Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks (907/697-2257, www.glacierbayseakayaks.com) has all-day ($95) and half-day ($150) kayak trips from the Bartlett Cove dock in the summer. These are a good way to learn the basics of sea kayaking, and they include a kayak and gear, a guide, food, and boots.
Alaska Discovery (510/594-6000 or 800/586-1911, www.akdiscovery.com) leads multiday kayak trips into Glacier Bay and nearby waters, including a three-day Point Adolphus whale-watching adventure ($995) and a five-day paddle into the heart of Glacier Bay National Park ($2,400 plus airfare from Juneau).
Spirit Walker Expeditions (907/697-2266 or 800/529-2537, www.seakayakalaska.com) runs excellent sea kayak trips, including day tours ($150) out of Gustavus up to seven-day trips ($2,650) among remote islands off Chichagof Island. The company does not generally tour within Glacier Bay National Park.
On Your Own
The finest way to explore Glacier Bay is by kayak. Some folks bring their own folding kayaks on the plane, but most people rent them from Kara Berg of Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks (907/697-2257, www.glacierbayseakayaks.com) in Bartlett Cove. Kayak rentals include a two-person boat, paddles, life vests, spray skirts, flotation bags, and a brief lesson. Reservations are a must during midsummer. The company also rents rain gear and rubber boots and will help set up your trip, including making all-important boat reservations to get up the bay.
Several focal points attract kayakers within Glacier Bay. The Beardslee Islands, in relatively protected waters near Bartlett Cove, make an excellent 2–3-day kayak trip and do not require any additional expenses. Beyond the Beardslees, Glacier Bay becomes much less protected, and you should plan on spending at least a week up-bay if you paddle there. (It is 50 miles or more to the glaciers.) Rather than attempting to cross this open water, most kayakers opt for a drop-off. The locations change periodically, so ask at the backcountry office in Bartlett Cove for specifics.
Muir Inlet (the east arm of Glacier Bay) is preferred by many kayakers because it is a bit more protected and is not used by the cruise ships or most tour boats. The West Arm is more spectacular—especially iceberg-filled Johns Hopkins Inlet—but you’ll have to put up with a constant stream of large and small cruise ships. If the boat operators have their way, even more ships can be expected in future years.
The Fairweather Express II does camper and sea kayaker drop-offs in Glacier Bay ($223 round trip). For details, contact Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours (907/264-4600 or 888/229-8687, www.visitglacierbay.com).
Talk with Park Service personnel in Bartlett Cove before heading out on any hiking or kayaking trip. You’ll need to be in Gustavus airport by 3 p.m. the day before to go through all the hoops (getting to Bartlett Cove, renting the kayak, going through the Park Service camping and bear safety session, and getting your kayak on board the Fairweather Express II). This means you cannot take the evening Alaska Airlines flight; it arrives too late in the day.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition