Adventures / Kayak Journeys

Alaskan Wilderness Kayak Expedition

Power yourself along Alaska’s wild coast on a stunning journey teeming with wildlife, camping in remote spots along the way

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Trip Ref #10256

Adventures / Kayak Journeys

Alaskan Wilderness Kayak Expedition

Power yourself along Alaska’s wild coast on a stunning journey teeming with wildlife, camping in remote spots along the way

DURATION

7 nights

LOCATION

United States

ANNUAL LEAVE

5 or 6 days

SEASON

Jun-Sep

GROUP SIZE

Up to 8 people

MEETING POINT

Anchorage Airport, Alaska

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

This is a wild expedition. You'll need a decent fitness level and a passion for serious adventure, happy to take the elements as they come

Paddle into Bears Kitchen and the iceberg alleys of the Shoup Glacier Marine State Park

Eyes peeled for orcas, humpbacks, bald eagles, bears and rafts of sea otters in the Prince William Sound

Hike through coastal rainforest, wild camp on secluded beaches and feast around the campfire under the stars

What's it like?

    See the photos our community shared

    All our reviews are verified

    We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

    James, August 2022

    Great, if very tough, trip. Weather was constant rain which was very challenging, and made the physicality harder (half the group ended up dropping out with two days to go). Guides (Hailey and Hallie) were absolutely amazing. Views unsurprisingly spectacular and well worth the effort. Strongly suggest as waterproof clothing as you can get, and lots of underwear and base layers as you will get VERY wet, and whatever waterproof kit you bring (I was wearing Marmot, for example) will absolutely not withstand the weather unless it's a dry suit! (Honestly, most of the kitlist isn't warranted, and understated what you will need). I ache all over and am glad to be back in a bed and dry, but absolutely would do something similar in future. Great Comms from all parties helped to make it a pretty seamless trip. Shout out to our new kayak band 99% Water!

    Jackie, August 2022

    Easily one of the most beautiful places in the world. Definitely not for the faint of heart as conditions are rarely favorable, but the glaciers, wildlife, and experience make it worth it.

    Doug, August 2022

    I had the best time on this adventure. It says wilderness and oh my god you are in the wilderness! It's 6 days without anyone else or any support, kayaking round with all your food, tents and clothes. This is particularly important when you remember that even though all the pictures are sunny, Alaska is very very very wet. The paddling was quite tough, I didn't do any prep beforehand but one of the team who "has never been to a gym in his life" managed it, and while it was really hard work it made the experience so so much more than it would have been otherwise. In terms of kit you don't need a huge amount. You don't need hiking boots and there wasn't actually any hiking involved at all. No matter how waterproof you think your raincoat is, you will soon learn that it isn't. You could probably do with bringing two with you. One for the day and one for the evening. I was fine with 2 base layers and 2 tee shirts for the full week, just wearing a synthetic coat, raincoat and a rubber raincoat provided by the team. Two pairs of trousers, lots of socks and genuinely waterproof trousers as well. Overall a genuinely amazing trip. I'm writing this the day after it finished and I'm already wishing I was back in the boat with sore shoulders pushing the final 5 miles to the next camp site, a cup of tea and an enormous dinner. Would 100% recommend it but you've got to be really ready to rough it!

    Lisa, August 2022

    The scenery was mind blowing and this trip was for sure a memorable experience… But it rains A LOT in all of this area and kayaking/wilderness camping in the cold and constant rain is a challenge in and of itself!

    Rory, July 2022

    An epic voyage defined for me by the abundance of wildlife, daily adventure/challenges and some truly out of this world camping nights by active glaciers. The weather was not overly kind to our group, however the knowledge, spirit and enthusiasm of the guides kept morale high. For those seeking a week in the frontier I would highly recommend!

