Bike tour Alaska's Inside Passage by ferry?
May 21, 2019 3:19 PM   Subscribe

What is the best itinerary for a week touring Alaska's inside Passage by bike and ferry with a Skagway departure? I'm flexible on where to go, other than I've already been to Haines and Juneau so would like to explore some new places.

In my initial daydreaming, I thought I'd just hop from town to town by ferry but then I started looking at the ferry schedules and realized it isn't that straightforward!

Looking at the ferry schedule for this summer, it looks like Skagway toJuneau to Sitka might make the best use of a week. I'd love to see Glacier Bay National Park, but it looks like I'd only have a day and a half in Gustavus - is it worth it anyway? Is there a particular place that's a must-see?

I'll be camping and plan to do all travel by bike/ferry (no float planes).

Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by bighappyhairydog to Travel & Transportation around Alaska (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ooh. Definitely go to Sitka! (I love Sitka.) If you want more specific suggestions for what to see when you're there, send me a message.
posted by belladonna at 3:41 PM on May 21, 2019

Glacier Bay is really spectacular. Gustavus itself is fun/cute but super, super tiny. There's a day cruise into the park that leaves from the lodge in the park that would be perfect; it's an easy 10? mile ride (on regularly graded dirt road) from the ferry to the lodge (and, when I was last there 10 years ago, hitchhiking was pretty easy). The other (awesome) option would be a kayak trip in Icy Strait to whalewatch- it's not inside the park, but you would leave from Gustavus. I do think one or the other is absolutely worth it.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:26 PM on May 21, 2019

Sitka and Juneau would be good uses of your time.

In both Juneau and Sitka, the ferry terminals are “out the road” so you will need to bike a bit to get into town. About seven miles for Sitka, fourteen for Juneau (to actual downtown, not “the valley”). I know this is a biking trip, but you could probably arrange for a minivan cab with room for your bike (or a rack) to knock off a lot of that distance if you are short for time. Juneau city buses have bike racks; the closest bus route near the terminal is though Auke Bay but often it is a long wait till the next bus (some routes only once an hour, check the schedules).

Juneau has the most extensive road network of any of the Southeast towns. You’ll definitely want to plan out everything in advance looking closely at maps. Some particular destinations you may want to consider are:

(1) Downtown, not the cruise ship tourist trap hell of South Franklin St., but the real old town business and residential areas. The Alaska State Museum is very good. Other things visitors go to downtown (besides just seeing downtown) are the state capitol building, governor’s mansion, and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. The mansion is just a easy to bike/walk-by spot (no tours) on a hillside road (Calhoun Ave.) that is nice even if you don’t care about the mansion and just want to see non-tourist areas of town. Similarly, i’d never go on the capitol building tour but it’s nice to go through that part of town. The church is small and they expect some visitors but again, no need to go in unless it particularly interests you. All of this is very close together. Grab coffee at Heritage Coffee or The Rookery, browse Rainy Retreat (mostly used) Books and Hearthside Books. Go to the The Alaskan if you want to see a real, authentic mining-era bar/hotel (opened in 1913), NOT the Red Dog (tourist trap; not even in an old building).

(2) The old town of Douglas, with its Sandy Beach area mining ruins. The destination itself is not a must-see, but the view of Juneau from the other side of the channel is nice. The Island Pub in Douglas has good food (fancy pizzas, grilled sandwiches) and a wonderful view.

(3) In the opposite direction on the Douglas Island road system, False Outer Point has a particularly beautiful view of the island-studded ocean there and a straight-on look up the Mendenhall Valley from a good distance. You’d need to decide if a long bike-ride on a not-particularly scenic road is worth it. Perhaps not. Also off the North Douglas road is the Eaglecrest ski area, which is nice in the summer but on a bike would be a long uphill slog into the interior of the island.

(4) “The Glacier” as locals call it. Yeah, you will want to see this unless you had a good Glacier Bay trip and are bored with glaciers.

NOTE that the four-lane highway between the intersection of Egan Drive with Mendenhall Loop Road and downtown Juneau allows no bikes or pedestrians. To bike between the valley and downtown you must get on a bike path NNE of the intersection. It parallels the highway and then near Fred Meyer (store) connects to the old road (Glacier Highway), which you can bike on. There is another bit near the hospital where Glacier Hwy goes away for a short distance, but there is a separate (not the shoulder) bike path that gets you past that until Glacier Hwy starts again to take you to the start of the historic old Juneau.

I was going to write up Sitka, but have run out of steam. Sitka is lovely, though.
posted by D.C. at 8:07 PM on May 21, 2019

Book your travel soon. The new governor is still penising around with ferry funding.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:53 PM on May 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, campgrounds in Juneau: Auk Village Campground (near the ferry terminal) is a beautiful area, Mendenhall Campground (near the glacier) is good. Both probably need reservations in the busy summer. Thane Campground (SE of downtown) had a reputation as being used a homeless camp with some crime. It may be better now, but do research.
posted by D.C. at 9:24 PM on May 21, 2019

Response by poster: This is all so helpful! Thanks, everyone.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2019

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