Surf City, Alaska? That’s right - Yakutat, located in the northern reaches of the Inside Passage, made at name for itself in the late ‘90s as the first Alaska town with a surf shop and the best place to surf in Alaska. And there’s plenty more for visitors to see and do here including fishing, kayaking, visiting the fascinating Hubbard Glacier, and experiencing Alaska Native culture.
About Yakutat (Tlingit: Yaakwdáat)
Isolated on the stretch of land that connects the Inside Passage to the rest of Alaska and surrounded by Wrangell-St Elias National Park and the Tongass National Forest, Yakutat provides access to vast wilderness, abundant wildlife, and legendary surfing waves.
Things to do
Life in Yakutat is rich with the culture of the Alaska Native people of the area, which are a mixture of the Eyak of the Copper River Valley to the north and the Tlingit of the Inside Passage. Here the elders share their knowledge and wisdom through storytelling in the local community gathering place. Yakutat was established as a Russian fort in the late 1700s, and like much of the region, later saw gold mining, fur, and timber booms. Today, fishing drives the economy.
Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world, is a mere is 30 miles away. The 76-mile-long glacier captured national attention by crossing Russell Fjord in the mid-1980s, turning the long inlet into a lake. Eventually, Hubbard receded to reopen the fjord, but the glacier crossed again in 2002 and came close in 2008. The eight-mile-wide glacier is one of Alaska's most active glaciers.
The entire area, part of the 545-square-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness in Tongass National Forest, is one of the most interesting places in Alaska. Most visitors view Hubbard Glacier as part of cruise ship trip across Gulf of Alaska. Others reach the icy phenomenon through flightseeing or boat tours arranged in Yakutat.
For anglers and outdoor enthusiasts, there are 12 public-use cabins available through the Tongass National Forest. Many are near rivers and lakes that are renowned among sport fishers for their trophy salmon, steelhead trout, and Dolly Varden.
The Yakutat road system provides access to a variety of sport fishing opportunities in rivers that drain into the Gulf of Alaska. King, sockeye, and silver salmon can be caught during spawning runs and rainbow trout, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden are present in many streams and lakes. The Situk River, 12 miles south of town by road, is one of the area’s top fishing spots.
Protected by an 18-mile-wide reef, Yakutat Bay offers excellent saltwater fishing that is only a short boat ride from the harbor. The community is home to charter fishing captains that target halibut, ling cod, king and silver salmon, red snapper, black bass, and rock fish throughout the summer.
Excellent sea kayaking exists in Russell Fjord Wilderness, a 545-square-mile preserve that includes Hubbard Glacier. Most kayakers arrive with folding kayaks and then utilize float plane transportation to land deep in the fjord. Outfitters also offer guided kayak expeditions into the wilderness and sea kayaks are available for rent to explore the bays nearer to town.
Adventurous surfers visit Yakutat every summer for the unusual experience of surfing in Alaska and catching Yakutat’s legendary 25-foot waves. The best waves occur from mid-April to mid-June and mid-August through September. The Japanese current pushes summer water temperatures into the mid-60s. During the rest of the season, temperatures range from the mid-40s to the mid-50s.
Getting to Yakutat
Yakutat is located at the northern reaches of the Inside Passage and receives daily jet service from Anchorage and Juneau. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry also stops several times a month during the summer.