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Category: Alaska

Tracy Arm Fjord: The Most Beautiful Part of the Inside Alaska Cruise

If you happen to be able to take the inside passage Alaska cruise then you should be able to cruise through the amazing Tracy Arm Fjord which for me was the…

If you happen to be able to take the inside passage Alaska cruise then you should be able to cruise through the amazing Tracy Arm Fjord which for me was the highlight of the entire 7 day trip. As far as I know this is one of the only ways to experience this amazing journey and it really is something that you will never forget. Here is all the information, but more importantly, lots of photos from my time cruising through it.

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Details

  • 4 hours of sail through it, 2 hours there and 2 hours back
  • The route is an out and back so you can see it both ways

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On the cruise that I was on we arrived into the Tracey Arm Fjord at 5AM in the morning. We all got up at around 4:45AM and found our way to the very top of the ship to grab a spot for the next few hours. It was freezing but the amazing views warmed us up. The top back of the ship is a great way to see it as you can walk to both sides and see all angles, all while avoiding the crowds of midship.

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Honestly, I don’t know much about this area other than to say that for 2 hours I was floating by one of the best views I have ever had in my life. We passed at least 40 waterfalls, saw hundreds of icebergs float by and saw valleys that rival Yosemite for their beauty.

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Each time we turned a corner the view got better and better and I would recommend viewing it heading in instead of heading out as the view continues to get better all the way to the end.

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At the end of the part you can sail there is a big glacier but depending on when you go you may not be able to see it. When we went we only saw it from afar as the water itself was frozen and had too many icebergs to safely cross.

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Even without getting all the way to the end though this is still one of the most amazing places I have ever been.

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Here are some of my favorite photos from my time cruising through here.

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Have you been? Did you see the glacier up close? Be sure to let me know in the comments.

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Cross Hike from Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska

When in Juneau, Alaska one of the most touristy things you can do is take a ride on the city tram. At $33 it is an expensive way to get a…

When in Juneau, Alaska one of the most touristy things you can do is take a ride on the city tram. At $33 it is an expensive way to get a view of the city, but one that is absolutely worth it if you are a hiker like myself. On top of this small mountain is a trailhead that leads to a nature trail, historic cross and two fantastic Alaskan summits. I only had a small amount of time so I did the cross hike and here is all of the information.

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Details

  • $33 for an all day pass
  • Restaurant at the top
  • Miles of hiking trails
  • Bald Eagle area with an eagle they are rehabilitating where you can see an eagle up close

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Right outside of the main downtown street in Juneau is the entrance to the tram. From here it is a 5 minute ride up 1,300 feet to the building above. Here is a timelapse of the trip.

The view from the top is amazing as you can easily see downtown Juneau, cruise ships and surrounding peaks on a clear day.

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After taking in the view you can proceed down the stairs to visit the one-eyed bald eagle that they are rehabilitating. It was a little sad but it was cool to see the animal up close.

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The shop and nature center has a lot of stuff for sale along with a $1 trail map that shows all of the areas trails. We headed out on the one mile loop that took us up 500 feet to the Father Brown’s Cross.

The Trail

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The trail started in the forest and headed through a shaded area before coming out and providing an amazing view of the surrounding peaks.

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Just taking the quarter-mile walk to this area is worth the price of admission in and of itself. The mountains that surround you are awe-inspiring and gigantic. I kept taking pictures as it was amazing in every direction.

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The trail had a short flat area where it provided a vista point of the ocean and the city below. It also had a map that showed what mountains you were looking at, which was nice as I was not familiar with the area.

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From here the trail started heading up on switchbacks and you could see the end destination of the cross on the hill above.

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We saw a few bald eagles flying here and even a marmot scampered across the trail. 

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After reaching the end, the 15 foot cross was right before us and it provided a beautiful foreground element for pictures of the city below.

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We headed up about 100 feet more so we could get a vista of the mountain that was behind us but after that we headed back down to the tram station. 

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I wish I had more time here as I would have liked to hike to one of the summits, but even without that it was an amazing way to explore a truly beautiful part of Juneau. If you have a few hours to explore then the $33 price tag is totally worth a trip up to the top of the Juneau tram. Let me know if you have been below.

