Population: Haines Borough 2,530
Haines is located in Southeast Alaska on Portage Cove, Chilkoot Inlet, on the upper arm of Lynn Canal, 80 air miles northwest of Juneau; 150 road miles southeast of Haines Juntion, YT, via the Haines Highway. NOTE: Haines is only 15 miles by water from Skagway, but it is 355 miles by road! (Alaska Marine Highway ferry service year-round; more frequent passenger-only fast ferry available seasonally.)
Visitor Information: Haines Visitor Center, 122 Second Ave. S., Box 530, Haines, AK 99827; visit www.visithaines.com; phone 907-766-6418; email [email protected]. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends, June–September. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, October–May. Free brochures for all of Alaska and Yukon. Ask at the Visitor Center for Wi-Fi locations.
Haines is a small town that hosts a large number of visitors each summer. As a gateway to the Alaska Highway for Inside Passage travelers, Haines has become an important service stop. Its spectacular scenery, outdoor recreation and laid-back lifestyle have also made Haines a popular destination. At least part of the community’s appeal lies in its small town friendliness, captured in local writer Heather Lende’s books, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name and Find The Good.
The original Indian name for Haines was Dtehshuh, meaning “end of the trail,” referring to where Chilkat and Chilkoot Indians met and traded with Russian and American ships at the end of the peninsula. It was also their portage route for transporting canoes from the Chilkat River to Portage Cove and Lynn Canal.
In 1879, missionary S. Hall Young and naturalist John Muir came to the village of Yandustuky (near today’s airport) to determine the location of a Presbyterian mission and school. The site chosen was on the narrow portage between the Chilkat River and Lynn Canal. The following year, George Dickinson established a trading post for the Northwest Trading Company, next to the mission site. His wife Sarah began a school for Tlingit children. By 1881, Eugene and Caroline Willard arrived to establish Chilkat Mission. The mission and town were named for Francina E. Haines, secretary of the Presbyterian Women’s Executive Society of Home Missions, who raised funds for the new mission.
In 1882, the Haines post office was established. The Dalton Trail, which crossed the Chilkat mountain pass to the Klondike goldfields in the Yukon, started at Pyramid Harbor Cannery across the Chilkat River from Haines. The town became an important outlet for the Porcupine Mining District, producing thousands of dollars’ worth of placer gold at the turn of the century.
Just to the south of Haines city center is Fort Seward on Portage Cove. Named Fort William H. Seward, in honor of the secretary of state who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, this was established as the first permanent Army post in the territory. The first troops arrived in 1904 from Camp Skagway. In 1922, the fort was renamed Chilkoot Barracks, after the mountain pass and the Indian tribe on the Chilkoot River.
In 1946, Chilkoot Barracks was deactivated, then sold in 1947, to a group of enterprising U.S. veterans who had designs of creating a business cooperative on the site. Their original plans were never fully realized, but most stayed on, creating the city of Port Chilkoot by converting some of the buildings into homes and businesses.
In 1970, Port Chilkoot merged with Haines to become a single municipality, the City of Haines. Two years later, the post was designated a national historic site and became officially known, again, as Fort William H. Seward (although the underlying land is still owned by the Chilkoot Company). In 2002, the City of Haines was consolidated with the Borough of Haines to form Haines Borough.
Fishing and gold mining were the initial industries of the Haines area. Today, halibut and gillnet salmon fishing and tourism are the basis of the economy. Haines is an important port on the Alaska Marine Highway System as the southern terminus of the Haines Highway, 1 of the 2 year-round roads linking southeastern Alaska with the Alaska Highway in Canada.
Fort William H. Seward
Take the walking tour of historic Fort William H. Seward. The walking tour includes 13 wayside interpretive history panels, beginning at the Cruise Ship Dock and the open-air sculpture garden in the barracks foundation ruins, with sculptures by Haines artists. There are a total of 16 sculptures by local artists at various locations, including the sculpture garden.
Historic buildings of the post include the former cable office; warehouses and barracks; fire hall; the guard house (jail); contractor’s office; plumber’s quarters; the post exchange (now a lodge); gymnasium; movie house; the mule stables; and “Soapsuds Alley,” the housing for noncommissioned officers whose wives did laundry for the soldiers. The former headquarters building, fronted by a cannon and a totem depicting a bear and an eagle, is now a private residence.
