We're first time cruisers (early Sept.) with stops in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. We'd love to kayak in one port, hike in another and do a glacier tour in the third. I'm forming some opinions based on all the great postings, but would love some comments on which port (and which independant operator) would be the best to do each activity. Thanks!
If you want a helicopter glacier landing- only port is Juneau, consider Coastal helicopters. Also only port for the drive up Mendenhall- via $10pp round trip shuttle bus, good hiking there also. Sitka is an excellent walking city and an easy walk through Sitka Heritage Park- purchase the cheap guide book on the totems if interested. Will enhance your walk past the totems. You can continue with a walk up to the Raptor Center then back through town to the other side if interested. Kayaking is excellent out of Ketchikan, several trips via Southeast Kayaks.
The tongass national forest covers miles and miles and miles and all of the Inside Passage. http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/ What port are you referring to??? Easy hiking in all ports depending where you want to go???
Wow -- what choices! I guess I'd have to ask which port (Ketch/Sitka/Juneau) offers the best moderate/challenging trails (exposed trails w/views & wildlife) and, since our priority is to flightsee and kayak in Jun. and Ket., should we save the hiking for Sitka? Would we have time to do a flightsee or kayak AND a hike in Juneau (8a-10p) or Ketch (7a-6p)?
Yes, plenty of time in Juneau and probably time in Ketchikan depending on your tour schedule. - for clairfication- Inside Passage hiking is RARE for wildlife, if you want to see some- tours are necessary. Request each city's visitor guide for more hiking information.
I did the "guide's choice" hike in Juneau and think that was the best scenery of my whole trip. It was about 6 miles roundtrip. I'm sure that just about all the hiking tours would be comparatively good.
Kayaking in Sitka is the best. Easy to get to the kayaking launch site... you can walk there from where the tenders drop you off. Save your money no matter what and do these trips on your own. Don't book anything through the ships excursions unless you feel you must waste your money. Kayaking for 3 hours in Sitka cost us $22 for two people in a tandem kayak! Fantastic. I recommend Sitka for kayaking because the harbour bay is sheltered from the open ocean and the bay is dotted with little islands that you can kayak through and around. Picturesque lighthouse that you can kayak right up to and get your picture taken next to. It is the same lighthouse on many of the postcards. Wouldn't you rather have you in your postcard?
You can do hiking in just about any of the ports in Alaska. Again, save your money and do a little planning on your own to find great hikes just about anywhere. My hiking port, given your itinerary would be Ketchikan. Unless you are a big fan of shopping, you are going to want to get out of downtown a get back to nature. You can take a taxi to some good "rainforest" hiking there as I recall.
If you're interested in a medium/challenging hike, you should strongly consider glacier trekking (Juneau). This was the best of all of our excursions. You get to see the glaciers from a far better vantage point than simply doing the landing and its exhilerating. That being said, I still recommend hiking in the more traditional environment as well ... the Tongass is beautiful.
Ketchikan, kayaking is great with Southeast Sea Kayaks. We lucked out...it was just the two of us and the guide, so it was very still, we went where we wanted to and we got great interaction with a great guide.