Hiking & Beachcombing in Gustavus & Glacier Bay
The area's forests are all enchanted and magical...
Glacier Bay Alaska is one of the world's most incredible natural wonders. In the summer months, many thousands of visitors filter through Gustavus to
experience it in a variety of ways.
Because this is a marine based wilderness area, few "tourists" experience the park by foot, with the exception of taking short walks from the lodge in Bartlett Cove, or along the more accessable beaches in town.
For the more daring, committed, or adventurous, there are many more options of foot travel in the Glacier Bay and Gustavus area.
This page lists some ideas.
Some of the more easily arranged activities are hiking and walking, however the vast size and wildness of the surrounding forests keep the trail system limited. As for actual maintained trails, there are only a few; a couple short ones in the park itself and a couple in Gustavus. This situation basically leaves you 2 choices of hiking: Casual or strenous...
For those seeking the casual or relaxing "stroll", you can head for the open meadows or walk along the beach. If you decide on a beach hike, remember the tide, which can be twenty feet vertical and very quick!
If you need more strenuous or aerobic hiking, all you have to do is go off trail and try some bushwacking, but remember: The foliage off the trails around Glacier Bay and Gustavus is SERIOUSLY dense and very tedious to walk through.
If you've never experienced it, you may end up pretty beat up and exhausted after only a short while, so plan accordingly.
Take a compass if you go it alone. If you persist and can get past the thick stuff, you will eventually end up in thinner, old growth forests where you will simply be awed by your surroundings: deep mosses, peaceful streams, plentiful wildlife, spruce and alder stands, old and young growth evergreens and deciduous trees of many different sizes.
Berries abound in the area! Try a few, but leave a few. When you are in the wilderness remember you are in someone else's home. Whether it's a bears, wolf, whale or snail, it's always best to leave it the way you found it or better if you can.(meaning: pick up a peice of trash if you see one!)
A guide to the trails of Gustavus, published by Thomas Imboden, is available at the Beartrack Mercantile.
Gustavus and Glacier Bay
Beachcombing the beaches of Gustavus and in Glacier Bay is interesting and wonderful. Although classic "combing" in other areas usually consists of sorting out tidal "trash" (considered "treasures" to true beachcombing connoisseurs?), this is not the experience in and around Glacier Bay.
Here, it's a "natural" experience. Many natural treasures will delight the energetic beachwalker.
Spectacular tidepools are fascinating to peer into, while other other "beachy" items are plentiful: kelp, feathers, driftwood snags and collages, countless shells and mollusks, bones, and pebbles, among others.
Very little trash will be found within the park limits. In fact, the park beaches are so clean that in most spots you could walk for many miles and not see a single peice of beach trash!
The Outer Coast
For those fortunate enough to have the time, money, and inclination, there is one huge exception to this "clean, unlittered" beachcombing experience... the outer coast.
Just outside the park, along the exposed outer coast of Southeast Alaska, lie many miles of remote beaches strewn with treasures from the sea. Strong Japanese currents take every imaginable form of ocean refuse and floating treasure and deposit them along with tremendous amounts of driftwood onto the beaches of the outer coast. This makes for a beachcombers dream in every imaginable way. Of course the problem most will have is getting
to these remote coastlands.
For those interested, try the Kayaking or the Boat charters and Tours page to access some of the outfitters that are capable of helping you explore and discover these wondrous and remote beaches.