Officers’ Row at the “Top O’ the Hill” is now restored homes and apartments. Hotel Halsingland occupies the commanding officers quarters. Elinor Dusenbury, who later wrote the music for the state song—“Alaska’s Flag”—once lived in these quarters. Look for historic and interpretive signs.
Alaska Indian Arts
This nonprofit organization, located in the restored hospital at Fort Seward, is part of the walking tour. It is dedicated to the revival of Tlingit Indian art. See displays of Native art. Local craftsmen carve totem poles and work with silver and stone. Visitors hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, year-round. Phone 907-766-2160; www.alaskaindianarts.com.
See the Welcome Totems located at the Y on the Haines Highway. These poles were created by carvers of Alaska Indian Arts Inc. and are read from bottom to top. The Raven pole is symbolic of Raven, as founder of the world and all his great powers. The second figure is The Whale, representing Alaska and its great size. The bottom figure is the head of The Bear, which shows great strength. The Eagle pole tells of its feeding grounds (the Haines area is noted for eagles). The bottom figure is The Brown Bear, which feeds on salmon and is a symbol of strength. The Eagle Chief, head of the Eagle clan, is the third figure, and the top figure is The Salmon Chief, who provides the late run of salmon to the feeding grounds.
Haines Sheldon Museum
Haines Sheldon Museum is located on the old Haines Mission property at the end of Main Street, on the corner of Main and First, with a view of the boat harbor. In the main gallery, learn how the Tlingit stronghold of Jilkáat Aani transformed into a booming multi-ethnic community. Displays include Chilkat blankets, dugout canoes, the Eldred Rock Lighthouse lens, gold mining equipment, a rotating art gallery and an interactive children’s area.
The museum is open daily in summer 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 1–4 p.m. Sunday. Open Monday–Saturday 1–4 p.m. in winter. Admission fee $10; children 12 and under free. Museum store is in the entrance lobby. Research archives are on the lower level. Phone 907-766-2366; website www.sheldonmuseum.org.
This unique museum is dedicated to preserving the history of man’s first tool and is a tribute to working men and women everywhere. The hammer tells the story of man’s progress and ingenuity from ancient times to modern day. With over 2,000 hammers and related objects on display, this museum has something for every age. The hammers range from a hammer used in the building of the third pyramid at Giza to a hammer used to remove manhole covers. The museum can be easily found by the 20-foot-high hammer in front. It is just up the street from the boat harbor. Open May to mid-September; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission fee $5, kids under 12 free when accompanied by adult. Website: www.hammermuseum.org.
American Bald Eagle Foundation Natural History Museum
American Bald Eagle Foundation Natural History Museum and Live Raptor Center, located on the Haines Highway at 2nd Avenue. The museum has over 200 taxidermy specimens showcasing the diverse wildlife of Southeast Alaska. The raptor center is home to several live raptors including eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. Admission fee $10–$15. Phone 907-766-3094; www.baldeagles.org/festival.
Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is the annual gathering site of more than 3,500 bald eagles from mid-October through December with the Bald Eagle Festival (www.baldeaglefestival.org) in November each year. The 48,000-acre preserve was established in 1982, to protect and perpetuate one of the world’s greatest concentration of bald eagles and their critical habitat. The main eagle viewing area lies along the Chilkat River flats (pictured above) between Milepost H 18 and H 24 of the Haines Highway. There is a walkway and viewing platform system that spans between the parking lots at Mile 19 and 21 and includes interpretive displays. The eagles are drawn here by the late run of salmon, mostly chum and some coho. For more information, contact Alaska State Parks, phone 907-766-2292, or http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/aspunits/southeast/chilkatbep.htm.
Dalton City is a replica of a gold rush town built as the set for Disney’s “White Fang,” filmed in Haines in 1990. It is located at the Haines fairgrounds. The former movie set houses a cafe with gourmet food, a bakery and gelato parlor, several shops, and hosts special events like the Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival, the Haines Fishermen’s Community Salmon Barbecue and the Southeast Alaska State Fair.
The Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival is the oldest beerfest in Alaska. Held at Dalton City on May 28, 2022, this festival features a gourmet beer banquet and a microbrew tasting.
The Kluane to Chilkat Bike Relay, June 18, 2022, starts in Haines Junction, YT, and finishes 152 miles later in downtown Haines, AK. The free Haines Fishermen’s Community Salmon Barbecue follows the bike race at Dalton City.
