Alaska – Haines

During our stay in Kluane National Park, a trip to Haines, a small fishing village in Alaska, is highly recommended. Beautiful scenery, the iconic bald eagle and grizzly bears avidly fishing for salmon in the Chilkoot River await us there. We take this advice to heart, pack a few things in our backpacks and head out for two days in Haines.

On the way to Haines

We drive along the Haines Highway for 240 kilometers from Kluane National Park through impressive mountain scenery and forest areas to Haines, Alaska. On the way up there, the sky is still a bit cloudy, which gives the wilderness landscape an extra dramatic character, especially as we drive through the Three Guardsmen Pass.

About 70 kilometers before our arrival in Haines, we cross the border and enter the United States. No hour-long lines like in American airports, no fierce border agents asking critical questions. Here, we are the only tourists on site. We are simply asked to quickly stop by the counter to get our ESTA renewed, and once the formalities are completed, the customs officer turns into a tourism official and offers us a tourist stamp for our passport before handing us a map with all the attractions in Haines.

Our highlights

Road trip

Haines Highway

Mountain scenery

Three Guardsmen Pass


Haines is a small fishing village of about 2000 inhabitants, surrounded by a picturesque landscape between sea and mountains. The only way to reach Haines by land is to take the Haines Highway from Canada. Although we are fully dedicated to eagle and bear watching during our stay, we still find some time to explore the village. This includes a quick visit to the local brewery, where we chat with a few locals, and a dinner at the equally recommendable Alpenglow Pizzeria.

Our highlights

Fjord landscape

Haines Brewing Company

Alpenglow Pizzeria

The Valley of the Eagles 

The Valley of the Eagles is the name of the Chilkat Valley, in which Haines is located. There is a reason for this: about 400 bald eagles have their territory here all year round. Between October and February, the population increases to about 3500 due to the late migration of salmon in the Chilkat River. At this time of the year, it becomes the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world. It is therefore the ideal place to observe these impressive raptors.

Our highlights

Valley of the Eagles

Bald eagles

Our encounter with grizzlies

Many brown bears also have their habitat in the Haines area. The best place to see them is at the Chilkoot River, a connection of about two kilometers between the Chilkoot Lake and the Lutak Inlet. They actively fish for salmon there, especially during the summer months.

We drive slowly up and down the river, but we do not see any bears yet. It is relatively quiet and only a dozen people are present and waiting like us to see a bear. Suddenly, a mother and her two cubs come out of the forest trotting and arrive on the road just in front of our car. A unique and emotional moment that we particularly enjoy. After a few seconds, the bears finally disappear in the direction of the river: it’s lunch time.

We get out of the car at a safe distance from the bears and observe the grizzlies eagerly fishing for salmon. A local amateur photographer explains us that this is an 8 year-old mother grizzly, who grew up near this river. The locals affectionately call her “Lulu”. She is equipped with a GPS collar for research purposes. The mother bear is now teaching her two year-old cubs to fish for salmon in the Chilkoot River. It is impressive and a real pleasure to observe the bears in the river. The mother is robust, imposing and focused. On the other hand, her two cubs are mischievous and somewhat clumsy, they seem to want to play in the water. They casually help themselves to the leftovers of salmon caught by their mother.

After a while, another family of bears appears. She is also well known to the locals. It is a 10 year-old mother grizzly bear whose three cubs are already two years old and therefore a bit bigger than Lulu’s. In addition to the bears, we also see many bald eagles. Near the mouth of the sea, a few round-eyed heads emerge from the water: these are harbor seals coming up the river not to miss the feast.

Our highlights

Chilkoot River

Bear watching


Harbor seal