    Julia, June 2022

    We did the 6 day trip incorporating Columbia Glacier and Shoup Glacier, wild camping on the nights in between. We covered about 90km during that time with a different camping spot each night. The surroundings were so diverse ranging from the glaciers and paddling through ice surrounded by seals to greener lush surroundings with sea otters, mountain goats and sea lions. We also saw humpback whales, bald eagles, kittiwakes and harbour porpoise. Sadly no orca whales or bears this time but we were blown away by the wildlife and scenery so we didn’t feel we’d missed out by any stretch. We also saw moose on our transfers to and from Anchorage. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of seeing a cheeky sea otter or seal. The seals were so intrigued, often following the kayaks to see what we were up to. Seeing the whales was also a super special moment. Our guides Ben and Ian made it super special and it was so nice to have guides who were so knowledgeable and as excited as we were to see all the sights and wildlife. We met most of the team before or after the trip and they were all as friendly and enthusiastic. The guides cooked up great food throughout the trip with real variety including fresh fruit or veg and adapting the meals to take into account those who had dietary preferences. We were even given a daily snack supply! Waterfalls running from the glacier gave us a water source on route and fresh water washing which was refreshing and novel. We were all reasonably fit and I definitely say you get more out of a trip this length if you are physically fit - the paddling days are reasonably long plus loading/moving boats and setting up/taking down camp each days adds to the physical activity but that is what made the whole experience so special. Being off grid for most of it helped with that too! That said, one of our group had suffered a shoulder injury a few weeks before the trip so the guides were really sensitive to that and took it in turns paddling in a double with her to avoid further strain. No hesitation in saying it was definitely trip of a lifetime - genuinely awesome and exceeded expectations.

    Included

    Guides

    Experienced, English speaking expedition guides

    Accommodation

    2 nights in a hotel in Valdez, 5 nights wild camping

    Meals

    All your food while on the expedition

    Transfers

    Airport transfers between Anchorage and Valdez, boat transfers for the expedition

    Equipment

    All your kayaking and camping equipment

    Permits

    National Forest Service and Alaska State Park fees

    Not Included

    Flights to and from the meeting point

    Travel insurance

    Personal expenses

    Tips for your guides

    Some meals as described

    The Area

    map

    Logistics

    Starts

    Anchorage Airport

    10:00

    Ends

    Anchorage Airport

    15:00

    Transfers

    Your host will meet you at Anchorage Airport at 10:00 on day 1. If arriving in Alaska on day 1, make sure to book a flight that arrives at Anchorage before 10:00. If you are already in Anchorage, your host can collect you at your accommodation ready for the transfer to Valdez.

    On day 8 you'll depart Valdez at 09:00, arriving at Anchorage Airport at approximately 15:00. We recommend you book a flight that departs no earlier than 17:00.

    Travel options

    There are various flight options into Anchorage, with regular departures from Seattle and Vancouver which connect well to long haul flights in and out of North America.

    Sadly, there is no rail connection to reach Alaska through Canada, though you are able to road trip there along the pan-American highway. If you have time on your hands and fancy taking a scenic route to the start of the trip, it is possible to reach Valdez by ferry from Bellingham in Washington State, north of Seattle.

    Day 1

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 2 – Day 6

    Wild camping · Twin tent

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 7

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 8

    Departure day

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    What is the food like?

    Breakfasts and dinners around the campfire at your camp spots out in the wilderness are a real highlight of the trip. Your guide will orchestrate the meal times, however, everybody will muck in to help fuel the adventure. Breakfasts will vary between eggs, potatoes, cheese, fruit, oatmeal, pancakes and yoghurt. Lunches, depending on the day of the expedition, will be bagels with lox salmon, various soups and pasta, sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and plenty of fruit and snacks such as trail mix, beef jerky and energy bars. Dinners will be fish tacos, steak wraps, pasta dishes or other tasty and hearty options to keep you energised.

    Vegetarians and food allergies can be accommodated on this trip. Please let your host know in advance as any dietary requirements must be known in advance of the expedition to allow for adequate preparation. Please note that Vegan diets cannot be catered for on this trip due to the remote nature of the expedition.

    What is the accommodation like?

