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Bears Skagway/Juneau

Sydney, Australia
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Bears Skagway/Juneau

Hi

Sorry if this topic has been covered before but we are keen to see bears - intend arriving Skagway Sept 15 on ferry with car and plenty of time. Intend gradually driiving south, eventually to Jasper an on to Calgary.

Where are the best spots to see bears (I think Pack Creek closes a few days before this) and are the salmon still running?

Are there some good day boat trips that get up the waterways to glaciers?

Any recommendations for some low-key wilderness/wildife accommodation in the area or on the route south.

Is this about the right time to catch autumn colours?

haines, alaska
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1. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

Hi Hal.....

September is a bit late for bear viewing in Juneau, other than the stray black bear raiding garbage cans downtown......

If you are interested in seeing the large brown bears, get off the ferry in Haines for a day or so......drive out to Chilkoot Lake about 9 miles from town, there are usually bears feeding on the late salmon run out that way........Stay at the Chilkoot River Lodge and you can watch for bears from your front deck......

Also take a drive north to the Canadian border from Haines for a day trip up to the pass.......great scenery, fall leaves should be showing off and you will have another chance of seeing bears......maybe even moose

Then after your time in Haines, board the ferry for the short ride over to Skagway and continue your trip........

fti
MN
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2. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

I agree with mombear - you are going to have a better chance in Haines than in either Skagway or Juneau to see bears that time of year. Plus, unless you really like hiking or the gold rush history, I prefer Haines over Skagway (though Haines has great hiking too - just that I wouldn't spend a lot of time in Skagway except to hike, whereas in Haines I find more to do/see).

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

Just the sort of local knowledge we needed - thanks very much for the posts and we will pencil Haines in as our destination port. Is our timing right for fall colours?

Greater Sydney...
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4. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

I am not an expert, Hal, but as the whole SE Alaska region is a temperate rainforest I don't know what you might be expecting by way of "fall colours". It certainly would not be like the New England region of the US.

haines, alaska
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5. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

Frommy the aspen, cottonwood trees and even the tundra up on the pass north of Haines all get in on the show in early September......it is inland enough and at higher elevations........so the colors are quite intense.....and the bonus is the crow berries so thickly on the ground that you can pick them by the handsful......(just to explain in advance for anyone driving out that way who sees folks on their hands and knees and you are wondering what in the heck they are doing).......

Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

We've taken Mombear's advice and booked ferry to Haines (with car) and then a couple of night at Chilkoot River Lodge to kick off our stay. Can you suggest a couple of other "must do" places or routes in your region (given that we are eventually heading south to Calgary) and taking into account that we are mainly up there for a wilderness experience and to see wildlife and memorable scenery.( We are averse to crowded tourist experiences but maybe they don't exist in Alaska away from the cruise ship docks?). I'd like to spend some time driving through tundra so the pass norh of Haines sounds like just the thing.

Are we doing the wrong thing by not getting to Kenai/Katmai or can we see much of the same in the Haines/Whitehorse neck of the woods?

haines, alaska
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7. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

Have not been to Katmai, but the Kenai Peninsula is much more populated that the countryside between Haines and Whitehorse, other than the small town of Haines Junction you will see very few dwellings......You can hiking down any of the trails and as soon as you lose sight of the highway, you feel like you're the only one in the world........

We get one cruise ship a week here in Haines.......it is always on a Wednesday, you may want to incorporate that into your plans......

If you have any kids traveling with you (or kids at heart) take a trip out to Steve Kroschel's animal preserve.......he does a wonderful job teaching about all the animals, great photo ops and hands on experiences.....check at the Visitors Center in town for tickets and a map of how to get out there.....

There are three museums in town and two state parks.....Chilkoot Lake which is near the lodge and ChilKAT state park south of town.....the former is the least crowded and offers some good hiking trails and a wonderful view off the back deck of the rangers cabin.......pick up a local map and trail maps at the Visitors Center.....

On the day you head up to the Pass.....have a nice breakfast at Chilkat Bakery or pick up a deli sandwich to take with you at Mountain Market......last chance to buy gasoline will be at 33 Mile House (coincidentally 33 miles north of Haines)....after that there is no gasoline until you hit Haines Junction.......Take drinking water with you also, binoculars are handy too for spotting wildlife.......

These are "must stop" places along the way:

1. Bald Eagle Preserve - you may not see any out there that early, they gather in winter, but there is a nice interpretive boardwalk trail there....

2. Klukwan Native Village - they have a new visitors center

3. 33-Mile House - great burgers, home made pies, interesting old gold mining relics hanging on the walls.....

4. After crossing the border drive into the village of Klukshu.....a small native fishing village......if the salmon are not running there is still an educational site that explains how they catch and preserve the fish....

5. Million Dollar Falls, nice boardwalk trail to falls overlook.......

6. Rock Glacier Trail......a short hike up to mountain the will give you great views of Dezadeash Lake

7. Kathleen Lake......trails, good picnic place, gorgeous views......

8. Haines Junction.....good visitors center for maps, etc......Glacier Flightseeing from the local airport

9. There are several rest stop areas between Haines Junction and Whitehorse and at that point you will be on the AlCan Highway so there will be a little more traffic, a lot of RV's and some tour buses, so you will feel like you are "back in civilization"......

10. Stop at Takhini Hot Springs if you would like a nice soak.....the turn off is about 12 miles before you get to Whitehorse.......

Hope this helps to get you started......

Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

Wow Mombear you an an invaluable Haines resource!

One last question - we've timed our trip (arrival Haines Sept 16) with those autumn hues in mind and to avoid peak tourist time but are we risking serious cold weather with road closures etc? (we are driiving south to Calgary). Are we better off just coming mid august?

haines, alaska
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9. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

The snow doesn't start to fly around here until late October.......if there is a rare snowstorm on the pass that early, the road guys do a great job keeping it clear.......they have a year round road maintenance station up near the pass

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Bears Skagway/Juneau

Back again for a bit more advice for some fine tuning to our late August visit - am hoping that Mombear isn't in hibernation.

Do we get into any treeless tundra country between Haines and Whitehorse or do we need to go further north? (note that we dont really want to go west of Haines Junction).

Am I correct that those tundra bushes start to colour up through August?