Glacier Bay Traverse

Glacier Bay Traverse

(12 days) – Sea Kayaking, Glacier Trekking, and Rafting Exploration

Trekking from Glacier Bay to the Tsirku River. -Nathaniel Stephens

On the wall of our office is an 8 by 8 foot map covering over 27 million acres of protected wilderness in Alaska and Canada. The well used and marked upon map encompasses massive ice caps, inland waterways, lakes, rivers, the Pacific coast, the St. Elias Range and some of the wildest land on our planet. For almost 20 years we have stood in front of this same map to plan mountaineering expeditions, river trips, ski descents, kayak journeys, and outrageous routes to get from one place to another.

The Glacier Bay Wilderness Traverse is perhaps the most classic of these routes. The 12 day expedition combines world class sea kayaking, spectacular glacier trekking, and exciting rafting with the chance to view brown and black bears, whales, bald eagles, ice bergs, and glaciers along the way. This routes travels through one of the most remote areas in North America and has only been visited by a handful of adventurers.

The expedition begins in Glacier Bay National Park with 5 days of Sea kayaking in the wild and pristine “East Arm”, an area closed to motorized traffic for most of the year. The East Arm features abundant humpback and orca whales, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, puffins, and a host of other marine life. Adventurers will paddle past icebergs, tidewater glaciers and ultimately arrive at the Muir Glacier where they will trade paddles and kayaks for ice axes and crampons. The next 5 days will be spent traveling over massive glaciers and through jagged mountains to the headwaters of the Tsirku River. The last day will be spent rafting down the Tsirku River. The Tsirku is an exhilarating, swift moving, glacially fed river flowing through the heart of Chilkat Valley Bald Eagle Preserve, home to moose, wolves, bears, salmon, wolverines, and the Tlingit Native village of Klukwan.

The trip will finish up in the picturesque fishing village of Haines, Alaska with a celebration dinner and well deserved beverage from the local brewery!

Instruction in sea kayaking, mountaineering and rafting will be provided along the way and all equipment is provided. No past experience is required beyond a sense of adventure and being in good physical condition.

Glacier Bay National Park and the Chilkat Valley Bald Eagle Preserve are part of the world’s largest protected wilderness area, covering more than 27 million acres. Participants will sea kayak about 30 miles, trek over 15 miles of glacier and raft down 25 miles of the Tsirku River.


Day 1 ~ Juneau – Gustavus

You will need to travel to Juneau, Alaska, and then take a small plane to Gustavus, the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. We will gather in the evening for a pre-trip orientation to introduce your guides, meet the other participants, go over equipment and answer any last minute questions. Lodging and meals on your own

Day 2 ~ To Glacier Bay

After an early breakfast we will board a boat for a spectacular ride into the East Arm of Glacier Bay National Park. The scenery changes dramatically as we leave the lush forests of Bartlett Cove behind and enter a land still under the influence of the Little Ice Age.

We’ll be dropped off near the entrance of the East Arm, where we’ll unload gear and have a kayak lesson. By afternoon, everyone will feel comfortable enough with sea kayaking to fully observe the splendid beauty of this area.

Days 3-6 ~ East Arm, Glacier Bay

We’ll explore the pristine upper fjords of Glacier Bay by kayak and on foot. Keep your camera ready for dramatic scenery of awe-inspiring 9,000-foot mountain peaks and calving glaciers (you’ll listen to them thunder, crackle, and pop as huge icebergs topple into the sea!), and wildlife that may include brown bears, mountain goats, humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, and a variety of sea birds. A flexible itinerary allows for fabulous hikes and serene paddles. You may explore the McBride, Riggs and Muir Glaciers, each with its own stunning beauty and personality.

Nights will be spent camping on the scenic wilderness shores. Our two-person kayaks are stable and easy to use. A foot-controlled rudder system allows the stern paddler to steer the boat in any direction. Each boat will carry personal gear, as well as a share of the group food and camp gear.

Day 7 ~ On to the Ice

We’ll trade our paddles and kayaks for ice axes and crampons and have a lesson on safe Glacier Travel before heading to the glacier and the overland crossing to the headwaters of the Tsirku River.

Day 8-11 ~ Glacier Bay Ice Cap

The days will be spent hiking across snowfields with outrageous views of the jagged peaks and brilliant ice falls. Glacier travel, crevasse rescue and snow camping skills will be taught as we travel.

Day 12 ~ Tsirku River and Haines

After breakfast we will head to the river to meet with our rafts for a relaxing paddle through the Chilkat Eagle Preserve and back to civilization. Keep an eye out for bear, moose, wolverines, wolves, and of course the ever present American Bald Eagle.

In the evening we will gather for a celebration dinner at our favorite restaurant. Lodging in Haines is on your own.


WHAT’S INCLUDED: Expert guides, kayaks and related gear, group mountaineering gear, tents, all food in the field, permit and fees,

WHAT’S NOT: Airfare to Gustavus from Juneau and back to Juneau from Haines, lodging and meals in Haines and Gustavus, travel insurance, optional tipping, airport taxes, and items of personal nature.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT: Expert Leadership

The staff of Alaska Mountain Guides places a premium on our guests’ experience. Every trip that we lead draws on the experience of countless expeditions in Alaska, South America, Africa and Asia. Our leaders are committed professionals who are exemplary guides and instructors. We are dedicated to insuring our guests an experience that exceeds their expectations!

ACTIVITY LEVEL: This trip is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active. We will paddle 4 to 8 miles per day and hike up to 8 miles a day while on the glacier. No prior paddling, mountaineering or rafting experience is required, but you may need to paddle against strong currents and/or wind at times. In the field, there are no facilities of any kind (no permanent lodging, bathrooms, showers, phone booths!). Good physical condition, an adventurous spirit, a positive attitude and a willingness to deal with possible wet, cold, and windy conditions are a must! You will set up your own tent (after a demonstration by the guide) and everyone is welcome to assist with other tasks of wilderness camping.

Physical conditioning before your trip will increase your enjoyment. You must be prepared to help carry personal and group gear. If you don’t normally follow a fitness or exercise regime, we recommend beginning one now!

GROUP SIZE: Maximum of 10 passengers

DATES/PRICES: Please see our schedule for current dates and prices information.