Gustavus Alaska is not lacking in scenery being a cozy small town. One can feel like a local as you walk down the street waving at neighbors and other guests of Gustavus.
There are four maintained trails near the Great Chinook Lodge in Glacier Bay National Park and these are located at Bartlett Cove. All offer relatively easy walking.
Forest Trail: Distance:
1 mile loop/Time: 30 min.-1.5 hours. This loop trail will take you through both the temperate rainforest and the beach environments of Bartlett Cove. Begin your walk either in front of the Lodge (just off the parking lot) or south of the boat ramp between the docks. The trail surface varies between dirt, gravel and boardwalk. Two benches and viewing platforms along the way beg you to pause and take in the sights and sounds of the spruce/hemlock forest. Rangers lead guided walks along this trail every afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Bartlett River Trail:
Distance: 4 miles round-trip/Time: 4-5 hours. This trail meanders along an intertidal lagoon and through the spruce/hemlock forest before emerging and ending at the Bartlett River estuary. Watch for coyotes, moose, bear and river otter along the beach. Ducks, geese and other water birds concentrate in the intertidal area during migrations and molting. Salmon run up the river in the latter part of the summer, which attracts hungry harbor seals.
Bartlett Lake Trail: Distance:
8 miles round-trip/Time: 7-8 hours. Begin walking on the Bartlett River Trail. In about ¼ of a mile down the trail at a signpost, the lake trail will branch off and begin to climb the moraine. This trail is less maintained than the other trails so use caution to not lose the route. The chatter of red squirrels will accompany you as you wind your way over and around moss-covered boulders and lichen-covered trees before reaching the shores of Bartlett Lake. During this full-day journey, you may be richly rewarded in solitude and the perhaps even the call of loons. Bring water, lunch and raingear.
Distance: 1 mile Time: 30 minutes-1 hour. The long stretch of shoreline south of the docks allows for a pleasant stroll. Low tide reveals a myriad of intertidal life. (Please walk carefully!) It’s a terrific place to see land, shore and sea birds. Ask a park ranger for a free tide schedule.
Downed Airplane Trail:
One trail, has become a favorite to those visiting Gustavus. In 1957 a U.S. National Guard plane was looking to land due to low visibility and severe weather conditions. After mis judging the runway, they crashed in the forest about a quarter mile from the road. Guests have hiked to the sight to leave there mark along with thousands of others who have left their signature on the plane.
There are no maintained trails in park wilderness, but beaches, recently deglaciated areas, and alpine meadows offer excellent hiking.
An extended shoreline hike from the Bartlett Cove dock along the shore to Point Gustavus (six miles one way) can be completed in a day. The intertidal strip is a natural trail, for wildlife and people. Watch for song birds on the forest's edge and water birds off-shore. Flowers are profuse in mid summer on the beach meadows. At low tide, the lower beach is worth a look for marine life. Ask a park ranger for a tide schedule.
Be prepared to tangle with the alder. Sitka alder is a succesional plant that grows in a mass along beach and stream edges, avalanche chutes and up mountain slopes. Hikers have been known to lose their minds attempting to hike through alder.
Gear for Hikes and Walks
• Sturdy, water-repellent footwear
• Raincoat and hat
• Insect repellent
• Camera, fast film, extra photo storage and tripod
Be a Smart Hiker
• No matter where you walk, always let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
• Be bear award.
• Be moose alert.
• Hypothermia kills.
• Baneberry, a poisonous fruit.
"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books."
Sir Jon Lubbock