Although Haines may be a small town in Southeast Alaska, it’s absolutely packed with things to do during the summer.
The original indigenous name for the area was Dtehshuh, which means “end of the trail.” It’s where Chilkat and Chilkoot people gathered to trade with Russians and Americans. Today end of the trail is still an apt name for Haines, which is the terminus for one of the two year-round roads linking the Alaska Highway with Southeast Alaska.
Haines is more than just a passing stop for ferry travelers. It’s developed an economy around fishing and tourism. It’s small-town charm, natural beauty, and litany of things to do make Haines a place worth an extended stay for any summer traveler.
Culture in Haines
Alaska Indian Arts
This nonprofit dedicated to the revival of northwest coast native art is located in the restored hospital in historic Fort Seward. If you take a walking tour of the fort you’ll stop and be able to see a collection of northwest coast formline design art. Local craftsmen work in the space carving totem poles, making bracelets from silver, and shaping other pieces of art.
Haines Sheldon Museum
Located at the end of Main Street, the Haines Sheldon Museum preserves the art and history of the many cultures in the Chilkat Valley region. It’s a great place to see woven Chilkat blankets, dugout canoes, old gold mining equipment, and a rotating art gallery. The museum also features the lens from Eldred Rock lighthouse and has a interactive area for children.
Don’t miss these even if you’re only in Haines for a few hours. Totem poles on both sides of the Welcome to Haines sign were carved out of red cedar by artists of Alaska Indian Arts. Numerous totems are on display throughout the city.
American Bald Eagle Foundation
The Raptor Center and Natural History Museum is dedicated to preserving the bald eagle and its habitat. Since opening in 1994, the center has collected more than 200 specimen from all over Southeast Alaska. There are ten avian ambassadors at the museum, including eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons.
Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
See the national emblem of the United States in one of its most populous gathering places. Created in 1982, the preserve protects critical habitat where eagles gather by the thousands to feed on spawning salmon. The largest concentration of eagles is present during late fall and early winter, but eagles are in the preserve year-round and it’s a good place to walk through in the summer.
Kroschel Wildlife Center
This gem of an attraction a little ways outside Haines is the brainchild of Steve Kroschel, who just wants to share his love for Alaskan animals with visitors. The center houses more than 15 species of charismatic wildlife including brown bear, wolf, moose, wolverine, and snowy owl. It’s a place for intimate encounters with these animals that often delights visitors.
Hammers? Yes. Haines is home to the world’s first museum dedicated to preserving the history of mankind’s first tool. There are more than 2,000 hammers on display, and it’s easy to find if you navigate toward the 20-foot tall hammer out front.
Summer drives from Haines
The waterfront road begins at the cruise ship dock and ends at Battery Point Trail, one of the most popular day hikes to do during the Haines summer.
Mud Bay Road
Drive to the end for a scenic shoreline picnic area with views of Rainbow and Davidson glaciers across Chilkat Inlet.
The road leads to several popular picnic area as well as the Alaska Marine Highway terminal. Lutak Road ends at Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site. Just before the site ADF&G operates a fish weir to count sockeye salmon during the summer. It’s a great place to see fish or view wildlife. Be aware the salmon runs draw hungry bears and there are places along the road that restrict drivers from stopping and getting out of their cars.
Plan a return visit to Haines
There are plenty of places to stay during the summer in Haines, including Haines Hitch-Up RV Park, Oceanside R.V. Park, and the Captain’s Choice Motel.
Alaska Fjordlines Express runs services between Haines, Skagway, and Juneau. Book a day trip to Juneau with Fjordlines and get a bus tours of the capital city and Mendenhall Glacier, plus time for shopping.
With so much to do in Haines during the summer, plenty of overnight lodging options, and transport to nearby Southeast communities, you’ll probably want to plan a return visit to Haines so you have time to check out anything you missed on your first time in the community.