Rich in breathtaking scenery, these state parks have something for every nature-lover
Haines is not only one of the few Southeast Alaska communities accessible by road from the mainland, but it's also one of the few to boost Alaska state parks, state recreation sites and state marine sites. Not one or two, but six state-designated parks make this town of 2,300 residents an outdoor playground for the thousands of visitors who pass through during the year.
Haines was named in honor of Francina Haines, a Presbyterian missionary with the first missionaries to the area in 1879. A few years later, in 1892, Jack Dalton established a toll road on the Tlingit trade route into the interior and charged gold-seekers to pass as they flooded into Canada. As a result, parts of the Dalton Trail are called the Haines Highway. Due to ongoing border disputes between the U.S. and Canada, the U.S. established an army post in Haines called Fort William H. Seward. The white buildings from the post still stand today as historical landmarks in Haines.
Encircled by water and mountain ranges, Haines serves as an intersection between the interior of North America and the waters of the Inside Passage. The mountain ranges in the area are the Chilkat Range, Takinsha Mountains, Takshanuk Mountains and Coast Mountains. Rainbow and Davidson Glaciers in the Chilkat Range are visible remnants of the area’s glacier history. The Chilkat River runs through a glaciated-carved valley, and to the east of Haines is the Lynn Canal, which also once held a glacier. Boreal forest, tundra and
The Chilkat River is the most productive coho spawning and rearing area in Southeast Alaska, and also provides excellent habitat for wild sockeye, Chinook and chum salmon runs. The river "flats" provide critical habitat for the bald eagles in the area, who are attracted to the area by the availability of spawned-out salmon and open waters in late fall and winter. In addition to eagles, birds found the parks include kingfishers, common loons, harlequin ducks, trumpeter swans, boreal owls and bald eagles. Terrestrial wildlife in the area include brown and black bears, goats, lynx, wolves, coyotes, river otters and moose. The area is home a variety of marine life, including humpback and killer whales, harbor seals, harbor porpoises and Steller sea lions.
Alaska State Parks has six state parks in the Haines area. The largest at 6,049 acres and most developed unit is Chilkat State Park, which is 7 miles south of Haines. Other parks include 80-acre Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site northwest of Haines, 7-acre Portage Cove State Recreation Site within town, and 5-acre Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site 27 miles northwest of Haines off the Haines Highway.
Haines also has two undeveloped state marine parks. Chilkat Islands State Marine Park is a group of islands just south of Chilkat State Park that cover 6,560 acres. Further south of Chilkat Islands is Sullivan Island State Marine Park, a 2,720-acre unit that sits at the south end of Sullivan Island. In both marine parks beaches are rocky and anchoring is very difficult, making kayaks the best way to visit, as kayaks can be easily carried onshore and have a shallow draft.
Visitors to the Haines State Parks can enjoy sea kayaking, boating, salt water fishing, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and camping.
Chilkat State Park's campground is located at the edge of Chilkat Inlet, and features 31-site primitive campsites, 3 ocean front walk-in tent sites, a picnic area, boat launch and a log cabin visitor center. The center has an observation deck, revealing incredible views of Chilkat Inlet and both Rainbow and Davidson glaciers.
The park also serves as the trailhead for Seduction Point Trail, an easy 6.5-mile hike that follows the coast, and Battery Point Trail another easy route along the beach. One of Haines' post popular hikes, the Mount Riley Trail, can also be picked up in the state park and followed to the stunning views at the top of the 1,760-foot summit.
The Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site features an 80-site campground in a beautiful stand of Sitka spruce along with a picnic shelter and boat launch. The recreation site is near the outlet of Chilkoot Lake into the Chilkoot River and is also known for having some of the best salmon fishing in Southeast Alaska, with four salmon runs from Mid-June through mid-October.
Portage Cove State Recreation Site overlooks Chilkoot Inlet and the surrounding mountains near downtown Haines and offers nine campsites for cyclists or backpackers only. Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site, a quiet campground of 5 sites is nestled next to Mosquito Lake in a Sitka spruce and western hemlock forest with a dock and boat launch to access the lake.
There is a nightly fee to camp at Chilkat State Park and Chilkoot Lake, Mosquito Lake and Portage Cove State Recreation Areas.
All the parks are accessed by road from Haines, a community that is connected to the Alaska Highway as well as to other Southeast Alaska ports by the Alaska Marine Highway (www.ferryalaska.com) and regularly scheduled flights from Juneau and Skagway. Portage Cove is 2 miles from the downtown area along Beach Road and Chilkat State Park is 7 miles south of Haines on Mud Bay Road. Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site is 10 miles northeast of Haines via the Lutak and Chilkoot River Roads and Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site is 27 miles northwest of Haines off the Haines Highway.
For more information on the parks contact the Alaska Division of Parks office (907-766-2292) in Haines.
Visit the Haines community page for accommodations, tours and activities.