    Wild camping

    On days 2-7, you'll be wild camping in the Alaskan wilderness, an absolute highlight of the trip with total solitude in one of the most beautiful and wild parts of North America. The camp spots are on beaches and moraines and each spot is one that your host knows well. All the camping equipment is provided by your host; twin-share tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, camp chairs, a mess tent and cooking facilities. You'll muck in with putting up and taking down camp, prepping food and doing the dishes; all part of a proper wilderness adventure. Unfortunately for practical and safety reasons, solo tents cannot be provided on this expedition.

    Valdez

    Before and after the expedition you'll stay at the Harbor Inn in Valdez, a quiet hotel on the waterfront with all the usual amenities and short walk into town for Valdez' selection of restaurants and bars. You'll have a big breakfast here on day 2 to fuel the start of your adventure. Depending on availability, you may stay at the Mountain Sky Hotel & Suites.

    Day 1

    Welcome to Alaska

    Driving

    6hrs

    Touch down in Anchorage and meet your guide before settling in for the stunning 6-hour road trip over to Valdez. You’ll pass the imposing Chugach mountain range and head deeper into Alaska along the Matanuska Valley. There’s always something to look at, and your host will pull over so you can get a better look and stretch your legs. Once in Valdez, you can check into your hotel and get some well-earned rest, the adventure starts in the morning! Your host will give you a 10-litre and 20-litre dry bag to pack your personal gear for the expedition so that you're all set for the morning.

    Day 2

    The journey begins

    Kayaking

    3-4hrs · 6km

    Hiking

    1-2hrs · 4-6km

    After a quick intro into sea kayaking, you’ll load up the gear onto a water taxi and bid farewell to civilisation. On reaching the landing beach, you'll hop in your kayak and the journey begins. You’ll spend the afternoon exploring the upper bay of Shoup Glacier Marine State Park, an area packed with sea otters, seals, and an array of seabirds. You'll also have your first up-close experience with a glacier. Arrive at your camp spot and pitch up ready for your first night out in the wilderness. You'll have time to explore the area on foot with a short hike before dinner and an evening around the campfire, weather permitting.

    Day 3

    Into the wild

    Kayaking

    7-8hrs · 20km

    Wake up, tuck into some breakfast and load up the kayaks as you head south. Paddle out of Shoup Bay, through the Valdez Narrows and push on through into Valdez Arm. The scenery starts to open up as sheer green cliffs and snow-capped peaks frame the emerald waters. Paddle along the dramatic coastline, watching waterfalls cascade down from the cliffs. Reach tonight's camp spot at a beautiful bay flanked with rainforest and high peaks. In the evening you can paddle into "Bear's Kitchen" to look out for the bears who come here to feed on salmon.

    Day 4

    Wildlife spotting in Heather Bay

    Kayaking

    8-9hrs · 25km

    After a tranquil evening in Sawmill Bay, venture out for a paddle along another stunning stretch of wild coastline. If the weather is friendly you'll continue on around Point Freemantle, heading towards possibly the best camp spot of the trip. Today is a full day of paddling, taking you into Heather Bay, a well-protected slab of emerald water that a variety of sea mammals and birds call home. Intrepid kayakers often see huge rafts of sea otters here. Set up camp on a beautiful beach with expansive views over towards Prince William Sound. Head out on a late afternoon hike through the rainforest to explore on foot before settling in for more stories back at camp.

    Day 5

    Paddle through glacial ice

    Kayaking

    4-5hrs · 10km

    A more relaxed day today as you push on to explore Heather and Columbia Bays, observing the drifting ice of the Columbia Glacier. The paddling allows you to take in the scenery of Prince William Sound, with towering peaks and giant icebergs all around. Again there is a diverse array of wildlife to keep your eyes open for. Tonight's camp spot is on the moraine halfway up Columbia Bay.

    Day 6

    The journey continues

    Kayaking

    4-5hrs · 9km

    Today you’ll journey further up Columbia Bay along the coastline towards the Great Finger Camp, a prime spot at the opening to upper Columbia Bay. With a few days in the wilderness under your belt, you'll be an expert wildlife spotter by now, keeping a lookout for leaping orcas, listening for whale spouts and waving hello to sea otters; a constant companion on this expedition.

