"Surf City, Alaska”? That’s right. Yakutat, located in the northern reaches of the Inside Passage region, made at name for itself in the late ‘90s as the first Alaska town with a surf shop, but there’s plenty more to see and do here for visitors.
Life in Yakutat is rich with the culture of the 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 area. 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.
Things to do
Isolated on the strand that connects the Inside Passage to the rest of Alaska, Yakutat has gained the increasing attention of visitors. 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 galloping across Russell Fjord in the mid-1980s, turning the long inlet into a lake. Eventually Hubbard receded to reopen the fjord, but the glacier did it again in 2002 and came close in 2008. The eight-mile-wide glacier is easily Alaska's most active. The entire area, part of the 545-square-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, is one of the most interesting places in Alaska and usually accessed through flightseeing or boat tours available in town.
For fishermen, 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, even by Alaska standards. The Situk River, 12 miles south of town by road, is often rated as one of Alaska's top fishing spots. The Tongass National Forest can provide information on seasons, rivers, cabin rentals and local fishing guides.
If you head up to Yakutat to take on those legendary 25-foot waves, contact the Greater Yakutat Chamber of Commerce for information on shops and local guides who will know where to catch the surf.
Protected by an 18-mile wide reef, Yakutat Bay offers excellent natural fishing structure 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
Located 30 miles northeast of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world. The 76-mile-long glacier captured national attention by galloping across Russell Fjord in the mid-1980s and again in 2002. The 8-mile-wide glacier is easily Alaska's most active. 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.
Life in Yakutat is rich with the culture of the Native people of the area. Here the elders share their knowledge and wisdom through storytelling in the local community gathering place. Hear their story and see the traditional dress regalia of the Tlingit people.
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 the town of Yakutat.
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 are available to stream anglers during spawning runs while resident rainbow trout, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden are present in many stream and lake systems. The Situk River, 12 miles south of town by road, is often rated as one of Alaska's top fishing spots.
More than 100 surfers will visit Yakutat every summer for the unusual experience of surfing in Alaska. 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 while during the rest of the season, temperatures range from the mid-40s to the mid-50s.
US Forest Service Cabins
There are 12 U.S. Forest Service cabins
available for rent in the area with five of them accessible by Forest Highway 10, which extends east from Yakutat.