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Juneau Alaksa City Guide: How to Explore Without Any Cruise Excursions

When I went on my Alaskan cruise I decided to try to do everything I could without excursions. This worked out really well for me except that I did give…

When I went on my Alaskan cruise I decided to try to do everything I could without excursions. This worked out really well for me except that I did give in and take the White Pass Railroad in Skagway. Juneau was one of the easiest cities to do this in though as it is really easy to get to its most famous attractions. Here is what I did on my time in the city.

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Mendenhall Glacier (3 hours) -$20 Round Trip

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As soon as I got off the boat I headed downtown and grabbed a bus for $10 each way to the Mendenhall Glacier. It is about 25 miles away and takes about 20-30 minutes to get there. When I was there I went on two small hikes and marveled at the glacier, it is a fantastic spot you must visit.

Red Dog Saloon (1 hour)

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When I arrived back to the downtown I went to Red Dog Saloon which was one of the old historic saloons from the early days of the city, complete with a loud piano entertainer playing Johnny Cash, sawdust on the floor and famous guns above the bar. I would recommend sitting down for a drink and an appetizer, something like the smoked salmon dip or the potato skins and just taking in the atmosphere which is always a blast.

Patsy Anne at Marine Park (10 minutes)

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After leaving the saloon we headed across the street to Marine Park where we visited Patsy Anne the golden statue of the deaf dog that used to greet ships in the harbor. It is said that rubbing its head provides luck so of course that is what we did.

Saint Nicholas Church (20 minutes)

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The next stop on my tour of the city took me to one of the oldest orthodox churches in the United States called Saint Nicholas. It is on the register of historic places for the USA and it has a unique architecture that you would probably not stop to see if you didn’t know it was famous. It is one of the only octagon shaped churches still in existence and it has services every week. We walked around and saw it for a few minutes and I would recommend stopping as it was atypical, before continuing the tour of Juneau.

Alaska Brewing Company (15 minutes)

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If you are a fan of the brewery you can take a shuttle from the downtown store to visit the brewery ten miles out-of-town for $20. If you just want to grab a souvenir then the store is a great place to stop in and pick something up. They had everything from key chains and taps to shirts.

Mount Roberts Tramway (2 hours)

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The last stop on my whirlwind tour of Juneau was to take the Mount Roberts Tramway up to the “top of the city.” From here you could see bald eagles in the trees, beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains and walk miles of hiking trails. You can read my full experience here. The tram costs $33 dollars but if you have a few hours it is an amazing way to see the city.

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From there I headed back to my cruise ship and left the beautiful capital city of Alaska. I would love to come back here in the future and spend more time, but the above list should help you have a great time in Juneau for relatively cheap. Let me know what else you recommend in the comments.

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Skagway Alaksa City Guide: How to Explore Without Any Cruise Excursions

On the inside passage Alaska cruise, the last Alaskan town you will be heading to will most likely be Skagway. This town of less than 900 residents is a fun…

On the inside passage Alaska cruise, the last Alaskan town you will be heading to will most likely be Skagway. This town of less than 900 residents is a fun way to end as it is both historic and unique with its large downtown street full of storefronts and automobiles that look like they are from the early 1900’s. While I tried to do every stop on this cruise without excursions just to see how it was, I buckled here and road the famous White Pass Railroad. It was one of my favorite things I did on the cruise and I cannot recommend it more, you can read all about it here and see the rest of the things I did below.

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Visitor Center

When you arrive in downtown Skagway the main attraction that everyone wants to see is the visitor center which contains over 8,000 pieces of driftwood attached to its exterior. It is a sight to behold and not as tacky as I had anticipated it being.

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You can go inside as well if you want to learn more about the history of this town as they have a few small exhibits and public restroom inside.

Doughboy

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The next stop on my time in Skagway was a trip to Doughboy. These elephant ear pastries are a very popular attraction in the city and it is easy to see why. They are essentially a large circular piece of dough deep-fried then dipped in cinnamon and sugar. 

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I could have easily ate two of them as they are fantastic.

Skagway Brewery

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At the end of the Main Street there is a brewery called the Skagway Brewery which has five different types of beer made on the premises and lots of food. It is a great place to sit and relax with a drink and a meal while in the city. The people here are great as well and they told us about the history of the brewery which was in this same location over 100 years ago before it was stopped from prohibition. It is fun to see that it is back in the same spot it was over 100 years ago. 

