“Surf City, Alaska”? That’s right. Yakutat has become known for extreme surfing in both winter and summer. Located in the northern reaches of the Inside Passage region, Yakutat made at name for itself in the late ‘90s as the first Alaska town with a surf shop, but there’s plenty more to see and do here for visitors.
Life in Yakutat is rich with the culture of the Native people of the area, which are a mixture of the Eyak of the Copper River Valley to the north and the Tlingit of the Inside Passage area. Here the elders share their knowledge and wisdom through storytelling in the local community gathering place. Yakutat was established as a Russian fort in the late 1700s, and like much of the region, later saw gold mining, fur and timber booms. Today fishing drives the economy.
Isolated on the strand that connects the Inside Passage to the rest of Alaska, Yakutat has gained the increasing attention of visitors. Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world, is a mere is 30 miles away. The eight-mile-wide glacier is easily Alaska’s most active. The entire area, part of the 545-square-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, is one of the most interesting places in Alaska and usually accessed through flight seeing or boat tours available in town. Our Yakutat Alaska Travel Guide has everything you need to start planning your Yakutat Alaska vacation. Also visit more great Alaska beach locations by <<Clicking Here.>> Need to know what to pack for your Alaskan Vacation? << Click Here >>
Yakutat Weather (When to Visit)
Mild, intermittent rainy days, typical of a maritime climate, are to be expected in Yakutat. Yakutat receives some of the highest precipitation in Alaska with an average annual rainfall of 132 inches and 219 inches of snow. Summer temperatures range between 42 and 60 degrees F with winter temperatures between 17 and 39 degrees F. High quality outdoor gear is recommended for visitors. The best time to visit? June 15 – July 15 as the best time to visit Alaska. But not everyone can visit during that month window, and that’s no problem. Alaska weather is not predictable. You can come in August and bask in sunshine or in June and face “horizontal rain” (driving rain plus strong winds).
Best Yakutat Area Attractions
Located 30 miles northeast of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world. The 76-mile-long glacier captured national attention by galloping across Russell Fjord in the mid-1980s and again in 2002. The 8-mile-wide glacier is easily Alaska’s most active. Most visitors view Hubbard Glacier as part of cruise ship trip across Gulf of Alaska. Others reach the icy phenomenon through flight seeing or boat tours arranged in Yakutat.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Incredible. You must see Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to believe it. Number and scale loom large here, magnified by splendid isolation. It’s the largest U.S. national park with peaks upon peaks and glaciers after glaciers. Follow any braided river or stream to its source and you will find either a receding, advancing, or tidewater glacier. The park lets you sample representative Alaska wildlife as well as historic mining sites.Hike its mountains,float its rivers, ski its glaciers, or fly over this landscape and you witness living geology. You sense discovery, the feeling you might be the first to see such sights.
Icy Bay was formed in the last 100 years by the rapid retreat of the Guyot, Yahtse, and Tyndall Glaciers. It is part of the Wrangell-Saint Elias Wilderness. At the beginning of the 20th century, the bay entrance was permanently blocked by a giant tidewater glacier face that calved icebergs directly into the Gulf of Alaska. A century-long glacial retreat has opened a multi-armed bay more than 30 miles long. Icy Bay is popular destination for sea kayakers, and is reachable by bush plane from Yakutat.
Walk for miles on these untouched sandy beaches and don’t be surprised if you stumble upon some cool shaped driftwood or the occasional glass balls. The waves here are said to be a surfers dream!
Glacier Bay National Park
Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rain forest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From sea to summit, Glacier Bay offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration.
Best Things to Do in Yakutat
Excellent sea kayaking exists in Russell Fjord Wilderness, a 545-square-mile preserve that includes Hubbard Glacier. Most kayakers arrive with folding kayaks and then utilize float plane transportation to land deep in the fjord. Outfitters also offer guided kayak expeditions into the wilderness and sea kayaks are available for rent to explore the bays nearer to the town of Yakutat.
Life in Yakutat is rich with the culture of the Native people of the area. Here the elders share their knowledge and wisdom through storytelling in the local community gathering place. Hear their story and see the traditional dress regalia of the Tlingit people.
Protected by an 18-mile wide reef, Yakutat Bay offers excellent natural fishing structure that is only a short boat ride from the harbor. The community is home to charter fishing captains that target halibut, ling cod, king and silver salmon, red snapper, black bass and rock fish throughout the summer.
