If you’re a hiker and planning an Alaska cruise, or you just want to find a way to stretch your legs and get away from crowds, this article is for you!
I worked in the cruise industry in Alaska for seven years and lived in two of these ports and these hikes are all ones you can get to easily from the cruise ship dock. Some are easier and some are harder and I’ve included their mileage and elevation gain so you can find the best hike that works for you.
Your cruise ship will offer hiking excursions, which is a great way to go if you don’t want to research them or worry about getting back to the ship on time. Hiking shore excursions are usually very small groups, so you can still get away from crowds, but with a knowledgeable guide and easy transportation.
The best hike to do in Juneau on a port day from a cruise ship is definitely Mt Roberts! You have a couple of options here. You can hike from downtown up the trail to the top of the tram or you can take the tram and start from there. I highly recommend taking the tram (you can buy a ticket on board your ship or at the ticket booth) and then hiking from there because you’ll have views the entire way and get to see more! Also the trail up to the tram is very muddy and has a lot of roots. Once at the top of the tram, there are marked trails and you can go any distance you like. I recommend getting a map or downloading one on your phone before going.
If you prefer to hike the entire way, you’ll start from the steep hill downtown (called Star Hill) and climb about 1500 feet in two miles to reach the top of the tram. You’ll start going up Franklin Street, turn right on 6th and then left on Basin Road which will take you to the trailhead that is well signed.
On the trail up to the top of the tram, or once you walk a short distance away from the tram station, you’ll leave any crowds behind.
The Rainbird Trail is a wonderful hike through the legendary coastal rainforest of the Southeast Alaska under a canopy of ancient trees. In addition the forest, there are several view points out across the channel where you can see the water and the bustling activity in the channel. Not only is it a hike that will still leave you time to explore the wonderful town of Ketchikan, it’s a hike that’s beautiful in any weather.
There are a couple of ways to do this and it depends a bit on where your ship docks, but it’s about a three mile round trip with a few hundred feet of elevation gain. You can take the city bus or a taxi to the University of Alaska Southeast campus and start behind there, doing a one way hike on the Rainbird trail back towards town, or you can do a round trip walk making it a bit longer.
If you’re looking for a very challenging hike (this one will take your whole day in port and only if you’re a relatively quick hiker) with a rewarding view, give Deer Mountain a try! I’d only recommend doing this if it happens to be a sunny day. Learn more about this 3000 foot climb to a great view in my Ketchikan article below.
In Skagway, I think the best hike for someone in port for the day is Lower Dewey Lake OR Smuggler’s Cove. I lived in Skagway for three seasons so I’m recommending two!
Skagway has many amazing hikes but these two are straightforward to get to from the cruise ship dock and will still leave you part of your day in port for exploring town.
Lower Dewey Lake is about two miles round trip with 500 feet of elevation gain. It goes from the middle of town near the docks up the side of a forested hill with a couple of view points down to the harbor before you pop out at a surprisingly large and peaceful forested lake, perfect for swimming! The trails continue further up to other destinations, so if you want more hiking, grab a map and keep exploring. Turn off Broadway onto 2nd behind the railroad depot and the trail starts across the railroad tracks (watch out when crossing them!).
Smuggler’s Cove is a mostly flat 4 mile round trip hike around the point from the hustle and bustle to a peaceful and beautiful view of the upper Lynn Canal. Heading into town, go left on first and then left on Main to go around the airport and across a footbridge. Follow the trail left to Yakutania Point (another great spot if you want a shorter outing) and then further around to Smuggler’s Cove.
If you’re looking for a great hiking shore excursion in Skagway, book the hiking railroad tour, which involves a train drop off and pick up which is pretty unique! These hikes are guided so you don’t get lost or miss the train on the way back. Another great option is the hike and float, where you go out to Dyea, hike up a bit of the Chilkoot Trail and then raft down the Taiya River.
In Haines, I recommend the hike to Battery Point. If you walk through town to the trailhead and out to Battery Point it’s about 6 miles round trip and is mostly flat. You can also take a taxi to the trailhead for a shorter outing. You’ll have great views of the Lynn Canal and surrounding mountains as you walk along the water.
If you are looking for a steeper hike with a good view, try Mt Riley, a 5.5 mile round trip hike with about 1500 feet of elevation gain. You’ll need to take a taxi to get the few miles out to the trailhead, but if it’s a clear day and you like big view hikes, then you’ll love it.
The best hike near the Hoonah/Icy Strait Point cruise ship dock
Icy Strait Point is not the best Alaska cruise port for hiking, which is totally ok as there are many wonderful things to do! However, the Nature Trail is a surprisingly delightful one mile loop around the area. I highly recommend this as you can see the gorgeous forests that Southeast Alaska is known for, as well as see some great views of the area and see lots of birds.
There are additional trails in the area around Hoonah but they are a bit difficult to get to from the cruise ship dock. I recommend the nature trail (do more than one loop if you like!) and checking out the many other activities Icy Strait Point has to offer.
The best hike near Sitka’s cruise ship dock
Sitka is a fantastic Alaska cruise port for hiking and exploring on your own! In addition, Sitka has worked hard to build an extensive network of hiking trails through the non profit Sitka Trail Works.
If you’re arriving by cruise ship, the first thing to figure out is where your ship will dock. The big ships generally dock a bit out of town and offer a free shuttle into town every 15 minutes. If you’re on a smaller ship, you may anchor in the harbor and have a tender shuttle to the dock.
The Mt Verstovia Trail is a gorgeous trail on a clear day with a tough climb. The trail can be rough and muddy, but you can also turn around at one of the viewpoints along the way. The trail is maintained as far as a Picnic Rock, a 2550 foot climb in 2.7 miles (5.4 miles round trip). This is only really worth it if you can see the view, but if you can it’s amazing! Take a taxi to the trailhead a couple miles out of town.
For a more mellow hike, or a good option for a rainy day, give the Indian River Trail a try. You can take a taxi or walk to the trailhead just outside of town on Indian River Road. The hike goes about 4.5 miles to a waterfall and slowly gains 1000 feet of elevation. That makes for a 9 mile round trip which is a fairly long day hike, especially for a shorter port day so I recommend just enjoying the amazing forest for as much time as you have, setting a turnaround time and heading back at that point.
If you’re a hiker and planning an Alaska cruise, you have lots of great options for hiking on your own! Most ports will also have hiking shore excursions if you prefer to have someone else figure out a great hike to enjoy that guarantees you’ll get back to the ship on time.
For those planning hikes on their own, Juneau and Skagway have the easiest hikes to get to from a ship, where there are trails literally right next to the dock or very close. Other ports might require a bit more of a walk but it will be well worth it!
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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