The 53rd Annual Southeast Alaska State Fair takes place at the fairgrounds, July 28-31, 2022. It features 4 days of fun for all ages. Live music on 3 stages, exhibits, a children’s carnival, rides, games, races, dancing, a regional talent show and wearable art review, and the famous Logging Show and Fishermen’s Rodeo. With tasty fair food, lots of vendors and exciting events, this fair has something for the whole family. Details at www.seakfair.org.
The Alaska Bald Eagle Festival, in November, celebrates the winter gathering of eagles near Haines. Visit their website at www.baldeagles.org.
Mud Bay Road
Drive out Mud Bay Road. This scenic side road is logged as follows: Mile 2.4, Mount Riley Trail and parking area; Mile 3.4, roadside spring water; Mile 3.7, large paved view turnout along water; Mile 4.5, large parking area, boat harbor, launch, outhouse and views of Haines Packing Co.; Mile 6.1, turnoff on gravel road which leads to Chilkat State Park and Campground. For the state park, turn right and continue 1.2 miles to park entrance, then a half-mile further for fee station. The campground has 35 sites, picnic sites, beach access, a boat launch and a 7-mile (one-way) hiking trail to Seduction Point at the southern tip of the Chilkat Peninsula. For more information, contact Alaska State Parks, phone 907-766-2292; website: dnr.alaska.gov/parks/asp units/southeast/chilkatsp.htm.
If you continue past the campground, in a half-mile you arrive at a shoreline picnic area with spectacular views, grill-style firepits, tables, picnic shelter and pit toilets. This is a favorite wedding venue for local residents. There are beautiful views of Rainbow and Davidson glaciers across Chilkat Inlet.
Drive out Lutak Road. This road begins at the intersection of Main Street and Second Avenue (which becomes Lutak Road). At Mile 0.7, Picture Point picnic area with covered pavilion, grill-style firepit, toilets, bear-proof trash bin, picnic tables and a picture-perfect view of the Chilkat Inlet and Haines. At Mile 3.1 there is a popular picnic area with beach access; small parking lot, tables, grill-style firepits, bear-proof trash bins, pit toilets. The Alaska Marine Highway terminal is located at Mile 4 Lutak Road. Continue north past the ferry terminal to road end at Chilkoot Lake Road and turn left. The road parallels the Chilkoot River for about a mile before it ends at a parking area on beautiful Chilkoot Lake. It is about 10 miles from downtown Haines to Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site, which has a picnic area and 32-site campground. For more information, contact Alaska State Parks, phone 907-766-2292; website: dnr.alaska.gov/parks/aspunits/southeast/chilkootlksrs.htm.
The ADF&G operates a fish weir on the Chilkoot River between June and September to count the sockeye salmon returning to Chilkoot Lake and the river. This area is good for fish and wildlife viewing. Due to bear activity during salmon runs, there are areas along the road that restrict drivers from stopping and getting out of their cars.
CAUTION: Be bear aware!
Kroschel Wildlife Center
Visit Kroschel Wildlife Center. The center is about 28 miles from Haines (take the Haines Highway to Milepost H 27.2, turn on Mosquito Lake Road and continue to Mile 1.8). Shows are approximately 2 hours and include a guided walk on an easy trail. Kroschel Wildlife Center provides access to over 15 species of Alaska wildlife, some who may be petted or fed. Open May 15–September, must book a scheduled, organized tour. For more information, phone 907-767-5464; visit www.kroschelfilms.com.
Local air charter operators offer flightseeing trips for spectacular close-up views of glaciers, ice fields, mountain peaks and bald eagles. The heart of Glacier Bay is just west of Haines.
Take a Tour
Charter boat operators in Haines offer fishing, sightseeing and photography trips. Local tour companies offer bicycle tours, guided hiking, bus tours and nature walks.
Hike Area Trails
Stop at the visitor information center for a free copy of the pamphlet, Haines is for Hikers, which contains trail descriptions and maps. Or contact Alaska State Parks at 907-766-2292.
Mount Ripinsky trail is a strenuous all-day hike—recommended for experienced hikers only—with spectacular views from the summit of mountains and tidal waters. Mount Riley (elev. 1,760 feet) has 3 routes to the summit. The steepest and most widely used trail starts at Mile 3 Mud Bay Road and climbs 2.8 miles to the summit.
