Photo: Jim Gonski
Trip Number: 13016A
Staff: Elaine Grace
- Learn to packraft on several Class I and II rivers
- Enjoy spectacular views of a glacier while paddling on Spencer Glacier
- Experience the midnight sun
- Tent, packraft, life jacket, helmet, kayak paddle, dry suit, waterproof
- Packraft instruction and guide service
- On-trip transportation (including transport from Anchorage hotel and
to Anchorage airport/hotel), all meals, camping
Photo: Jim Gonski
The focus of this trip is to experience several south-central Alaska creeks,
rivers, and glacial lakes from the intimate perspective of a packraft. Originally
packrafts were invented to cross rivers in Alaska, especially for people competing
in the Alaska Wilderness Classic. Little did anyone know that packrafting would
become the next "hot" way to descend a river. Packrafts allow paddlers
to hike into a remote location with a five-pound raft and float down a bouncy
river back to civilization. First you will receive all-inclusive instruction
about how to safely operate your packraft. Then, we will venture up a trail
and experience the sheer joy of effortlessly packrafting down a creek or a river
back to the trailhead.
Each morning we will pack our lunches and snacks, break camp, roll up our packrafts,
pack our waterproof packs and drive to the "trailhead of the day."
We will hike from two to four miles, unroll our packrafts, snap together our
paddles, slip on our dry suits and paddle down a beautiful Alaska river. At
night, we will talk about conservation in Alaska, take walks at midnight with
the midnight sun, and rest up from the day’s activities.
Fly into Anchorage, Alaska no later than Saturday, June 22. Plan to meet for
a group orientation dinner at 5:00 p.m.
Day 1: Pickup from your Anchorage hotel in the morning of
Sunday, June 23.
Learn to run the river. This introductory class on Eagle River near Anchorage
will teach you what you need to feel safe on Class I & II water, including:
Photo: Daniel Austin
- Equipment needed to be safe in moving current
- Packing and carrying your boat
- Efficient launching and landing
- Reading current and avoiding hazards
- Using an eddy as your “brakes”
- Forward and back ferry technique
- Efficient paddle skills for packrafts
Tonight we will camp at Eagle River Campground, where we will enjoy the midnight
sun and discuss what we learned about handling a packraft.
Day 2: Our day begins with a visit to the Begich, Boggs Visitor
Center on Portage Lake. This excellent interactive Forest Service visitor center
will help you understand glaciers and get a better appreciation for the rivers
we float and terrain we hike during the week. At the Portage Valley Learning
Center (adjacent to the visitor center) we can meet with conservation education
staff to explore conservation issues in the Chugach National Forest.
Time to take the train! After lunch we will board the Alaska Railroad for a
20-minute ride to the Spencer Glacier trailhead. After the train drops us off,
we will stroll one mile to Spencer Lake. There we gaze upon the 5,000-foot-wide
by 200-foot-tall face of Spencer Glacier. Huge -- as in house size -- icebergs
float around in the lake after calving from the glacier. Other travelers will
take the train back to their cars, but not us. We have packrafts, and we will
float for several hours down this Class I glacial river.
We will camp in Portage, Alaska. Portage is not really a town, but it's where
the road to Whittier starts. We will camp in a National Forest Service campground
in Portage Valley.
Day 3: We will board the train again today in Portage at 1:20
p.m., riding the train past Spencer Glacier to Grandview Pass. This gorgeous
terrain is used by the Nordic Ski Club in winter for its great views and excellent
ski trails. The train will drop us at the Hunter Stop near Trail Glacier, headwaters
of Trail River. You guessed it…! Our next expedition will be on Trail
River, a bouncy glacial creek with one channel. After floating 10 miles, we’ll
end up at Upper Trail Lake. Once we reach Upper Trail Lake we will paddle approximately
one mile to reach the Johnson Pass foot trail. Or, if the water is calm we will
paddle two miles across the lake to the boat launch on the Seward Highway and
the van will meet us there. Tonight we will camp in Seward, Alaska along the
Photo: Jim Gonski
Day 4: We are off to the world-famous Kenai River, known for
its huge salmon runs and world-class trout fishing. We will float the Kenai
Canyon, an area few visit due to the “no motors” regulations. Ah,
the beauty of a packraft! This emerald green river is gorgeous. At the end of
our three-hour float, we land on the banks of Skilak Lake. Again, the beauty
of a packraft -- those who float down in dories will have to paddle seven miles
across the lake. We, on the other hand, roll up our five-pound boats and hike
45 minutes up and out of the canyon.
We will camp in Seward, along the beach. After dinner (remember, it stays
light until after midnight) you will have personal time to meander the shops
of Seward, explore the waterfront, or enjoy a local pub.
Day 5: There will be time in the morning to visit the Seward
Sea Life Center on your own. The price of admission is not included.