Red Onion Saloon

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Much like Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, the Red Onion Saloon is a historic brothel from the beginning of the city that was turned into a saloon. It has bar food, tons of eclectic wall hangings and a museum dedicated to the lady of the night history in the area. It’s a fun spot to check out on the Main Street.

Shopping

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If you are into shopping there are many stores. I found this to be the cheapest place to buy souvenirs of Alaska while we were there and there was even a coupon book where you could get a free train whistle with any purchase, sign me up for that! 

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If you like jewelry then they have a lot of stores for that as well. I know nothing about jewelry though so I don’t have much to say on that.

Cemetery

Two miles outside of the city is a famous cemetery with lots of historic figures from the gold rush era buried there. I didn’t make it out there but I heard it is a fun spot to see.

White Pass Railroad

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Like I said above this is a fantastic excursion, read all about it here.

98 Show

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Lastly, there is a show in one of the bars that has been going for over a century. I saw a lot of signs about it but I didn’t get to see it myself.

All in all Skagway is a beautiful city in Alaska. It is one of my favorite that I went to for the way the history has been preserved here. Make sure you get off the boat and go exploring when you are in the area. Let me know what I left off in the comments.

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White Pass Railroad: Skagway’s Historic Train Ride

When I took my cruise to Alaska I decided to not book any excursions because they were expensive and I figured I could have just as much fun exploring the…

When I took my cruise to Alaska I decided to not book any excursions because they were expensive and I figured I could have just as much fun exploring the city myself. So that is what I did in both Ketchikan and Juneau, but in Skagway I heard over and over again about the amazing train journey to the White Pass Summit by railroad. As a huge train / bridge fanatic myself I decided I had to take this journey when I got into port and I can honestly say I am glad I did, it was worth every penny of the 129 dollars that I spent.

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Details

  • Book with the ship as it is easier to get to it when you have a tram, especially depending on where you dock
  • It was $129 when I went

I booked the first train in the morning which left at 8:15AM so we were off the boat at 7:45AM and on our way to the train to pick out our seats. The train itself has bench seats with two to a side and when you pick a cabin you cannot change for the entire journey. Each cabin has a back and front platform you can walk out on and a bathroom in the back for the 3 hour journey. I didn’t really care what seat I had as I planned to spend a lot of time on the platform when the train was moving.

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We started out slow as we headed out of the city and I grabbed a spot on the platform which I shared with others throughout the trip. It can get crowded, especially when the views get good but my group were good sharers and it worked fine.

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The route was created over 100 years ago to take miners from the city of Skagway into the Yukon to try to strike it rich mining for gold. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to do it as you even pass by a few old wooden trestles from the historic route.

The Route

The entire ride is incredibly beautiful but here are a few of my favorite spots on the trip. 

The First Bridge

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This first bridge was one of the first times that I got to see the bend of the train with the mountains behind it. It really helped to show how amazing the route was going to be as we continued up. 

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This is also right after we passed through the forest which blocked the view for a while so it was even more amazing when we came out.

The Wooden Trestle

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There are two old wooden trestles you cross on this ride, one that you actually go over and one that you do not. The first is the one you actually cross and you can see it on the mountain ahead as you are approaching.

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When you actually get closer through you see how well made yet rickety it really is. It was an awesome bridge and it reminded me of the Goat Canyon Trestle in California, although on a smaller scale. Also, the train heads right into the first of two tunnels here as well which is fun.

The Second Longer Trestle

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This bridge appears right when you start entering the snow section of the route. It is much more amazing than the first as it is taller and longer, but it is not as well-preserved and the train does not go over it anymore. 

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The Valley

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I don’t know what this area is called but it is mind-blowing. The valley is full of rich greens, waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. There is even a 2,000 foot cascading waterfall that you can see the start at the top of the snow-covered peak and cascade into the river below. 

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The peak that is behind the train track is also amazing as it has granite covered rock outcroppings at the top. Really it is hard to describe this and do it justice as the area is just amazing.

The Snow

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As you start reaching the top of the summit you will see a lot of snow most of the year. When we went there was easily 3 or 4 feet that had been pushed off the tracks and was built up on the side, I have seen even more in other pictures. 

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I was surprised that the snow was at so low of elevation but that is just my California mind as this is Alaska and it is much colder.

