Alaska’s Lost Coast is comprised of extensive sand and gravel beaches stretching for hundreds of miles and is nearly completely uninhabited. The sand is littered with rocks and boulders left by glaciers as they retreated back into the mountains over the course of thousands of years. The skeletons of huge trees plucked from the coast by the giant storms which pummel this area throughout the winter are brought ashore by large surf and tides, creating a maze for us to navigate.
Moving inland we go from the sandy and rocky beaches to tidal flats covered in tall beach grasses and finally into the coastal temperate rainforest which lines the entire southern coast of Alaska. The forest floor is covered in lush green moss, devil’s club and a myriad of other small plants. Huge spruce, hemlocks and cedars stand tall, and the forest floor is covered with their predecessors leaning or lying on the ground in various stages of decay. Enormous boulders left by retreating glaciers are interspersed amongst these giants, at times giving the great trees anchor against the brutal winter storms.
After weaving your way through the forest using paths established by wolves, bears and moose you will finally start to ascend out of the forest and into the mountains of the Fairweather Range. The fingers of smaller glaciers, La Perouse, Finger and Crillon, flow through valleys they have carved, and around mountains originating at the great Brady Glacier, eventually flowing to their terminus and the sea in the form of water.
From the start of our trip at La Perouse Glacier to the end at Lituya Bay, there is only about 20 miles of coastline. But a lifetime of exploring can be done in this area. We have 7 days to spend exploring the glaciers, forests and mountains and we can choose to break up our week with travel days as we move toward our pick-up point, or rest days – leaving camp set up and venturing out on day hikes unencumbered by our packs.
While this section of Alaska’s Lost Coast is truly mesmerizing any time of the spring and summer, we prefer to see it between late April and late July in hopes of missing out on any of the large storms which blanket this coast throughout the year.
Wildlife on this coast is abundant. While we never guarantee that we will see any particular species, the likelihood is great. Large populations of coastal brown bears, wolves, and moose reside here as well as many other species. In the spring this area also sees huge numbers of migrating birds which number in the hundreds of thousands as they make their way back north to Alaska.
We will fill our days with hiking and beachcombing, day hiking up into the forests and onto the ice of flowing glaciers. If we are feeling the work, we can take days to simply enjoy camp and have a fire on the beach or maybe watch for that brown bear we all want to see, at a distance of course.
No matter what we choose to do each day, your guide is there to help you discover your own personal connection to this wilderness, whether through education, as a leader, or just to give you peace of mind. While hiking on the coast is quite comfortable, this is Alaska, and there are no trails other than bear trails. So be prepared for challenges.
Meet with your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Haines.
Meeting in the morning with gear ready to go, we head out to meet our pilot and step aboard a bush plane to start our expedition. Flying along rugged coast, over glaciers and jagged peaks, keep a keen eye out for mountain goats and grizzlies as we come in low to eye our landing spot near La Perouse. From our first campsite, listen to crashing surf and smell the sea while gazing at a jagged mountain skyline covered in ice.
The La Perouse Glacier flows to the sea across this vast expanse of beach which makes it relatively easy to access. We spend this day exploring the glacier’s surface and venturing inland toward the mountains and its source. At some point we can stop upon this huge river of slowly moving ice and look to our north to view the towering mountains at the heart of Glacier Bay National Park, and to our south the great Gulf of Alaska.
This morning we finish our breakfast and break camp, put on our packs, and start picking our way along the beach. The hiking is very pleasant on the firm sand. Occasionally we have creeks to cross and we will surely feel how recently the water was ice as it passes over our feet and hands. Throughout the day we will wander from the sand to the upper beach, through the grass, eventually finding our camp for the night above the high tideline, safe from the crashing surf.
On day 5 of our expedition, we can hike inland to Crillon Lake, following game trails, always keeping an eye out for bears or wolves which are plentiful in these parts. Making our way through this old-growth temperate rainforest, made up of mainly large coniferous species with lush green undergrowth of moss and devil’s club, it is a change from the previous day's easy beach hike. Reaching the lake and the canyon that surrounds it, we will be glad we put in the work as we reap the rewards of laying eyes on this beautiful glacial lake.
Off we go again in the morning, along the sandy shoreline hopping over huge downed trees made high and dry by the huge storms that pummel this coast in the winter. Do not forget to keep your eyes open. Treasures from around the word wash up on these shores throughout the seasons.
Today our goal is to reach our pick-up point near Lituya Bay – the site of a landslide-caused tsunami estimated at 100 feet tall, which caused destruction over 1700 feet up the mountainside. We can get camp set up and go for another day hike, to get a glimpse of that destruction that remains still today.
With any luck, we will hear the engine of our plane coming in to land on the beach around midday. Load up, sit back and enjoy another truly amazing flight through Glacier Bay National Park, and back to Haines and a well-deserved shower.
Air charter services
Food while in the field
Group camping gear
Tents, sleeping, bags, sleeping pads, etc.
Professional guide service
Lodging while not in the field
Food while not in the field
Personal camping gear
Gratuity for guide(s)