Good fishing May through June for chinook in Chilkat Inlet. Halibut best June through September in Chilkat, Lutak and Chilkoot inlets. Dolly Varden fishing good in all lakes and clear water rivers, and along marine shorelines from early spring to late fall. Great humpy fishing in August along the marine shoreline of Lutak Inlet and in the Chilkoot River. Sockeye in the Chilkoot River, late June through August. Coho in the Chilkoot River and Chilkat River, mid-September through October. Cutthroat trout year-round at Chilkoot Lake and Mosquito Lake. Contact the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game at 907-766-3638.
Lodging & Services
For a small town, Haines is very much a full-service community. Accommodations at 5 hotels/motels, including The Captain’s Choice Motel (phone 907-766-3111); the Hotel Halsingland (phone 1-800-542-6363); and Eagle’s Nest Motel (phone 1-800-354-6009); the Aspen Suites Hotel (phone 907-766-2211); and The Inn at Haines (phone 907-766-2970). Find cabins, lodges and B&Bs online at www.visithaines.com/lodging.
Haines has hardware stores, grocery stores (Howser’s IGA Supermarket, Olerud’s Market Center); restaurants, cafes and taverns; automotive repair, a car wash; laundries, a post office and First National Bank, Alaska. ATMs available at bank and businesses. Mountain Market & Cafe, on Third Avenue and the Haines Highway, is a natural foods market with a deli/cafe and full espresso bar (and it is open daily if you need a latte for that early morning ferry line).
There are several gift shops and galleries, many featuring the work of local artisans. Art galleries, museums and businesses host First Friday events year-round from 5–7 p.m.
Port Chilkoot Distillery is a micro distillery using local herbs and wild plants in their blends of whiskey, vodka, gin and Absinthe; tasting room, tours, gifts; on Blacksmith Street at Fort Seward; phone 907-766-3434.
The Haines Senior Center invites seniors to come and have lunch. They are open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday–Thursday. Call in advance 907-766-2383.
The award-winning Haines public library offers internet access. Swimming available at Haines Pool adjacent the high school.
There are 4 state campgrounds in the Haines area: Portage Cove State Recreation Site on the waterfront, with 9 walk-in tent sites; Chilkat State Park, located 7 miles south of Haines on Mud Bay Road (then another 2 miles on the Chilkat State Park Road), which has 32 tent/RV sites and 3 waterfront tent sites; Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site, 10 miles from downtown Haines via Lutak Road, with 32 sites; and Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site at Milepost H 27.2, with a small, primitive camping area and no outhouse.
Air: Haines airport is 3.5 miles from downtown. Alaska Seaplanes offers daily scheduled service to and from Juneau, Skagway and other southeast Alaska communities; visit www.flyalaskaseaplanes.com. There are also 2 charter services. Some motels offer courtesy car pickup from the airport.
Car Rental: At Captain’s Choice Motel, phone 907-766-3111.
Highways: The Haines Highway connects Haines, AK, with Haines Junction, YT. It is maintained year-round. U.S. Customs is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Alaska Time).
The 10-mile Lutak Road leads to the Alaska Marine Highway terminal and Chilkoot Lake SRS. The 7-mile Mud Bay Road accesses Chilkat State Park.
Bus: Visitor Shuttle Bus when cruise ships are in port offer free loop rides around city on regular intervals (approximately every 15 minutes).
Ferries: Alaska Marine Highway vessels provide year-round service to Haines; visit www.ferryalaska.com for schedule. Ferry terminal on Lutak Road, 4.5 miles from downtown Haines; phone 907-766-2111. NOTE: There is no Wi-Fi in the ferry terminal or on the ferries. There is only sporadic cell phone service on Lutak Road.
Private passenger ferry service is also available with Alaska Fjordlines Express and Haines–Skagway Fast Ferry. This is not the same as the Alaska Marine Highway ferries.
Alaska Fjordlines Express service between Haines, Skagway and Juneau; phone 907-766-3395 or 1-800-320-0146; visit www.alaskafjordlines.com. Day trip to Juneau includes bus tour of Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier plus free time for shopping and sightseeing.
Haines–Skagway Fast Ferry provides passenger-only service (seasonally) between Skagway and Haines; phone 1-888-766-2103.
Cruise Ships: Several cruise ships call in Haines.
Private Boats: Transient moorage is available at Letnikof Cove and at the small-boat harbor downtown.