The Magnificent Haines Highway

by Robert Bush: October 1, 2023

This is a drone image of Gravel Lake on the Klondike Highway.  That Highway runs between Dawson City – the subject of the last email – and the Haines Highway. This whole area was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.F  rom Dawson City, we drove about 400 miles south on the Klondike Highway to the town of Haines Junction, which is the beginning of the Haines Highway. The Haines Highway was designated as a National Scenic Highway in 2009 and if anything that designation understates how spectacular it is.  Just so you don’t get the idea that we are too deprived, we did stop at the the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs Spa right outside of Whitehorse on the way. This is a top notch spa, with great natural hot springs, steam rooms, and saunas. And, to jump ahead, after our trip down the Haines Highway, we have now returned to the Whitehorse area where we got a massage at the Northern Lights Resort, a place we visited last year to see the northern lights and where we got one of the best massages ever. from their masseuse Remi.


The Haines Highway stretches 146 miles from Haines Junction to the Inside Passage town of Haines, through glaciated mountains, alpine tundra, and coastal forests of sitka spruce, paper birch and cottonwood trees.  The area is often tundra, with ground covers like fireweed, cranberry, soapberry,and dwarf dogwood.  The fireweed has started to turn to cotton, the tundra was turning fall red and orange, and the birch trees were just starting to turn golden. There is an Alaskan saying:  “When fireweed turns to cotton, summer is soon forgotten.” And it is definitely starting to feel like winter is approaching.  The nights are colder and the days are shorter.

The photos above and below are from the drive along the Haines Highway





The town of Haines is at the end of the Haines Highway and Skagway lies  a short 45 minute ferry ride across the Taiya Inlet of the Inland Passage. Both towns have common histories – they were at the heart of the  Klondike Gold Rush.  But they are very different now. While Haines is a quiet town, Skagway is a destination port for Alaska cruise ships.  You can see the difference from the pictures below.  The lower two pictures are of Skagway, with the hordes of cruise ship tourists and the modern day prostitute/show girl entertaining the crowd.   I confess that I like Skagway.  But then again, I like Disneyland.



We haven’t seen many bears on this trip.  I think that is because in the areas we have visited, the earlier run of king salmon (chinook) is over and the later run of cohos have not begun.  No salmon means no bears.   But we were able to find a mom grizzly and her two cubs at the weir outside of Haines on the Chilkoot River.  (The weir is there in order to be able to get a count of the salmon on the river)


We spent one night in Haines in a beautiful campsite in Chilkat State Park about 8 miles outside of Haines.  It is located in a beautiful forest of sitka spruce with an understory of ferns and mosses.  The trail leads to a bay and view of two glaciers.




Farewell for now from the Haines Highway.  We are now officially heading home – although getting there will take about ten days.  We are hoping to be able to drive down the  Cassiar Highway but right now it is closed because of a wildfire.  Keeping our fingers crossed!!