Canada and the White Pass Summit

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Once you reach the top of the summit you will see a sign out of your window letting you know you are at the top, then you will pass a collection of flags marking the international border between Canada and the USA. This is where the trip stops and you will start the same route back. 

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All in all this is an amazing excursion that provides stunning vistas and envelopes you in the rich history of mining in the Yukon. I cannot recommend it more and I feel like a trip to Skagway would not be complete without it. Let me know if you have been in the comments and if you like it as much as I did.

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Ketchikan Alaksa City Guide: How to Explore Without Any Cruise Excursions

If you take an Inside Passage Cruise through Alaska then the chances are high that you will be stopping at the 4th largest city in the state, Ketchikan. If you…

If you take an Inside Passage Cruise through Alaska then the chances are high that you will be stopping at the 4th largest city in the state, Ketchikan. If you want to take one of the fun but expensive excursions then this post is not for you. This post is simply about how to spend a day in Ketchikan and maximize your time without any pricey excursions. Here is how I did it for less than $10 and my boat was here from 7 AM to 2:30PM.

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Breakfast and Arrival 7:30AM – 8AM

I decided to eat breakfast on the boat as that helped me save money in town, so after I ate I proceeded down onto Alaskan soil for the first time. Here is a view of the city from my breakfast spot on the cruise. 

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Old Town 8AM – 9AM

As soon as I got off I started my walking tour of the city, I grabbed a map and headed through the very touristy main sections, full of jewelry shops and restaurants as I made my way to the eventual entrance of Creek St. 

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Along the way I did get to see the sign for the city of Ketchikan as well as its liquid sunshine gauge which showed how much rain they had last year in feet, it was a crazy amount.

Creek St 9AM – 10AM

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From here I headed onto the famous old Creek St. This is by far the best part of the city as all of the houses are built on stilts or an elevated walkway that was once used for men to visit ladies of the night. This entire area is steeped in the prostitution history, but the street itself now has tons of shops as well as beautiful views at every turn.

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I spent a lot more time here then I needed to but it was hard to leave as it was so pretty with the creek running down it. If you are interested you can take a tour of one of the most famous brothels called Dolly’s house and it costs $7.50, I didn’t end up going though.

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Eventually we made our way onto Married Man Trail which was one of the main routes to Creek St back in the day and then onto Park Road to head over to Totem Heritage Center.

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Totem Heritage Center and Historical Street 10AM – 11AM – $5

After walking along the river for a while we crossed a few unique spots like the “worlds largest gold nugget” and a rehabilitation center for eagles (none were there though).

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After that we passed over the bridge and made it to the heritage center which features a lot of history on the totems that are so famous in the area. There are two massive totems outside that you can pose with and lots on the inside that you can see as well. This center can take as short or as long as you would like. You can always walk around the outside and see the totems if you don’t want to visit the center as well.

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I opted to walk back through the historical section of the city instead of retracing my steps and all that was really here anymore was plaques and old run down buildings that used to have more life. They do have lots of information on the sides of the old buildings show what they used to look like, but other then Creek St the town has been upgraded.

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The New York Cafe and Hotel is still there though and it is a fun place to sit down for a meal as it was established in 1925, closed then reestablished in 1991.

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Museum – 11AM – 11:25AM – $3

After walking through the historical section I ended up at the historical museum that we passed in the beginning. I went in and paid my fee before I explored the small museum. There were a few unique attractions and lot of history, also the man working there was great and loved sharing his knowledge.

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He even took me to see this clan house replica, which was used as a basis for the actual clan house that we saw in Totem Bight State Park.

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From here we got a seat on a bus and road on the 30 minute ride up to Totem Bight State Park.

Totem Bight State Historical Park – 12PM – 2PM – $2

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After buying an all day bus pass for $2 we set out on the 30 minute ride to the state park. If you want to read a whole post on the park you can click here but it was a fun way to spend a few hours. After arriving at the State Park the driver left us with about an hour before he returned. An hour was more than enough time though and I saw all of it in about 35 minutes. It was worth the small excursion for me as it was fun to see the clan house and all the totems, but you would not have to go if you didn’t have time.

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So for a total cost of less than $10 I had an epic day in Ketchikan without booking a single excursion. It was a really fun way to explore the small city and I recommend it to others looking for a cheap way to see the city. Let me know what your favorite spot in Ketchikan is in the comments section below.

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