    Day 7

    Thunderous glaciers at the finish line

    Kayaking

    5-6hrs · 15km

    Enjoy a final breakfast in the wild before jumping back in your kayak and heading towards the upper end of Columbia Bay; a thunderous amphitheatre where the glacier spills into the sea. Paddling here is one of the most surreal experiences, moving around freshly carved ancient ice, with cracks of thunder overhead each time the glaciers calve and echo around the bay. The icefalls cause the dead calm water to move as the icebergs creak and curious harbour seals pop up for a glimpse. After soaking up this epic end to the adventure you'll land on a nearby beach, enjoy one last hike and a spot of lunch before loading the kayaks onto the motorboat ready for the cruise back into Valdez. A hot shower and a cold beer in a bar beckons.

    Day 8

    Bid farewell to Alaska

    Driving

    6hrs · 300 miles

    After a well-earned sleep in a real bed, you'll need to pack up early and hop in the van ready for the road trip back to Anchorage Airport where you'll bid farewell to your host. Arrival at the airport will be around 15:00, we recommend you book any onward flight to depart no earlier than 17:00.

    15% Off Outdoor Gear

    In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

    What's included?

    • Tandem sea kayaks
    • Spray skirt
    • Paddles
    • Pogies (neoprene paddling mitts)
    • Life vests / PFDs
    • Rubber boots
    • Drybags
    • All camping and cooking equipment - tents, stoves, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, tarps, camp chairs

    What do I need to bring?

    BAGS

    • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack (can be left in Valdez with items for after the expedition)

    CLOTHES

    • Good quality, dependable waterproof jacket and trousers
    • Warm, comfortable layers for evenings at the camps (avoid cotton as it is heavy and slow drying)
    • Comfortable hiking trousers
    • Lightweight hiking shoes
    • A pair of wool or synthetic socks for each day
    • Buff or headscarf
    • Light, packable synthetic jacket (no down as it doesn't perform well if it gets wet)
    • Light, packable fleece jacket
    • 2 pairs of wool or synthetic gloves
    • Warm winter hat
    • At least 2 full sets of thermal layers (tops and bottoms) for any cold nights out camping

    OTHER

    • Sunglasses
    • Sun cream with a high SPF and lip balm with UV protection
    • Water bottle
    • Personal toiletries (please bring biodegradable products)
    • Microfibre travel towel
    • Personal first aid kit
    • Binoculars
    • Headtorch for trips from mid-July onwards

    OPTIONAL

    • Sleeping bag (if you prefer your own, your host does provide one within the trip cost)
    • Sleeping mat (again, if you prefer your own. One is included by your host)
    • Eye mask (very little darkness in Alaska from June to mid-July)
    • Compact, packable fishing rod and equipment

    NOTES

    • All gear needs to be packed into the kayaks so you'll have to pack light. Your host will provide you with one 20 litre drybag and one 10 litre drybag, plus a 20 litre drybag with your sleeping bag in.

    No optional extras are available for this trip.

    We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

    What's the number?
    It works out on average at 146kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

    The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

    But what does the number mean?
    Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

    • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
    • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
    • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

    What are we doing about it?
    Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

    Want to know more?
    Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

    This is a wild and active expedition. You'll be on the move for the majority of each day; kayaking, hiking and helping set up and take down camp. Good fitness levels are required, though the trip is suitable for both experienced and novice kayakers alike, with no previous kayaking experience necessary. On top of a reasonable level of fitness, perhaps, more importantly, you'll need to have a head for serious adventure and feel comfortable being on a remote expedition for 6 full days. You'll be as out in the elements as its possible to be - this is what you came here for! You'll be camping in a remote rainforest environment where the weather can become harsh, with varying sea conditions, tidal swings and some big distances to cover in the kayak. You are in the hands of expert wilderness kayak guides who know the area intimately and can adjust the route and timings according to the conditions.