Yakutat Tern Festival
One of the largest and southernmost known breeding colonies of Aleutian Terns exists here. The earliest record of breeding Aleutian Terns in Yakutat – on the Situk River Flats – is 1922; the colonies in the Yakutat area appear to be a stronghold for a suspected declining worldwide population. The Aleutian Tern has a limited range throughout Alaska and eastern Siberia and Russia, and very little is known about this species, including its migration patterns. The Yakutat area is currently at the forefront of Aleutian Tern research, including studies on population trends, nesting ecology, and migration patterns. The mission of the festival is to highlight the extraordinary natural and cultural resources of Yakutat and to stimulate the local economy by hosting a festival celebrating Aleutian Terns.
Alaska’s Yakutat Bay extends to the Gulf of Alaska, where grey sands meet crashing surf. Consistent swells that can balloon out to more up to 20 feet have made the small village of Yakutat one of Alaska’s self-proclaimed surf meccas. The area is sometimes referred to as “The Far North Shore” and the town’s sole surf shop is aptly named Icy Waves. More than 100 surfers will visit Yakutat every summer for the unusual experience of surfing in Alaska. The best waves occur from mid-April to mid-June and mid-August through September. The Japanese current pushes summer water temperatures into the mid-60s while during the rest of the season, temperatures range from the mid-40s to the mid-50s.
Monti Bay Lodge & Resort
Their amenities are designed for Alaska nights and early mornings – blackout shades, extra blankets, coffee makers that can serve a crowd. And when the day is done, relax in large spaces that friends want to gather – whether around the fire, or around the BBQ overlooking the bay. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Monti Bay Lodge & Resort.
Glacier Bear Lodge
Glacier Bear Lodge has 31 comfortable rooms available, and all of the rooms have two double beds, one roll-away bed, and a private full bathroom. Their dining room offers a continental breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Alaskan Seafood, homemade soups, breads and desserts. They offer a full service bar with a big screen television; surround sound for all the current sports, pay per-view boxing and UFC. Also available are pool tables, dart board, music and dance floor. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Glacier Bay Lodge. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Glacier Bear Lodge.
Leonard’s Landing Lodge
The lodge is made up of 7 waterfront cabin style units & 3 larger units with fully equipped kitchens & private baths. Basic hotel rooms are also offered in the main lodge for the budget minded traveler. Hotel guests share a full common kitchen with adjacent view deck & propane barbecue. With our lodging options we welcome single travelers, families, large groups, & conferences. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Leonard’s Landing Lodge.
Icy Bay Lodge
Tucked away on the South side of Icy Bay, built with all the comforts of home and then some! Satellite wifi camp-wide. The comfortable lounge/living room is a popular place to relax and discuss the fishing tales and adventures at the end of the day. Five heated cabins, each equipped with hot showers and privacy can sleep up to 4 persons each although we usually try and limit to 2 persons per cabin. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Icy Bay Lodge.
Just beautiful pictures of the area. I’ve always wanted to make a trip, maybe stay a year and get acclimated. Haven’t yet but it’s on the list and I know just the place to look up all the fun things to do in the area. You have me sold with Alaskan Silver Salmon!
I am glad Doc! You will really enjoy Alaska. Please let me know if you need any additional information. Thanks for stopping by!
I really enjoyed reading this, as honestly can’t say I really knew anything about Alaska. It looks stunning, which I probably expected, but to see that it is a surf destination was a surprise! It’s quite nice to see that there are surfers who are prepared to experience the cold weather as well as the usually warm climates you think of with surfing!
You cover a lot of interesting information about the place and would come back to your site if I was planning a trip. Thank you.
Glad you enjoyed learning about Yakutat Alaska Joanne. Very true! Most do not even equate Alaska with surfing, and if you know Alaska, certainly not Yakutat! LOL But, it is beautiful and with the right gear, an amazing experience! Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.
This is beautiful and presumably the coolest place on earth. As usual, I was expecting beach and sunshine but seeing this is captivating.
I particularly look to try sea kayaking because I think would be fun, and I have not tried sea kayaking. I love beautiful scenery, and Yakutat Alaska looks absolutely stunning! I will bookmark you website to allow me keep up to date. Looking forward to more wonderful posts!
Yes it is beautiful. Sea kayaking is so peaceful and relaxing. I love kayaking, and I know you would enjoy it for sure. Thanks for visiting my Yakutat Alaska Travel Guide.
