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Hiking on a Cruise to Alaska?

Updated 06.01.2014

Hiking on a cruise to Alaska? Do those words even go together? If you’re active baby boomers cruising on an InnerSea Discoveries (now known as Un-Cruise Adventures) ship — no problem. Alan and I had the opportunity to try out several of the hikes that are offered on the adventure cruise company’s itinerary when we sailed on the Alaska Inside Passage: Eastern Coves itinerary. The hiking excursions were rated by level of difficulty, which made it easy to choose hikes that were appropriate for our fitness level. Today, we’re sharing our favorites with you.

Alan and Donna Hull at Cascade Waterfall in Thomas Bay, Alaska

Hike to Cascade Waterfall in Thomas Bay, Alaska

Cascade Creek Trail

After spending the night anchored in Thomas Bay, we wake to a mystical scene as mist plays about in the trees that crowd the shoreline. Boarding the skiff, our Level 2 hiking group motors to land and the start of Cascade Creek Trail. Water from the creek roars beside us as we make our way on the boardwalk path to the foot of Cascade Waterfall. After stopping for photos, we hike up wooden steps that climb the hillside, surrounded by temperate rainforest of spruce and hemlock, with salmon berries decorating the thick undergrowth.

“Look,” says InnerSeas Discoveries naturalist, Nikitakua, pointing to moose droppings.

The group clusters around the moose’s calling card, some of us secretly hoping for an appearance.

The trail continues uphill to a bridge that crosses near the waterfall. After a few hundred feet, we stop for more photos before turning around. Negotiating the wet, slippery boardwalk trail back to shore, and the waiting skiff, is made easier by the poles that the ship has provided.

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Exploring Baird Glacier in Southeast Alaska

Exploring Baird Glacier in Southeast Alaska

Baird Glacier Trail Hike

When the ship anchors in Scenic Cove, Baird Glacier is just a skiff ride away. Arriving at a rocky beach, we step out onto the glacier’s terminal moraine. This Level 2 hike offers a possible wet landing and slippery surface, so Alan and I wear rubber boots provided by the ship. Once again, my trusty poles (again, courtesy of InnerSea Discoveries) give this baby boomer confidence on the uneven surfaces that the hike traverses.

At first, the hike (there is no trail), negotiates land left behind from the glacier’s exit. Mossy fields are littered with stones, both large and small, rounded by glacial action into smooth globes, some sheltering nurseries of tiny evergreens as the earth claims what the glacier left behind.

The sound of water permeates the air – dripping, gurgling, streaming glacial runoff. To climb onto the top of the glacier, we skip lightly across a spongy stream of mud before the last, brief climb onto the top of the ice. What do we find? Another world. Ridges, hills and valleys of ice as far as we can see. But the ice isn’t pure white — that resides farther up the valley. Instead, the ice around us is a dirty brown with embedded chunks of debris. With its peaks and valleys, the surface reminds me of the peaks of meringue on a chocolate cream pie.

Since we visited Baird Glacier on a rare sunny day, waterproof safari pants over long underwear kept me warm. A hat and gloves provided protection against the cold wind blowing off the glacier; but a visit during rainy weather would require that baby boomers wear rain gear and a cautious attitude due to slippery conditions.

Donna Hull hiking on Three Lakes Loop Trail in Southeast Alaska

Hiking across the muskeg bog on Three Lakes Loop Trail

Three Lakes Loop Trail

If you’ve ever traveled on a cruise, you know the feeling of needing to go for a vigorous walk — on land. Meet Three Lakes Loop Trail, near Petersburg, Alaska. Once again, we begin this Level 2 hike by motoring to shore from the ship. The mostly boardwalk trail (some parts are gravel) loops around Sand, Hill and Crane Lakes. In the process, there is a gradual climb through the forest to areas of prairie and muskeg bogs. The approximately 4.5-mile round trip hike offers possible wildlife sightings of black bear, moose and beaver.

Wolverine Creek Trail

In Yes Bay, InnerSea Discoveries guests visit Yes Bay Lodge in the Tongass National Forest. The muddy trail behind the lodge negotiates a hillside, overlooking a creek that’s known for good bear watching. With small obstacles along the path, baby boomer hikers are advised to watch their footing. Depending on how far you hike, this is designated a Level 1 or Level 2 hike.

So there you have it – four hiking trails that are part of a cruise itinerary that will keep active travelers happy.

Have you ever hiked on a cruise? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

Congratulations to InnerSea Discoveries on the recent christening of the adventure ships – Wilderness Discoverer and Wilderness Adventurer. In addition to the Eastern Coves itinerary, the two ships will cruise the Western Coves of the Inside Passage as well as cruises that stretch from Seattle to Juneau or Juneau to Seattle. And if you’re looking for a more upscale small ship cruising adventure, try their sister company, American Safari Cruises.

Taking a cruise and having a hard time choosing between all of the excursion options? Check out our favorite experiences from cruise excursions around the world!

Disclosure: The Un-Cruise company (previously American Safari and InnerSea Discoveries) provided this travel experience, but the opinions are our own.


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