    Yes. On 24th March 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spilt nearly 11 million gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound. At the time, it was the worst oil spill in US history (since superseded by Deepwater Horizon). More than 11,000 Alaskans worked tirelessly throughout the region to restore the environment, and although for many years after the spill the marine ecosystem was severely affected, 3 decades later the vast majority of species and habitats are considered to be recovered. These include many of the wildlife highlights of this trip; sea otters, harbour seals, bald eagles, pods of resident orcas, and Alaska's famous populations of sockeye and pink salmon. While out on the expedition you won't see any clues that an environmental disaster has taken place here decades before, the area feels very much like an unspoilt wilderness. The spill is a dark part of Valdez and Alaska's history and one of many footnotes on fossil fuels' detrimental impact on the natural world. However, seeing this place 30 years on with nature having recovered is a powerful experience and testament to the natural world's capacity for self-healing, with a little help from communities along the Kenai peninsula who came together to clean up the spill and push for policies which will prevent another event like this ever happening again in Alaska.

    There is so much to see and do in Alaska, and this expedition concentrates purely on the coastal region around the Prince William Sound, so there are myriad other options for places to visit before or after this trip. Your host is based in Valdez and can offer tips on other things to do in the area. Due to the distances involved, your host is unable to offer private transfers from Anchorage to Valdez and back for those who aren't using the included group transfers on day 1 and day 8, however they can advise you on the various travel options within the state if you need to make your own way to or from Valdez.

    Anchorage is a relaxed and welcoming city, so if you're looking to arrive before day 1 to soak up Alaska's biggest city you can easily book accommodation independently, along with transfers from the airport. Remember to let your host know that you will already be in Anchorage so they can arrange to pick you up on day 1, alongside the 9 am group meet-up at the airport.

    It is customary in the United States to tip service workers such as taxi drivers and waiters at around 15-20%, depending on the quality of the service you receive. A good rule of thumb for any visits to bars is to tip $1 per drink.

    Tipping is also considered a customary part of your adventure, to show your gratitude towards your host who makes your trip happen. You’ll share 8 days in the wild with your host on this trip, during which time they are essentially in work mode 24 hours a day to ensure the trip is a memorable experience for everyone. Recognition and remuneration through tipping is an important part of this relationship. Guides and porters working in the outdoor industry in the US receive a comparatively low wage, and similar to other professions in the US they rely on tipping to bring up their income to a liveable level. Of course, the amount you tip is at your personal preference depending on the level of service you feel you received on the trip. As a guideline, we suggest budgeting $15-20 US dollars a day. You are free to tip more if you feel your guides did an outstanding job. Tipping culture in the US can be a little intimidating to anyone without previous experience of travelling or living there, however, your host will be happy to help you through the process anytime it comes up on the trip.

    Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

    Drinking water is carried along the route by the guides with plenty of refill points from glacier streams at the various camp spots. Your guides use camping filters to purify the water where necessary, although many of the streams and waterfalls in the area do not need filtering. You should bring along a reusable bottle or two to refill as you go and keep with you in the kayak.

    Temperature-wise, Alaskan summers are pleasant and similar to many parts of northern Europe. Average temperatures from June to August will see highs of 16°c / 64°f and lows of 8°c / 46°f. The marine environment you are paddling through is very cold, so the water, icebergs and glaciers will make things feel chilly at times. Evenings at camp will be a little chilly, but not terrifyingly so, and you'll be well equipped for warm nights out camping.

    As with many remote wilderness areas, the weather can come in and change things very quickly. Heavy rainfall can happen in this area so you need to be prepared for the possibility of very wet conditions on an expedition of this type. It's essential that you bring genuine, 100% waterproof jackets and trousers for this eventuality. Your host strongly recommends that you re-treat the outside of your waterproofs with a new waterproof coating (DWR) before the expedition.

    Yes, your host has a base and office in Valdez, the launch point for the expedition. You can store your luggage there on the morning of day 2, collecting again on the evening of day 7.

    Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

    Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

    We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

    We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

    If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

    All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

    You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

    Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

    Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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