Haines Highway: Whitehorse To Haines, Alaska
From the first time my tires touched the road, this stretch of land between Whitehorse and Haines was forever etched in my memory as a place I would have to return to one day.
Need to Know:
📝 Passports are required to cross the International border to Haines.
🎫 Purchasing ferry tickets in advance is recommended.
🥘 Food is available in Whitehorse, Haines Junction, and Haines.
🐻 Bear awareness is important as they frequent this area.
After re-uniting with my husband in Whitehorse , we headed East to Kluane Provincial Park along with our daughter Gaia. Due to frequent bear visits, tent camping is limited but we were able to find Cottonwood RV Park which sat along the edge of the lake and wasn’t too far from the Haines Junction which meant less backtracking. Campsites were reasonably priced and you just couldn’t beat the location.
The site we found had space for us to set our hammock and tent up then sit back and enjoy the magnificent sights. We paddled the lake, ate a delicious meal, played some tunes, and I kicked everyone’s butts at mini golf (there is a course -albeit a little weathered, on site). Afterwards, Kyle and Gaia sauntered while I strutted my mini golf-fame down to the communal patio where a musical couple strummed some fun country tunes that were clearly popular before my time.
One of the most amazing things about the Yukon is that with the extended hours of sunlight, the sun sits on the horizon longer making sunsets seem to last forever. I took these photos before I went to sleep, but partway through the night I woke to the most stunning sky full of colour. It was one of those times that no camera would do it justice. I basked in the evening light before falling back asleep.
The next day we reluctantly packed up and headed back to Haines Junction then South towards Haines. Along the way, we visited Soldier’s Summit and one of my favourite roadside stops along Kluane Lake. There were a few horseflies on the beach which scared Gaia away, but we weren't too bothered by them. We were actually so lucky, on our entire 3 week trip, we only saw a handful of bugs.
After a delicious lunch in Haines, we continued to Kathleen Lake. Upon arrival, the water looked magical it practically was calling our names- we couldn’t resist the temptation of paddling the lake. Luckily, we always travel with our inflatable paddle boards which easily carry the weight of either of us plus Gaia.
There was a light breeze that created a bit of chop to the water and we had fun bouncing over the waves. Each ripple offered a welcome cooling sensation from the afternoon sun. Following a few hours on the water, we packed up and started down to Haines.
Partway down the highway I looked beside me to find my book that I had been obsessively trying to finish. I scanned the front seat and then asked Kyle to pull over so I could frantically rip the cab apart in search of it. I realized I must have left it somewhere along the way, most likely at the heavenly Village Bakery & Deli we had visited in Haines Junction. We carried on with me book-less and pouty in the passenger seat. Thankfully, the drive was more than enough of a distraction with its stunning mountain vistas. This highway starts in the Yukon, briefly crosses over to BC, then finally ends in Alaska.
Oh Haines…. I must say, I love this little Alaskan town. The highway parallels the river, and as we approached the community we admired the bald eagles soaring above us seeking prey in the river below.
For this trip, as with most of our trips, we flipped between cooking meals on our Coleman stove and treating ourselves to the local eateries. We grabbed a quick bite of fish and chips at the Bamboo Room before seeking a campsite. I had issues finding a campsite at this location in the past, but recalled a beautiful state run park at the end of a road that winds away from Haines past the ferry dock and along the Chilkoot River.
On any given day you can catch a grizzly bear or two wandering this stretch of land, and visitors are expected to be especially bear aware. We had the pleasure of encountering a mama bear and her beautiful 3 cubs several times over our 3 day stay (always from a vehicle.)
Chilkoot Lake is a paddle boarder’s paradise. We had the most magical time soaking in the ethereal views and basking in the shadows of the surrounding mountains. The valley was perfectly located for sunset and the whole sky lit up while the lake reflected the powerful pink hues as the sun drifted between the mountains. The majority of our time was spent between the lake and the Ocean.
Haines had plenty of places to enjoy the local beverages and we made sure those didn’t go to waste. We sipped spirits at the Port Chilkoot Distillery, tasted beers brewed on site at Haines Brewing Company and drank some amazing coffees at Mountain Market Cafe (which also has some seriously delicious meals.)
Of course we balanced all of this with wandering the forest, visiting the playground, sitting in the local library, and playing bag toss at the new little pizza joint Alpenglow.
We loved this little town so much, that we drove down to the ferry office to ask if we could postpone our ferry tickets an extra day so that we could soak up Haines in all its glory. They were happy to oblige and said it was not an uncommon occurrence.