Then, we will drive to Exit Glacier near Seward where we may take a two- to
four-mile hike toward the Harding Icefield. Exit Glacier flows off the Harding
Icefield and is the most accessible glacier in Alaska. From the terminus of
Exit Glacier we will put our packrafts on Resurrection River and float all the
way to the ocean (Class I water). This is a glacial river valley, over one mile
wide, with fantastic scenery (bring a waterproof camera).
We will either camp a third night in Seward or move to the town of Hope, Alaska.
Hope is located on the ocean near Turnagain Arm. It is a quiet, funky little
town with charm and character. Remember, it never gets dark so there is plenty
of time to walk around town, try fishing for salmon, or walk to the ocean.
Day 6: Our final day together will be spent in full trekking
and floating mode. You have been in your packrafts learning skills on slower,
larger rivers. Now it’s time for a small stream with faster, class II
whitewater. We will hike seven miles up the Resurrection Trail to our put-in
location. Then we will go down Resurrection Creek for some fantastic fun!
After the float, you will be dropped off at your Anchorage hotel or the Anchorage
airport, depending on your preference.
Photo: Jim Gonski
Trip participants are expected to fly to Anchorage, Alaska at least one day
before the trip starts. We will stay in the same hotel (not included in the
trip cost) in downtown Anchorage. The hotel shuttle will transport participants
from the airport to the hotel. We will gather at 5:00 p.m. for an orientation
dinner (not included in the trip cost) with our packraft outfitter. At that
time, we will be issued all equipment and fitted for a packraft. After the trip,
participants will be transported to the Anchorage airport or a hotel of their
choice in Anchorage.
Accommodations and Food
We will be camping in Forest Service and State of Alaska campgrounds all five
nights of the trip. Tents will be provided. All meals are included for the six-day
trip. The cook will prepare healthy meals (vegetarian-friendly and non-vegetarian)
for breakfast and dinner. Lunches will be packed and eaten on the trail or on
This trip is rated moderate. Most trails are well maintained. The elevations
of the trails are from sea level to 300’. While packrafting, we will be
sitting in a boat, using kayak paddles to move downstream. While hiking, participants
will carry waterproof day packs with approximately 15 pounds of personal gear,
seven pounds of packraft gear, and two quarts of water. Backpacks will be strapped
to the packraft for the river descent. We will be camping every night. While
snow is unlikely, it could rain almost any time of the day or night. This is
a very active trip. Participants will be hiking, rafting, and possibly swimming
every day. Participants should be in good condition.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Ron Niebrugge
All packrafting equipment will be provided. Other equipment & clothing
needs (provided by participant) include:
- Water bottle
- Sunscreen/lip protector
- Camera (suggested waterproof)
- Two sets of Polypropylene underwear (worn under a dry suit)
- Clothing for camping/backpacking
- Sunhat or cap
- Neoprene booties
- River shoes or sandals
- Evening shoes and clothing
- Bathing suit
- Medium-sized day pack
A detailed list of equipment and clothing will be sent to participants upon
acceptance for the trip.
Photo: Sherrie Soltis
Conservation issues in Alaska are huge (just like the state). All of the rivers
and creeks we will be running are free of dams, but that may not always be true
in the future. Some conservation issues we will be discussing include updates
on the Pebble Mine, the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric project, and the
effects of the Fire Island Wind Farm on birds and other wildlife.
Travel in Alaska and the Arctic
Sierra Club outings in Alaska and Arctic Canada are special experiences in true wilderness, but they also carry an element of risk. Trip locales are often remote, away from the amenities of civilization, including sophisticated medical care and immediate evacuation possibilities. Many of our Alaska and Arctic Canada trips now carry satellite phones, but even with this technology, communication with the outside world can be difficult and emergency assistance can be days away. Weather in Alaska and Arctic Canada is unpredictable, and inclement weather can be severe. Among other hazards are cold river and stream crossings, tidal activity, calving glaciers, the psychological effects of remoteness, and the presence of large wild animals. You're in good hands, though, so don't worry: Your trip leaders have vast experience in the Last Frontier, and they'll provide all the guidance you need.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Elaine Grace is currently retired after a 32-year career with the federal government (National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service). From 2000 to 2008, Elaine worked as a Habitat Restoration Biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Fairbanks. There she worked to improve fish passage and restore rivers. Her love of rivers led her to start packrafting in 2004. Elaine has packrafted on many Alaskan rivers as well as the Green River through Desolation Canyon (6-day trip) and the Lower Salmon River (4-day trip) twice.
Jan Lockie has been an outdoor guide for over 17 years, leading paddling, backpacking and wilderness trips in her home state of California, as well as Alaska, Canada and other outdoor destinations. She is a certified Recreation Therapist and Wilderness First Responder who enjoys introducing people to the wonders of the outdoors. Working with Wilderness Inquiry, Environmental Traveling Companions and the Sierra Club, Jan is most content when she is in the wilderness, experiencing nature and the companionship of other outdoor enthusiasts.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips