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Haines Highway Itinerary Yukon to Alaska

Travel from the highest mountains in Canada to the ocean port of Haines, Alaska on the Lynn Canal. My Haines Highway itinerary covers one of the most spectacular drives in the North with jaw-dropping scenery.  Plenty of pull-outs allow you to stop to admire the view.

Haines Highway Itinerary from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska

My multi-day trip to Haines, Alaska started at Haines Junction, Yukon, where the Alaska and Haines Highway meet. This junction is also the jumping-off point to Kluane National Park and Reserve and the continuation of my Yukon And Alaska Round Trip after my side trip to Haines, Alaska


Pullout with outhouse and information panels and what a view

Haines Highway travels along the most stunning scenery with plentiful wildlife, access to camping and amazing hiking trails.

The road, also known as Haines Cut-Off or simply Haines Road, is paved and is 150 mi (241 km) long. It links Haines Junction (a village in Yukon, Canada) with Haines, Alaska, United States) and follows the trail first used by the Chilkat/Tinglit First Nations.

The highway winds from Haines Junction over the Chilkat Pass, the highest summit on this highway at 1070 meters/3,493 feet.

You can complete this trip in one day but you will miss all the treasures along the route.

Haines Highway is a 2-line paved highway and is open year-round. Although the Highway is maintained year-round, if you plan on travelling between the middle of September and June 1, be prepared for winter conditions.

Haines Highway Itinerary Yukon to Alaska

Drive to Haines from Haines Junction, Yukon, as I did and follow my itinerary. Don’t forget your passport.

For other options to get to Haines Alaska take the ferry from Skagway or Juneau. Haines is on the regular Alaska Marine Highway ferry route that accommodates cars and RVs. Smaller private passenger ferries between Juneau, Haines and Skagway are also available in summer.

Fjord Express is a tour boat travelling between Skagway, Haines and Juneau and offers day-packages.

By road or by sea (passport is required):

  • Haines Junction, Yukon – Start your journey from Whitehorse by road to connect with Haines Highway at Haines Junction, as I did, and drive the stunning Haines Road to Haines, Alaska.
  • Skagway – Take the Klondike Highway along the historical gold rush route to Skagway. Stop halfway in Carcross for native culture. At Skagway, take the ferry to Haines with the option to continue to Juneau, Alaska’s capital. Day cruise packages are available.

Day 2: Start at Haines Junction to Dezadeash Lake Campground

Day 3 is the side trip to Haines, Alaska on my Yukon and Alaska round trip Itinerary from Whitehorse.

Driving Haines Highway to Haines Alaska
Fantastic mountain scenery along Haines Road

Haines Junction, the start of my side trip to Haines, Alaska is a small community at the base of the St. Elias Mountains and is the headquarters for Kluane National Park. I filled up with gasoline before leaving town. Fortunately, it was a sunny day with astonishing views all day long.

Auriol Trail

Auriol Trailhead 2 km from Haines Road

My first stop was at the Auriol Trail Head. Drive south on Haines Road, towards Haines, Alaska for about 5 km to the Auriol Trail turnoff. Continue for 2 km to get to the trailhead. There is a sign at the pull-out with a map of the trail.

This hike can be completed in a day or used as an easy overnight destination. Parks Canada requires registration for any backcountry overnight trips in the park.

I didn’t hike the Auriol Trail but drove to the trailhead. Find detailed information about the Auriol Trail on AllTrails.

Kathleen Lake

Beautiful Kathleen Lake, near Haines Highway

Kathleen Lake, 26 km (16 miles) south of Haines Junction is within Kluane National Park and is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Yukon. It offers amazing hiking trails for every fitness level, from short easy hikes to real backcountry treks.

I walked the short and easy Kokanee Trail beside the lake with stunning views. Once the boardwalk ends, the trail continues until you get to a set of Park Canada’s famous red chairs looking out over the lake, a breathtaking place.

If time allows, stay at the Kathleen Lake Campground for a night and venture on one of the more strenuous hikes.

  • King’s Thorne Peak Trail – The 5 km trail takes you to a glacial cirque on the mountain with great views over Kathleen Lake.
  • Kathleen Lake Cottonwood Trail – Enjoy this 7.1 km out-and-back trail, a moderately challenging route that takes approximately 3 hours to complete. This trail can be extended to a multi-day backpacking trip.

Kathleen Lake Campground has 39 campsites, water, toilets, picnic tables, and a boat launch.

Rock Glacier Trail

The 1.6 miles Rock Glacier Trail is accessible from the Highway

I continued to Rock Glacier and walked the Rock Glacier Trail with an excellent view of Dezadeash Lake. The 1.6 km (1 mi) return trail starts as a boardwalk and a dirt trail. It then turns into a trail made of rocks and climbs onto the toe of the rock glacier. Wear sturdy footwear and take your time walking on the loose rocks.

This is a self-guided, easy trail with interpretive panels providing interesting information about rock glaciers, which I never heard of before.

It was already 7 pm when I started this short, interesting hike, and I was the only one on the trail. A large sign warned about a bear with cubs. Fortunately, I didn’t meet them on my hike.

Dezadeash Lake Campground

Camping at Dezadeash Lake Territorial Campground

Back in my car, I headed to the Dezadeash Lake Territorial Campground close by.

This was a nice campground on the lake with beautiful views of the mountains. The campground on the west shore of Dezadeash Lake has boat launch access to this warm, shallow lake.

While they had about 30 total spaces for camping, it was not too busy when I was there.
I picked a site by the water but, a crazy cold wind was blowing and I had to cook inside my car to be out to the wind. The campground had free firewood, a boat launch, plenty of outhouses, and garbage cans.

I watched two older Yukonites unload their fishing boats and head out to the chopping lake, and I was hoping they would be okay.

Day 3: Dezadeash Lake to Haines, Alaska and back to Million View Campground for the night

I woke up at Dezadeash Lake Campground listening to the wind hauling. It was 7 degrees Celsius at 8.30 am. The trucks from the fishermen who went out on the chopping water last night were still parked and it looked like they didn’t come back yet. Scary. Tough life, tough people.

The sky changed from cloudy to blue patches and I wished the wind would stop. I was looking at the snow up the mountains close by. Today I would head to Haines, Alaska, and go from there. I wasn’t thrilled with the cold temperatures, wondering whether I should delay travelling to the rest of Alaska for another month. Will see.

My first stop after I left the Dezadeash Lake Campground was the pullout at the Dezadeash lookout sign with a stunning mountain panorama. A bit further down on the right was the sign to Mush Lake trails, connecting to the Cottonwood Trail that takes you to Kathleen Lake.

St. Elias Lake Trail

Elias Lake Trail

The next stop was St. Elias Lake trailhead. Did I want to go hiking today? I had to push myself, but I was glad I did.

The cold wind blew into my face while I pulled on the old hiking boots. My small Osprey backpack had the bear spray in one pocket and a water bottle in the other. The mosquito spray I left behind, which I later regretted.

Elias Lake Trail follows an old recreation road from the Haines Highway to a sub-alpine lake that lies between 1,370 m (4,495′) tall mountains’

The distance is 7.5 km (4.8 mi) return took me 3 hours to complete.

In the first part, I hiked through the forest, which opened into alpine meadows and finally took me to the lake. Camping at the lake is possible, but plan your trip and reserve a backcountry campsite.

Two young guys turned up at St. Elias Lake after me and jumped into the fridged lake while filming themselves. They did it for a cold water treatment advertisement, they said. Two more people I met on the way back. The trail was partly wet and muddy, and I regretted not wearing my waterproof hiking boots.

St. Elias Lake is part of Kluane National Park and a beautiful hike you don’t want to miss. Download Saint Elias Trail Information.

Arriving at St. Elias Lake

Klukshu Village

Next up on Haines Highway is Klukshu, a native summer fishing camp offering great photo opportunities. Between June and September, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations’ families gather at Klukshu to guff migrating salmon or catch them in fish traps.

Dalton Post

In 1849, Jack Dalton set up a trading post at the traditional First Nation settlement of Shäwshe. The road to Dalton Post is narrow, and slippery when wet, so I didn’t go. Leave a note in the comment section, if you have driven to Dalton Post.

I continued on scenic Haines Highway through a magnificent landscape of clear lakes, snowcapped mountains, glaciers and boreal forests,

Million Dollar Falls and Campground

Million Dollar Falls and Campground

The Million Dollar (Takhanne) Falls are a must-stop, accessible from the Yukon Territorial Government Campground.

Take the trail from the Million Dollar Falls Campground to the falls on the Takhanne River along a network of stairs. The trail is in good condition with guard rails and signage. Enjoy great views of the impressive falls over cliffs in a narrow canyon.

The Million Dollar Falls Campground is perfect for a night with plenty of trees and shady space. It wasn’t busy when I was there. The sites are spread out, the place is dog friendly and has cook shelters with woodstoves and free firewood. You hear the sound of the falls below and the trail to the falls is only steps away.

From The Million Dollar Falls, I continued to Haines, Alaska and returned here in the evening and spend the night.

Chuck Creek/Samuel Glacier Trailhead and Camping

Chuck Creek trailhead and rest area has a single outhouse and is a popular camping spot for people hiking the Chuck Creek Trail to the spectacular Samuel Glacier.

The trailhead follows an old mining road from the parking lot. There are numerous creek-crossings which are small for the most part. Keep your eyes out for grizzlies and make frequent noise. This trail is great for backpacking and camping. Check AllTrails and get up-to-date information before heading on this trail

Chilkat Pass

The road climbs to around 3,500 feet to Chilkat Pass before dropping steeply to the Canada / US border.

Heading to the USA Border

Heading to the Alaska Border

The Haines Highway crosses from Canada into the US at Dalton Cache Border Crossing.

Most travellers can tell stories about border crossings, and friendly or nasty border officers. I crossed between Canada and the United States six times during my solo Yukon Alaska round trip from Whitehorse.

At the US border on the way to Haines, I was lucky and had the best experience ever. After asking about guns, the officer inquired about my plans in Haines. I mentioned that I wanted to find out about a ferry to Juneau but didn’t know whether this was possible. The friendly officer entered his booth and returned with a piece of paper with the ferry information for Haines to Juneau. Nice man, thank you! Welcome to the USA.

This border does close at night so watch your timing. As a Canadian, I only need a valid passport to cross the US border. For other nationalities, check what you need.

Alaskan Road House

33 Mile Road House, Alaska

11 miles (18 km) to Thirty-Three Mile Restaurant (located, yes, 33 miles from Haines). The Roadhouse is famous for its burgers and pies. This log cabin restaurant is a favorite hangout for the heli-ski crowd in March and April, and locals year-round.

The road passes by the waterway that is part of the US section at the Inside Passage. This is another spectacular section of Haines Road.

Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Reserve

Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Between late October and February, the largest numbers of bald eagles gather to feed on the salmon run. Each November in Haines the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival is held to celebrate this amazing concentration of bald eagles.

You will be able to see eagles all year round. The best viewing will be from the four pullouts between Mile 18 and Mile 24, but eagles might be anywhere along the river. The pullouts have restrooms, viewing platforms, interpretive signs, and spotting scopes.

Check at the Haines Visitor Center for more information and guided tours.

Haines Alaska

Haines Harbour Alaska
Haines Harbor, Alaska

I explored the town of Haines and walked down to the harbour to see the large cruise ships. Now I knew where the crowds of people walking around town, came from. I was told, that the cruise ships and the people would depart again tonight.

I stopped at the Haines Visitor Centre but no one was there to give any information. Then I walked over to the Haines Library, a nice and friendly place where I used their wifi.

Ocean Side RV park at the harbour was full of big rigs, not a place I would blend in well with my minimalist mini camper.

Late afternoon I decided to head back to the Million Dollar Falls Campground for the night.

There is much to explore in Haines and I suggest staying for a couple of nights. Haines is also the place to park your vehicle and take a day or overnight cruise to Juneau and Skagway.

Haines Harbour Alaska

Things to see and do in Haines, Alaska

  • Explore the town’s fascinating museums and cultural centers, covering everything from native Tlingit people to hammers.
  • Take a day cruise through the legendary waters of Lynn Canal with spectacular scenery, wildlife viewing and whale watching.
  • Fort Seward Historic District – Pick up the self-guided walking tour pamphlet. Stop at the interpretive signs to learn about the history.
  • Visit the award-winning Port Chilkoot Distillery, a tasting room with spirits flavoured with locally made syrups.
  • Visit the tribal house showcasing totem poles and panels.
  • Stop in at the American Bald Eagle Foundation and Raptor Center.
  • Take a day or overnight cruise to Juneau and Skagway.

Haines Alaska is for Hikers

  • Battery Point Trail – Trailhead starts two miles from the Post Office at the end of Beach Road. Hiking distance return is approximately 3.7 miles (6 km) and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
  • Mount Riley Trail – There are three trailheads for this hike. The most direct route is from the 3-mile Mud Bay Road south of town. It’s about 2.8 miles( 8.2 km) to the summit. Allow 3 to complete.

Haines Accommodation

For boondockers, there are many free places to stay along the bay either on the drive to the state park or state reserve.

  • Haines Hitch-up RV Park has 92 full hook-up sites, pull-throughs and 50 Amp Sites available with free showers, Wi-fi and cable TV, laundry and Gift Shop. Haines, Juneau and Skagway Tour tickets are available. 
  • Chilkat State Park Seasonal – 7 miles south on Mud Bay Rd
  • Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site Seasonal – 10 miles North Lutak Rd
  • Portage Cove State Recreation Site Seasonal – On the water 3/4 mile Soth of downtown Haines on Beach Rd (Bikers and Hikers only)
  • Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site Seasonal – 27 miles on the Haines Highway, turn onto Mosquito Lake Road.
  • Salmon Run RV Campground and Cabins Seasonal – 6 Miles Lutak Rd.
  • For hotels, motels and lodges check Bookings.com for the best prices.


Travel Tips

  • Have a full gas tank and bring food and water for the road trip. There are no services or cell phone coverage from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska.
  • Your passport is needed to get into Haines or out of it. Check whether you need a visa.
  • There are a few restroom facilities along the Haines Road.
  • The weather can turn nasty any time of the year on the road’s higher elevations.
  • Permits are needed for backcountry camping.

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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.

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