Located 75 miles north of Juneau, Haines is one of the Inside Passage’s most scenic communities and is a crucial link between the roadless communities of the Inside Passage to the Alaska Highway.
About Haines (Tlingit: Deishú)
Every summer, thousands of travelers pass through Haines on their way to Canada’s Yukon and Interior Alaska. Haines sits at the northern end of the Inside Passage and is an important port of call for the Alaska Marine Highway System, whose ferries deposit RVers and other travelers in Haines enroute to the Alaska Highway to the north. It is one of the few communities in the region that is connected by road to Canada and the Alaska Highway. Although Haines sees its fair share of vehicle traffic, it retains the charm and character of small-town Alaska.
Things to do
Interesting museums, a thriving arts community, campgrounds located within walking distance of downtown, and local restaurants all offer compelling reasons to stay a while in Haines. It is one of the sunniest spots in the notoriously rainy Inside Passage region, and its stunning mountain-and-ocean landscape offers hiking, kayaking, fishing, whale watching, and plenty of other outdoor adventure options.
The mountains surrounding Haines are a playground for hiking and backpacking, with four main trails close to town: Battery Point Trail, Mount Riley Trail, Ayiklutu Trail, and Mount Ripinsky Trail. Local tour operators lead guided hiking tours along with other adventures including photography, kayaking, fishing, rafting, flightseeing, and boat tours.
Haines isn’t just a favorite with humans: late fall, thousands of bald eagles congregate at the Chilkat River to feast on a late run of salmon. The gathering inspires what is now a well-established annual event called the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival, which, along with birdwatching, features photography workshops, art shows, and preservation-focused lectures. The five-day event attracts hundreds of visitors from around the country. The main event is heading out to the Chilkat River on 'expedition buses' with noted naturalists onboard to view eagles.
Nothing compares to the sight of eagles too numerous to count clustered in the branches of trees lining the river, swooping in to snatch salmon from the river’s icy waters. In 2009 the Haines Highway, which follows the Chilkat River Valley 40 miles to the Canadian Border, was designated the Valley of the Eagles National Scenic Byway.
The American Bald Eagle Foundation is focused on the nearby Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and its museum features an impressive wildlife diorama, displaying more than 180 specimens and almost two-dozen eagles. Another highlight of the museum is the live video feed from a remote camera trained on an active eagle's nest. At the raptor center visitors can view and learn about the “avian ambassadors,” eagles, raptors, and owls that were found injured and then rehabilitated at the center.
In 1902, ongoing border disputes between the U.S. and Canada provided the justification for the first permanent army post in Alaska, Fort William H. Seward. The white buildings of the fort still stand and are a distinctive landmark of Haines. Decommissioned in 1947, the fort was bought by a group of war veterans with hopes of creating an arts and commerce community. The buildings are now privately owned homes, accommodations, restaurants, galleries, and shops.
The Sheldon Museum houses a collection of indigenous artifacts upstairs, including an interesting display of Chilkat blankets. Downstairs is devoted to Haines' pioneer and gold rush days and includes the sawed-off shotgun that Jack Dalton used to convince travelers to pay his toll.
Also not to be missed is the world’s only museum dedicated to the hammer. The Hammer Museum is a true labor of love showcasing the owner’s admiration for mankind’s oldest implement. Visitors from all over the world have been enchanted by this unusual museum. Inside are over 2,000 hammers, from one that weighs less than a quarter of an ounce to one weighing more than 40 pounds. You can't miss the Hammer Museum - there is a 20-foot-tall hammer outside.
Haines' biggest festival is the Southeast Alaska State Fair at the end of July. It includes four days of live music, parades, logging, volleyball, softball, horseshoe tournaments, and livestock shows that draw participants from all Inside Passage communities.
Like its sister community of Skagway, Haines was established during the Klondike Gold Rush. The entrepreneurial Jack Dalton capitalized on an existing Tlingit trade route and turned it into a toll road leading to the riches of the Klondike gold fields. The Dalton Trail quickly became such a heavily used pack route to mining districts north of Whitehorse, Yukon that the U.S. Army arrived in 1903 and established Fort William H. Seward, Alaska's first permanent post.