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Kayak and Camp at Muir Inlet in Glacier Bay NP

Gustavus, Alaska

based on 1 reviews



60 miles

Route Type



Added by Brittany Weber

Explore a bay that's been carved by the ancient rivers of ice that still reside here. From wildlife viewing to glaciers, you'll never have a dull moment out on the water.

Starting at Bartlett Cove, the only developed area within Glacier Bay National Park, you will need to gear up for your cold water adventure. Glacier Bay has a few concessionaires that rent kayaks and give guided trips throughout the summer season - so if you don't have your own, check them out! They offer a variety of trips, from half-days to backcountry trips, so they have something for everyone. They launch from Bartlett Cove and you may see them around depending on the time of day.

If you have your own kayak or are going with someone who does, you will need a GPS unit and a very detailed and up-to-date map of the Glacier Bay area. The GPS unit is especially helpful if it's a foggy day, but I still highly recommend going with someone who knows the area or even just going with a friend rather than traveling alone, the bay can be a dangerous place with its cold waters and wildlife. Some of the most popular glaciers to visit are 40+ nautical miles away, so check before you leave if you are prepared and equipped for this adventure.

All campers (including kayakers) are required to attend a camper orientation, held daily upon request at the Bartlett Cove Visitor Information Station near the dock. This session is for your benefit: to answer your questions, provide you with a tide table, inform you of special wildlife and safety closures or to assist in planning your trip. You will be asked to fill out a backcountry registration form at that time and a wilderness survey form when you return from your trip.

During the summer months, kayakers can arrange with Glacier Bay Lodge to be dropped off and/or picked up by the daily tour boat at designated camper dropoff locations up bay. The exact locations change year to year to minimize human impacts, so you'll want to research in advance which arm of Glacier Bay you'll want to explore. You can choose between the West arm or East arm, and there are dropoff and pickup locations for both. 

An alternative to being dropped off is to set out from Bartlett Cove - which requires plenty of time and patience. You'll first come across a group of islands called Beardslee Islands, which are breathtaking and wonderful, and differ from the beauty of the glaciers that are waiting further up the bay. There is suitable drinking water generally found in Glacier Bay, so don't feel the need to bring everything at once, but the islands don't have water and the water that is suitable for drinking still needs to be treated for Giardia. Also, beware of the threat of hypothermia. Be prepared for rain and celebrate if there's sunshine!

Past Beardslee Islands (a day's paddle from Bartlett Cove) you can decide to head to the West or East arm. There are over 800 miles of wild shoreline here to explore, but keep in mind that the bay is over 60 miles long, so choose your route accordingly!

When heading to the East arm to Muir Inlet, I recommend stopping near the North Sandy Cove region, which is about 22 nautical miles away, before making your way into the inlet. For the West arm, I recommend the same, but continue on to Unnamed Island - this will save you from the open expanse in the middle of the bay where there are going to be cruise ships passing through. Kayaks are VERY difficult to see from cruise ships and other vessels - always assume that vessels cannot see you. Watch out for wakes from cruise ships and other vessels.

And watch for strong tide rips - notably the Sitakaday Narrows, Beardslee Entrance, McBride Inlet Entrance, and the north shore of Adams Inlet. Tide Tables are vital - be sure to have a current one and know how to read it. Tides here are extreme (up to 25' every 6 hours), so be sure to pitch your tent and store your kayak (and bear canisters) well above high tide line.

Another thing to remember is to stay at least ¼ to ½ of a nautical mile from tidewater glacier faces. Be cautious near large icebergs - they often roll unexpectedly and can flip a kayak.

But, most importantly - HAVE FUN! Enjoy this pristine wilderness and get a taste of what it truly means to live wildly.

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Honestly, Glacier Bay is probably my favorite national park site I have ever visited. It's one of those places that's still so pristine it gives you the feeling that you're the first to explore it. It puts the wilderness first, as it should be.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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