Pros:Incredible Scenery, A real frontier atmosphere, bears, bears, and more bears!
Cons:Rain, rain, and more rain.
The Bottom Line: Hyder is a hidden gem. Most Americans have never heard of it so it is not overun with tourists. The scenery is awesome and the bear viewing outstanding!
When most people think of Alaska, they tend to think of Denali, Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, Glacier Bay, etc. All phenomenal places, but definitely on the beaten path. If you're looking for a more hidden Alaska, head for the tiny town of Hyder (Population 70) located on the B.C. border due east of Ketchikan. There are tourists yes, but not many and no cruise ships disembarking hordes of travelers at one time. The people who come to Hyder get there on their own by automobile from the Stewart-Cassiar Highway which connect's Canada's Yellowhead Highway with the famed Alaska Highway in the Yukon.
At first glance Hyder doesn't look like much, but therein lies much of its charm. The scenery around the town is nothing short of awesome with the towering Coast Mountains towering from sea level up to 10,000 feet. Hyder sits at the head of Portland Canal, the longest inlet of the Pacific Ocean in North America. Just east of town in British Columbia is gorgeous Bear Glacier. This incredible natural feature is often referred to as a blue glacier because of its amazing color. The glacier terminates in an iceberg filled lake right next to the highway. There is no sign, no park, no formal parking area, simply a gravel pull-off for a couple of cars. Best of all was being able to enjoy this phenomenal scene with no one else around besides my wife and I! Anyone who has seen the movie "Insomnia" starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams will recognize the glacier from the movie.
North of Hyder along a scenic 22 mile dirt road is giant Salmon Glacier. Part of the continents 2nd largest ice field, Salmon Glacier itself is North Americas fifth largest. We were able to look out over this incredible site from the side of the road some 1,000 or more feet above it! Once again, no crowds - just one other car arrived in the hour we spent at the summit lookout. The approach to the glacier is a great drive with - no kidding- hundreds of waterfalls, some of them falling hundreds of feet. At one point we saw a dozen or so bald eagles along the banks of the Salmon River which flows from the glacier of the same name.
But phenomenal scenery aside, what really brings folks to Hyder is the opportunity to view black bears and grizzly bears fishing for salmon in the same area. This is perhaps the best spot in the world to see both species in the same place. The U.S. Forest Service has recently constructed a 1.8 million dollar viewing platform between the salmon streams of Fish Creek and Marx Creek. This is part of the Tongass National Forest and rangers are on duty to try to prevent two legged guests from interfering with the daily activities of the four legged residents. The bear viewing is superb, they often feed on salmon directly below the deck. At times a zoom lens is not even needed for close-up photo ops. Best of all it seems the bears largely ignore the boardwalk and the visitors, and go about their business of feasting on salmon. The time to visit to witness the bears feeding is from July well into September. Bears are around the area at all times, but these are the prime months.
While the town of Hyder itself is not much, it grows on you, and if you're like us, you will hate to leave. There are two small motels, one B&B, and a basic RV park in town. We stayed at the well-maintained and clean Grandview Inn. It was far from fancy, but it was comfortable, and besides fancy doesn't fit this town anyway! Our room was a steal at $60 a night, and being Alaska there is no tax! There are several other places to stay in Hyder's twin city of Stewart, BC Canada. The exchange rate on the dollar is a bonus, but the high Canadian taxes partly erase any savings.
We ate incredibly fresh halibut and chips (about $7 per dinner) at the Seafood Express, Hyder's best food. The restaurant is a school bus fitted with kitchen equpment. Old bus seats are used as benches at the picnic tables in front of the restaurant. The fish is fresh caught daily by the owner's husband. In Stewart, the seafood served at the King Edward Inn is also excellent and a bargain for what you get (Less than $15 US for full seafood dinners)!
If you go, be on the lookout for the horses that roam free throughout Hyder. They like to block traffic on the town's unpaved main street and beg for handouts. Don't worry they are friendly, just like the human residents of Hyder. I recommend this destination to anyone who loves wildlife, wild scenery, and getting away from the main tourist routes.
Read all 86 Reviews
Write a Review
Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Jun - Aug