Finding My Own Private Alaska – Five Nights on the Chilkat River

“On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”, so goes the popular musical of the same name from the 1960’s. But when Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane penned those lyrics for a Broadway audience, I’m certain they did not have the view, or feel the sensation, I experienced each day from my accommodations at the Chilkat Inlet Retreat Center, just outside Haines Alaska. Here you overlook the Chilkat Mountain range with glacier studded peaks imbued with a deep azur blue and aqua color I have never witnessed in my lifetime. The area is also home to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preservation, which just happens to be the largest bald eagle gathering in the world.

Haines itself is located along the Chilkat River in the southeast region of the state approximately 74-miles from Juneau, the capital. Its furtive existence, while perhaps preferred by the locals, was recently unmasked by Alaskan State Writer Laureate Heather Lende whose books cover life in the small towns of her state. Haines’ long history of obscurity is well earned, since it is only accessible by ferry, seaplane, and a shuttle system. My frequent interactions with the folks here indicated a preference for solitude – the quiet isolation. What I learned about Haines is that no one’s journey there is ordinary. From the stories I gathered, and the people I met, everyone had an experience unique to themselves. That’s what I loved most about it. Whether you’re going to Haines for a specific reason, (like I did) for a Sarana Yoga retreat or going for adventure (like I ended up having), here are some solid tips that can make your adventure seamless.


Book early!

Embarking on the journey to Haines takes planning.  The summer season fills up fast and booking as early as February/March is advisable.  From California or lower 48, Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines service this area.  You will need to take a plane into Juneau and either book a 45-minute seaplane into Haines and/or take a ferry/boat.  We recommend taking the 3-hour Alaska Fjordlines one way and Alaska Seaplane the other.  This way you can ride on a 65-foot catamaran, stop along the way to watch whales and other wildlife all while enjoying a bowl of chowder with sourdough bread.  To get back to Juneau hop on an 8-seater seaplane to glide up-close over glaciers and capture aerial views.  For your journey back home, we recommend a layover night in Juneau so you can explore and transition back with more ease. 

Additional travel tip! 
To make it from Northern California to Haines is one day is a long day but doable.  We recommend taking early flight out, landing in Juneau, getting a 10-minute Uber or Lyft to Mendenhall Glacier, spending 2-3 hours at visitor center, hop back into Lyft for a 5-minute ride to Auke Bay, Statter Harbor for Fjordline ferry to Haines.  If you have a few extra minutes, stop at the Forbidden Peak Brewery across from the harbor and order from a wide selection of craft beers to enjoy- my personal favorite was the dragon fruit, guava pale ale! 

Rent a car!

If you are wanting to explore and discover this area, renting a car is a great and necessary idea.  Car rentals can happen through Alaska AWD Car Rentals or Avis Alaska.


We highly recommend a stay at the Chilkat Inlet Retreat Center which sits right along the tidal Chilkat Inlet overlooking the Chilkat Mountains.  This location is a 10-minute drive to downtown Haines and area sightseeing locations.  It has comfortable yurts, conveniently located outhouses and sinks, and a beautiful lodge made from exquisite timber wood and craftsmanship.  The glamping accommodations allow individuals the opportunity to experience the land.  There is a meditation room on site, gardens, and plenty of space to stretch out.  The natural beauty is the best you will ever experience the world over and the custodians of this land are salt of the earth gems.  You won’t find a more special spot than this in Haines.           


If you like hiking, our two favorite ones in the area are Mt. Riley trailhead located just minutes from Chilkat Inlet Retreat Center, and Moose Meadows located at the Chilkat State Park. Mt. Riley is a strenuous hike that takes you to the highest point on the Chilkat Peninsula.  It provides epic 360 views of the Haines area.  Moose Meadows is a moderate 3-5 mile hike that takes you along the duffy floored and mixed forest of spruce and hemlock and leads out to a meadow with views of Davidson Glacier. 

Chilkoot Lake State Park is a good place to do some bear watching, take in soaring eagles and other wildlife, do some exploration in a kayak (that you can rent on site).  To view the bears, especially in August, the early morning or dusk are the best times.  We recommend staying close to your car and have respect for these wild creatures in their habitat. 

Spend some time in downtown Haines!  Grab coffee/breakfast/lunch at Mountain Market which is open 7 days a week and has groceries too and then head to the only bookstore in town on Main Street.  Check out Haines Sheldon Museum – an educational organization dedicated to preserving the art, history, and unique cultures of the region.  And it doesn’t get much more unique than a stop by the Hammer Museum – the only museum dedicated to the history of hammers with over 2,000 artifacts on display. 


  • Port Chilkoot Distillery has an on-site tasting room in the historical army fort bakery and a fun experience. 
  • Haines Packing has incredible fresh local veggies and fish. 
  • Camino Food Truck is on the water near Harbor Bar with fresh fish and chips and more.
  • Fireweed Restaurant for dinner only.
  • Old Field Kitchen for brunch or dinner.
  • Ampersand store has great handmade gift items, jewelry, vintage, and other merchandise. 
  • American Bald Eagle Foundation – natural history museum with over 200 specimens from natural world.


With a layover stop in Juneau to break up the travel getting to Haines and/or back to your home destination, we recommend an overnight to check out some of the sights. 

  • Hotels during the summer season are pricy and hard to find in Juneau.  An affordable hotel option is the Driftwood. It is centrally located to downtown and takes last minute reservations.
    • BIG BONUS is that it has free airport shuttles that are reliable and consistent. 
  • Heritage Coffee is around the corner from Driftwood Hotel on Willoughby Avenue. 
  • Go to DeckHand Dave’s – a fish taco truck with an Alaskan twist.  Located in the heart of downtown Juneau with a great vibe.  Also, a good area to grab a morning bite at Alaskan Crepe Escape. 
  • Don’t miss the Amalga Distillery with a great selection of drinks and spirits. 
  • Take the Goldbelt Tram Alaska and soak in some breathtaking scenery.  Located downtown Juneau Tickets range from $30- $45, kids under 2 rides for free.  
  • Explore the downtown shops and stores, and the Sea Alaska Heritage Museum. 

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