their 50 Fathoms Gin (a winner at the San Francisco World Spirits competition), handcrafted cocktails are the go to move here.
The small-batch artisanal spirits are infused with local glacial-fed water, simple syrups, organic grains, and flavors that capture life on the frontier. Sample a flight, or have Macky whip you up something special.
You’ll want to take a bottle for the road – the graphic designs on these bottles are so incredible, you’ll want to display them in your living room!
Hot Tip: Try the Moscow moose with home brewed ginger beer or opt for a cocktail with locally grown cherries…mmmm! After a good drink, head next door to Fireweed for a great meal.
Port Chilkoot Distillery 34 Blacksmith Street, Haines, AK 99827
If you are a skier, mountain athlete, or a snow-bunny of any sorts, you’ll want to pop in Pioneer Bar for a drink.
This classic Alaskan hippie dive bar has been featured in more ski-films than you can count. Incredible alpine photos line the walls (be sure to look up too!).
This place is a social hub in the winter and a must-see for alpinists.
Pioneer Bar 122 Main St. Haines, Alaska (907) 766-3443
Where to Eat in Haines Alaska
The Pilot Light
Hands down, this is where you’ll find some of the best food in Haines. If you love seafood, sourdough bread, or just want a quality meal, then this place is definitely your jam.
Located in a multilevel home on the edge of Fort Seward, this new(ish) restaurant is run by one kickass breadmaker, Cambria Goodwin, and her partner.
The menu features local, organic produce and contemporary, yet-traditional Alaskan dishes. There are vegetarian options and even some kombucha for Haines’s half-hippie population.
Try the Salmon Risotto, the Rockfish Tacos, or Fisherman’s Stew…all are pretty dope.
Hot Tip: Do not. I repeat. Do not leave without trying the sourdough bread. This stuff holds its own against the bread in San Francisco.
The Pilot Light 31 Tower Road, Haines, AK (907) 766-2962
If you’re growing weary of burgers and pizza, take a stroll a few blocks from downtown Haines to visit the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds.
Not only will you get to say you were on the old White Fang movie set of Dawson City (now called Dalton City), but you’ll get a chance to step inside The Klondike (now Raevyn’s Café).
This cozy cafe serves up a variety of foods including Mexican and Cajun inspired dishes. We were surprised at how tasty the chips and salsa/guacamole were.
Open year round (don’t let the permanent annual State Fair set-up fool you), stop in for family-friendly dining, generous portions, and great service in a casual setting.
Families with kids should opt for outdoor seating so they can play volleyball or horseshoes to pass the time.
If you’re lucky, little Miss Raevyn may mosey up to you for some cuddles or asking for a drawing partner – so have your crayons ready.
Hot Tip: The southwestern steak salad is a crowd-pleaser (don’t forget the house made green sauce).
Raevyn’s Cafe 296 Fair Dr., #100 White Fang Way, Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-3733 Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Perennially busy and for good reason, Firewood is your go-to source for great pizza and cold beer in Haines, Alaska.
Located in an old historic building on the Fort Seward grounds, Fireweed serves up unforgettable pies, calzones, buffalo burgers, fresh salads, and locally crafted brews.
Furnished with locally-made wooden spruce tables and decorated with the works of neighborhood artists, this Alaskan gem is the place to be in the summer.
If you still have room after dinner, head next door to the Port Chilkoot Distillery for a dessert cocktail.
Hot Tip: All of the pizzas are good, but if you want to step it up a level, ask about the Super Mac (two pizza toppings with baked noodles and gooey cheese).
Fireweed 37 Blacksmith Rd Historic Building, Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-3838 Seasonal Hours ONLY!
Now All That’s Left to do is…
Book your ticket or pull out that road map!! Haines is an outdoor playground packed with rugged alpine adventures, incredible locals, and an embarrassing variety of natural wonders.
There’s something about the people and environment that draws you in and makes you never want to go back home.