Kayak the West Arm of Glacier Bay National Park

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With over 1000 glaciers found in this reserve, expect some of the most mind-blowingly beautiful scenery imaginable.Also, expect to have it mostly to yourself.

Ever wanted to sleep beside a calving glacier? Wake up with a humpback whale feeding along the shoreline of your private beach? Watch the sunset for hours until midnight?Witness bears foraging in the tidal zones or watch a moose go for a swim?

This, and more, is possible in Glacier Bay.

Starting at Bartlett Cove, the park headquarters, the nearest glacier (which in 1750 used to cover the entire bay) is now a 60 mile paddle away. 

However, prior to reaching this glacier, you will encounter some spectacular nature. 

Hundreds of bird and fish species, mammals such as brown or grizzly bears dot the shoreline whilst whales and otters appear above the surface in the ever changing tides. 

While you can paddle straight from the shores of Bartlett Cove a few days into the bay to reach the first glacier area, most people take a shuttle boat with the parks service that does drop off and pick up services deep within the bay.

The shuttle services offers two pick up and drop off routes: the East or West arm.

The East has deeper fjords with denser forests, while the West is home to more tidal glaciers and newly exposed landscapes. 

Plan to take at least three days, or better yet, one week or two months within the bay to explore the area.

For an outstanding and fairly simple week long itinerary: after being dropped off Scidmore Bay, paddle and sleep in Reid Inlet which has many wide beaches.  Then paddle and spend two nights exploring John Hopkins Inlet, sleeping on the black sand beach at the furthest end of the inlet listening to the ice calve. After the ice flows clear with the tides, paddle out of the inlet and spend one night on a rocky bluff beside Lamplough Glacier, before paddling across the strait to reach behind Russell Island on a beach nearer to Rendu Inlet. Once again you'll need to cross the bay to reach Scidmore Bay which is accessible after portaging shallow of waters at the tidal connection. If the drop offs aline, you'll be able finish your journey after one night in Sundew Bay.

A popular 3 day jaunt into the West Arm is getting dropped off and picked up at either Ptarmagin or Scidmore and heading directly for John Hopkins Inlet with overnight stops at Reid Inlet and Lamplough Glacier. 

For more info on pick up and drop off points, look at the NPS site: https://www.nps.gov/glba/plany...

Before your journey, you'll need a permit from the parks office after an afternoon orientation in Bartlett Cove. They'll also provide you with bear vaults for your food and gear with smell.  This means you'll have to arrive one day early at minimum, luckily the campground in Bartlett Cove is free, as is the permit and camping within the park. 

Do not attempt this destination if you are frightened of bears and always follow the leave no trace policy in this fragile environment. In all parts of our journey, we saw evidence of bears from fresh scat to footprints to the animal themselves wandering the beaches.

Also, be warned that due to ice flow with the tides you may get stuck in some areas for longer than expected so have extra food and water whenever you decide to camp in a bay such as John Hopkins. 

It is imperative that you understand tidal changes to paddle as well as set up camp accordingly.

For more info in planning check out the NPS resources: https://www.nps.gov/glba/plany...

Pack List

  • Kayak, PFD, Paddles (bring your own or rent from park).
  • Map of area (available from Ranger station), GPS and Marine radio also handy.
  • Waterproof bags for everything.
  • Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad.
  • Warm clothes and serious rain wear.
  • Bear Spray, knife.
  • Food for your entire journey.
  • Several water containers. (Plan for 3L per day, refills may be available only every other day)
  • Park supplies bear vaults.
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RT Distance 0 Miles
Elevation Gain 0 Feet
Activities Canoeing, Camping, Photography, Kayaking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Loop
Features
Beach
Family Friendly
Forest
Romantic
Scenic
Wildlife

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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