A fraternity of wilderness guides with few equals operates in Haines, and you can make contact with many of them through Alaska Backcountry Outfitter, 111 2nd Ave. (tel] 907/766-2876; www.alaskanaturetours.net), which books outings to ski, climb, kayak, raft, or fly, as well as the company's own Alaska Nature Tours, described below. The shop carries gear and clothing for birding, camping, climbing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, pedaling, skateboarding, and paddling. Two other sporting gear shops are in town, with fishing gear as well as camping supplies and other equipment: Outfitter Sporting Goods, Mile 0, Haines Highway; and Alaska Sports Shop, 420 Main St.
Haines is probably the best place on Earth to see bald eagles. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve protects 48,000 acres of river bottom along the Chilkat River. From October to mid-December, peaking around Thanksgiving, up to 3,000 eagles gather in the cottonwood trees on a small section of the river, a phenomenon known as the Fall Congregation. (A healthy 200-400 are resident the rest of the year.) The eagles come for easy winter food: A very late salmon run spawns here into December in a 5-mile stretch of open water known as the Council Grounds. The best places to see them are pull-outs, paths, and viewing areas along the Haines Highway from miles 18 to 21. Don't walk on the flats, as that disturbs the eagles. The preserve is managed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (dnr.alaska.gov, click on "Regions," then Southeast). Contact the local ranger at tel. 907/465-4563; the headquarters is at 400 Willoughby, 3rd Floor, Juneau, AK 99801.
Local guides offer trips on the river by raft, bicycle, or bus. Most tours happen in the summer, when the eagles are fewer but visitors more numerous. Chilkat Guides, based at mile 1, Haines Highway along Sawmill Road (tel. 907/313-4420; www.chilkatguides.com), does a rafting trip several times a day during the summer down the Chilkat to watch the eagles. The water is gentle -- if it's too low, there's a chance you'll be asked to get out and push -- and you'll see lots of eagles, mostly at a distance. The 3 1/2-hour trip, with a snack, costs $89 for adults, $62 for children ages 7 to 12.
Serious bird-watchers, photographers, and others who want an in-depth tour should join Alaska Nature Tours (tel. 907/766-2876; www.alaskanaturetours.net), whose naturalists lead 3-hour wildlife-viewing tours by bus year-round for $85. The company also offers longer tours, including guided hikes, for $85 to $130, and cross-country skiing in and around the preserve. Sockeye Cycle, directly below, visits the eagle preserve on tours, too.
The area is quite conducive to biking. Sockeye Cycle, 24 Portage St., near the dock (tel. 877/292-4154 or 907/766-2869; www.cyclealaska.com), leads a variety of guided trips -- a couple of hours, half- or full-day, or even a 10-day trek along gold rush routes. A 3-hour ride costs $90 and could include various sites around town. Or you can rent your own bicycle for $45 a day.
There are several charter operators in Haines for halibut and salmon fishing, and guided freshwater fishing for silver or sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden, and cutthroat trout. The Haines Visitor Center, 2nd Street near Willard (P.O. Box 530), Haines, AK 99827 (tel. 907/766-6418; www.visithaines.com), can help you find a guide or fishing lodge through the links on their website or the list of operators they keep at the office. For self-guided fishing advice and weekly summer updates of what's running, contact the local office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (tel. 907/766-3638; www.alaska.gov/adfg, click on "Sport Fish," then the Southeast region on the state map).
This is one of Alaska's best places to go flightseeing. The Inside Passage is beautiful, and one mountain away is Glacier Bay National Park; the ice field and the glaciers spilling through to the sea are a sight you won't forget. It's possible to land on an immense glacial ice field and see the sun slicing between the craggy peaks. Mountain Flying Service, 132 2nd Ave. (tel. 907/766-3007; www.mountainflyingservice.com), offers these flights -- or, as owner Paul Swanstrom says, adventures. He is known for his glacier and beach landings, and offers commentary to make flights fully guided experiences. Prices range from $200 to $350 per person, and reservations are recommended. Other flight services offer these tours, too; ask at the visitor center.
There are several good trails near Haines, ranging from an easy beach walk to a 10-mile, 3,650-foot climb of Mount Ripinsky, north of town. (One route starts at the top of Young Rd.) Get the Haines Is for Hikers trail guide from the visitors' bureau. The easiest for families is the 2-mile Battery Point Trail, which goes along a beach decorated with wild iris. The trail starts at the end of Beach Road, which leads southeast from the Port Chilkoot cruise-ship dock. Mount Riley is south of town, with three trail routes to a 1,760-foot summit that features great views and feels much higher than it is; get the trail guide or ask directions to one of the trail heads. Seduction Point Trail is 7 miles long, starting at Chilkat State Park at the end of Mud Bay Road, south of town, and leading through forest and along beaches to the end of the Chilkat Peninsula, with great views of Rainbow Glacier. Since you'll walk the beach, check the tides; they'll give you a tide table at the visitors bureau. For a guided hike, rock climbing, or even a multiday glacier trek, check with Alaska Mountain Guides, directly below. Their mountaineering programs cost $125 per day for 2 people minimum.
Alaska Mountain Guides (tel. 800/766-3396 or 907/313-4422; www.alaskamountainguides.com) offers instruction, short guided trips, and longer expeditions. A 4-hour guided paddle starts at $114, including lunch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.