I love the pictures and the content of this post. I had absolutely no idea how beautiful Alaska is nor the multitude of recreational activities and travel one can do. I love that there is surfing in Alaska, and despite the temperatures being cold, it is still garners a lot of interest from me as you have delineated so clearly and in a very enticing way the appeal of traveling to Alaska. I am happy to be given the insights and knowledge of the climate and the terrain in which one can go explore. I appreciate the information you have provided and am now seriously looking into Yakutat as a destination for our next family getaway! Many thanks!
Great Rebecca! I think you would really enjoy visiting Yakutat! Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.
If the images are anything to go by, it looks simply amazing and the cold wouldn’t put me off looking for a good wave to surf, absolutely gorgeous scenery would make this trip worthwhile for a feast for the eyes. Well put together post, great job!
Thanks Glen and I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for visiting my Yakutat Alaska Travel Guide.
I love your article! My husband and I took a 7 day cruise and 5 day land tour of Alaska, and we thought there couldn’t be more beautiful sights anywhere. I never knew there was surfing in Alaska! I am not a surfer, those years are far behind me, but the waves in your video are amazing! I’m not sure I could handle the cold but it sure is beautiful. Thanks for sharing, maybe my husband and I will have to take another trip up there and see some of the things we didn’t get to last time.
You are right Joanne, nothing is more beautiful than Alaska. And yes, the waters are cold. I guess when you are young, you don’t feel it. I can remember playing in those cold waters, and not thinking twice! I hope you and your husband can make it back to Alaska again. Let me know if you need any help in planning.
Wow wow wow! Isn’t this the coolest place on earth? As usual, I was expecting something sunshine on your blog but wait, look at this!
I particularly like the sea kayaking you suggested! I have tried tons of sea kayaking, but have never done it in an icy ocean! I can imagine it can be quite inconvenient to try to row in your winter coat but who cares? Look at the scenery. Totally worth it!
And the glacier! I love glacier! I could just sit all day admiring its magnificent. Just wondering, is there any chance to spot any animals in the national park?
Oh my Crystal, you will see a TON of wildlife. I have been there and I had bears right outside my cabin. It is really a very beautiful place, and yes the glaciers are magnificent! Thanks for stopping by.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park looks so beautiful. I always see these nice photos and say “I’d love to go there one day”, it’s good to have a location with the photo. Thank you for such a detailed article!
You are so welcome Miranda. Thank you for visiting beach travel destinations. Please come back when you are ready to start planning your next vacation.
I’ve been to Alaska several times but never this area. Looks beautiful! Great info. Looks like I have some more exploring to do in Alaska.
Yes you do Andrew!
I have recently become interested in Yakutat. A good friend of mine bought a house there that he rents out about half the year and uses it for fishing and friends, too.
I’ve never gone.
Thanks for providing more information about this place. Hopefully one day soon I will visit there.
You will have to John, and stay at your friends house 🙂 You would have a wonderful time! Thanks for visiting my Yakutat Alaska Travel Guide.
I’ve wanted to see Alaska for several years now. Someday I hope to be able to see it and enjoy it. You’ve given some great information that I’ll be using when I do plan my trip! Never thought that surfing would be a pastime for people up there though 🙂
I know right? But surfing is huge there, just like the fishing. Beautiful place for sure. Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know if you need any additional information.
Awesome article! I had no idea that there was any surfing in Alaska LOL. It must be brutal to surf there during the winter months. These pictures are gorgeous and Yakutat looks like a beautiful place. I have never heard of it before this article but I will definitely keep it in mind now. I really hope to make it to Alaska some day for a trip. Thank you!
Thank you for stopping by Dan. Yes, surfing is cold, and I am certainly not going to surf in Yakutat LOL. But Yakutat Alaskais beautiful and worth visiting. T
Wow, Yakutat is very beautiful.
Makes me feel like taking a vacation.
Thanks for this info.
I enjoyed reading it.
Glad you enjoyed Pearl. Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.
Really great information for Yakutat Alaska. It has always been a dream of mine to visit Alaska. Although I admit, I had not heard of ort thought about Yakutat. How cool is it that they have surfing. Seems a bit cold for me! But you provided loads of information, and I just have have to add this to my Alaska itinerary. Thanks!
Yes, Alaska is wonderful and most have not heard of or would consider a stop in Yakutat….other than the surfers and fisherman of course. If not on a cruise, then it is a little far off the beaten path unless you plan to stay a few days. Thanks for visiting my Yakutat Alaska Travel Guide.