Icy Bay Sea Kayaking Trip Video
You’ll love five nights camping in Icy Bay, one night at Icy Bay Lodge. 5 days of paddling, hiking and photographing.
Camp by the beach and enjoy a nightly fire and great food. The view from dinner doesn’t get any better.
Paddling adventures will takes us across the bay and up the various fjords and passages of the bay. We’ll try to get up close to the various glaciers and icebergs but must treat them all with respect. Water in the bay can easily reach depths of 300 feet!
This is rated as an easy trip and we offer a flexible itinerary to accommodate you/your group.
Combine a few days sea kayaking with some hiking, beach camping, exploring and relaxing in one of the most impressive landscapes anywhere. Basecamp and enjoy paddling different fjords each day.
Or if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous we can break camp each day and paddle to a new location.
100 years ago, this bay was covered in ice. A multitude of massive gainers crept southward from the St. Elias Mountains and met the shores of the northern Pacific Ocean along the Cape Yakataga shoreline. There was no bay here when Captain Cook sailed by in 1778.
Today, after a century of recent glacial retreat, Icy Bay is a cluster of cool, deep bays. As the glaciers recede further northward toward the lofty sanctity of the St. Elias Range, Icy Bay grows even larger.
Three large fjords constitute the best of our paddling domain, and we’ll explore the nooks and crannies of all of them; the Taan and the Tsaa in particular.
Icy Bay was labelled one of the 10 treasures of the world by National Geographic, and truly lives up to its reputation. Icebergs the size of a small house float by. Mountains soar overhead.
Mt. St. Elias
Any commentary on Icy Bay inevitably includes observations on Mt. St. Elias.
Why? Because it’s a remarkable mountain, and a powerful spectacle. When the clouds clear and the mountain comes out, it commands our attention.
Rising over 18 000 feet directly from the shoreline, the mountain is the tallest coastal peak in the world. Sitting on the US/Canada border, it is the second tallest peak in both countries. Its presence above our camp and our excursions is constant. You’re ever aware of this mountain.
The Saint Elias mountain range is the world’s tallest coastal mountain range, and the scenery here is without equal. Snow-capped peaks surround you. You’ll also get great views of 4 glaciers, the Guyot, Yahtse and Tyndall Glaciers being the most prominent.
Who's This Trip For?
This trip is a great option for those looking for an easy vacation in a remote and beautifully wild setting. It’s also customizable enough to fit both novice paddlers and experienced kayakers and outdoors people.
Looking for a quiet getaway? This trip is for you. Solitude and a peaceful serene wilderness locale make the Icy Bay Sea Kayaking Trip the perfect summer destination. The relatively calm, glassy water of the fjords make it a nice place to paddle for those with little or no experience.
You might also take short easy dayhikes along the beach or through the woods. Explore the edges of the glaciers at the far reaches of the fjords. There are numerous small creeks and waterfalls to enjoy and photo opps around every bend.
For those folks looking for a more rigorous outing we’ll break camp each day and kayak the entire length and breadth of the bay. There are campsites along the beach near the glaciers. If you’d like we can make this an expedition adventure of the entire Icy Bay.
Where Are We?
Depending on the exact trip itinerary and extension options you’d prefer, we depart from Yakutat to Icy Bay, or possibly from McCarthy. We’ll fly in to Icy Bay, grab lunch at the Icy Bay Lodge, catch a 30 minute shuttle via ferry boat to our basecamp location deeper in the bay, and set up camp.
The Taan Fjord still shows on many maps as ice covered! The calm, protected pristine waters of these fjords make classic Alaska sea kayaking. Even in inclement weather we’re typically able to get out and paddle. We can venture up the various fjords towards the glaciers, hike the shore lands and poke around the glaciers as we explore this very dynamic area.
I’ll provide you with a detailed gear list upon your reservation. download the Free eBook Info Packet for a brief overview if you like.
All your camp gear can be provided, included tents, sleeping pads, stoves, kitchenware, etc. You’ll need your own sleeping bag (rent one if you need to).
All your paddling gear is provided, from the kayak and PFD to your paddling gloves and booties (see the “What’s Included?” section below).
You’ll want to bring warm layers for camp, a fleece or down jacket, beanie, long johns, etc. A pair of sandals are great, as are light hikers, long pants and long-sleeved shirt (better sun and bug protection), and shorts and t-shirt (cross your fingers for some warm weather). Join the Icy Bay Polar Bear Club and bring your swimming costume as well!
Trip Options & Extensions
There are various possibilities to extend the trip. We can head to the nearby Samovar hills for a multi-day hike, or the Lost Coast for a backpack/packraft trip, or cross over the mighty St. Elias Mountains and combine this trip with one of the backpacking/basecamp trips in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, such as Iceberg Lake – Bremner Mines. For a challenging adventure, we can grab our backpacks and traverse across the mighty Malaspina Glacier in an honestly epic adventure. Not for the meek!!! We can, if you’re interested, also extend the Icy Bay sea kayaking portion of the trip to more thoroughly explore every nook and cranny of this amazing place!
Another option is to packraft Icy Bay, instead of sea kayaking. Packrafts are smaller, and soft-sided inflatable boats, so they’ll be slower at getting around the bay and the fjords, but they’re a lot of fun, a little more stable in the flat water, more portable if we want to do some adventurous hiking and float a river back to the bay, and a little cheaper as well! Inquire for details.
One possible extension is to include a short basecamp/dayhike or backpacking trip in the nearby Samovar Hills – see the Custom and exploratory trips page for details. The Samovar Hills are a relatively little visited region of the park that offer more stunning views of the St. Elias mountain range.
Day trip extensions might include a day up to the Hubbard Glacier, near Yakutat, or an amazing flight seeing and photography trip in the amazing St. Elias Mountains.
We’ll also possibly charter a boat ride out of Yakutat, up Disenchantment Bay to see the Hubbard Glacier and Russell Fjord. The Hubbard Glacier is known as ‘the world’s most calvingest glacier’, and there’s a great possibility of getting to witness the spectacle of enormous chunks of ice crashing down from the glacier into the ocean – an amazing sight. We’ll plan this trip for mid-June, but it’s really a good option anytime in June and July. This is becoming a very popular trip; camping on the beach, paddling, hiking, swimming, photography, and some of the most spectacular landscapes in Alaska; classic coastal terrain.
Caveat – don’t expect your trip to run exactly as I outline it here. This section is here to give you an outline of a typical itinerary, and is only intended as a sample. That said …. read on
– You need to arrive in Yakutat the night before our trip begins.
– We’ll meetup the morning of your trip departure date for a brief orientation and gear review. next, meet your pilot for a spectacular charter flight to Icy Bay. We’ll fly to Icy Bay Lodge, pick up our kayaks, have a bite to eat, and then take a short ferry ride up the bay to our campsite.
We’ll make camp nearby, set up the tents, cook tent, etc, and then get ready for an afternoon “introductory paddle”; we’ll start with a comprehensive safety review. We’ll also have a demonstration and lesson in basic sea kayaking, everything from getting in and out of your boat, to an overview of paddling techniques, etc.
We spend some time in a nearby cove, the perfect place to work on some basic sea kayaking boat safety protocols. Here you’ll get comfortable with the boats and the water. Once you’re good to go, we’ll head for deeper waters.
– We’ll spend each day paddling and hiking as you desire. One day we might paddle to the very back of Taan Fjord, and check out the face of Tindall Glacier. Another we might paddle across to the Karr Hills and enjoy a walk on the beach, or explore Yahtse Glacier. Most days we’ll bring lunch, and spend the day around the bay.
Another nice walk is the beachline to Cetani River. That can be an entire, or as brief as an hour or two. That’s entirely up you.
– On our final day, we’ll break camp, catch a ferry back to the lodge for a hot shower, great food, and a relaxing evening at one of Alaska’s premier backcountry lodges (optional).
– Our charter flight will pick us up and fly you to Yakutat (included). You can either overnight in Yakutat, or fly on to your next destination.
A shallow sand strip near the mouth of the bay keeps the area free of these monstrosities. We’re able to enjoy this incredible place in relative solitude.
“The place, the guide, the weather !!! Carl has successfully answered our expectations and even more. Don’t think, sign with him !!!“
– Seb Delhaye, France
Flexibility means I can accommodate most of your additional gear needs. Typically, I’ll include your kayaking gear, return charter flights to Icy Bay (from Yakutat), and general group gear. Let me know what you don’t have, or would like us to provide, and we’ll get to work on that for you.
- Return private chartered bush flight from Yakutat -> Icy Bay (or alternatively McCarthy -> Icy Bay)
- 5 nights camping in Icy Bay
- 1 night in a first class lodge (dinner, lunch and breakfast included) (optional)
- Single Kayak or Tandem boats available
- Safety gear, such as PFDs, etc
- All paddling clothes: splach pants, splash jacket, neoprene booties and gloves
- Professional kayak guide and instruction
- Satellite phone and a secondary alternative emergency contact device
- Bear Resistant Food Canisters for food storage, etc]
- Electric fence keeping bears out of camp
- Cook tent for the kitchen, etc
- All standard items – see also “What’s included” here.
Add Ons and Options
- Fully outfitted, includes food, tent, stove, all kitchen and cookware
- Personal gear
- Guide gratuities
- Trip Insurance
- Travel arrangements to Yakutat.
Why do so few people visit Icy Bay?
One reason Icy Bay is such a great sea kayaking location is the distinct and very noticeable absense of cruise ships.
None of the major cruise liners venture into the Bay, which makes the area very different from many of Alaska’s other more popular sea kayaking destinations. A shallow sand strip near the mouth of the bay has so far continued to keep the area free of these monstrosities, and we’re able to enjoy this incredible place in relative solitude. In 2013 the only other vessel we saw in the entire week was a small private sailboat that drifted nearby for a few hours.
What wildlife will we most likely see?
Icy Bay is a great bird watching area, and we’ll see an array of ducks, sea birds, shore birds and raptors. Bald eagles are common, as are falcon as well. Both marbled and the endangered Kittlitz’s murrelets are found in Icy Bay.
Harbor Seals come into the bay as well, hunting salmon, which are always a treat to see. With an estimated population in the bay of over 3500 seals, you’ll more than likely see quite a few!
This is one of the few areas where they’re rarely bothered by orcas, so they’re often very visible in the calm waters, as well as loafing around, soaking up the sun resting on the icebergs. June/early July is birthing time, so it’s possible you’ll see some cute seal pups as well.
If we’re lucky, we’ll also see mountain goats as well. Grizzly bears are abundant in the area, and it’s likely that we’ll see them as well.
How much sea kayaking experience do I need to take this trip?
Perfect trip for the beginner. Perfect for the intermediate paddler and darn near perfect for experienced paddlers as well.
That’s as honest as I can tell ya. Read the linked articles here for some tutorials.
How far are we paddling each day?
The beauty of a basecamp sea kayak trip is the flexibility. We’ve done days with good, solid experienced paddlers where we covered almost thirty miles in a day. Other days, with other paddlers, 5 or 6 miles.
What’s the maximum group size we can take?
I like to keep the group to five, maximum. Contact me to talk about bringing a larger group if you need to.
How do we get to Yakutat?
Flights on major airlines come through Anchorage or Juneau.
How about bugs?
Not too bad.
I Have More Questions
I know you do. I do as well.
I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page
Upon your reservation I’ll also send out a comprehensive trip information packet that covers just about everything and more you might imagine about your trip.