AdventureSmith Explorations Founder & President Todd Smith reviews his stay at Bear Track Inn in Gustavus, Alaska.
When in Alaska earlier this month for the Sea Wolf Glacier Bay Adventure cruise, I chose to revisit the Bear Track Inn. Because the ship embarks at 8:30am, travelers on the Sea Wolf Glacier Bay Adventure require at least one lodge overnight in Gustavus prior to their cruise; I opted to spend two. There are several fishing lodges, B&Bs and a National Park Hotel in the town, but by far my preferred property is the Bear Track Inn. It is the featured lodge on our Glacier Bay Backcountry Explorer, which packages many of the area’s best activities creating an exploration perfect for travelers seeking an alternative to our small ship Alaska cruises.
Bear Track’s town of Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and is accessible only by boat or airplane.
Bear Track’s town of Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and is unique as it’s accessible only by boat or airplane. Spending at least two nights prior to a Glacier Bay cruise helps prevent any delays to embarkation due to inclement weather in this wet part of the world. It also allows you to slow down, decompress and enjoy the Alaskan solitude we all come to experience. Finally, the town of Gustavus is an Alaska fishing mecca and has ample opportunities for active adventure or to immerse yourself in rural Alaskan culture.
Plan on taking the Alaska Airlines flight from Juneau to Gustavus, or better yet, opt for a small scenic flight on Alaska Seaplanes as I did. On a clear day you will be rewarded with spectacular views of mountains, fjords and possibly even a whale. Upon arrival in Gustavus, Bear Track Inn staff will pick you up at the airport and bring you to the lodge. Depending on the time of arrival you may have time for a hike near the lodge or sit on the deck enjoying the view with a glass of wine.
The Bear Track is the quintessential Alaskan wilderness lodge made from huge cedar logs that permeate the atmosphere inside and out. An expansive high-ceilinged lobby adorned with animals and art is surrounded by huge windows bringing the Alaskan wilderness right into your lap on the comfortable couches. The crackling fire in the central fireplace lends a warm ambiance to trade stories of the day’s adventure.
Meals are included in the rates and are a highlight of your stay. Bears, moose, eagles and wolves have been spotted outside the view window from the dining room. The menu is also wild, always featuring a freshly caught fish, either salmon or halibut, in a variety of preparations. The menu rotates daily and features favorites such as ribeye steak, pork loin or grilled caribou medallion. Fresh soups, salads and veggies accompany every dinner, and vegetarian options are available upon request.
Homesteaded by rugged pioneers between the 1920s and 1970s, Gustavus offers a glimpse into Alaskan culture beyond the tourist towns.
The quirky town of Gustavus, population less than 500, is worthy of a day of exploration. Homesteaded by rugged pioneers between the 1920s and 1970s it offers a glimpse into Alaskan culture beyond the tourist towns of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan or Skagway. The town now is a mix of homestead descendants, Alaskans who have relocated from the hustle and bustle of larger towns, artists, fishermen and seasonal employees catering to travelers visiting Glacier Bay National Park. The arrival of the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry from Juneau has made the town more accessible and is a great way to arrive if your schedule allows. On the way from the airport or ferry to the Bear Track Inn, you can’t miss the historic gas station or “Dray” complete with historic working pumps. This marks four corners, the only major intersection and heart of town. From here you can explore the Salmon River or scenic waterfront. On a clear day, the dramatic Fairweather Mountains can be seen rising 15,000 feet high in the distance.
Being the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, the town of Gustavus offers an abundance of active adventures. World-class kayaking, whale watching and sport fishing are among the most popular but there is also photography and birdwatching, hiking, mountain biking, glacier tours and flightseeing. For many years, there was even a 9-hole golf course; however the proprietor, a true Alaskan soul, recently passed away. We are hoping it will open again someday.
Bear Track Inn is a small, sustainable lodge rooted in its local environment.
After knowing the Bear Track’s Olney family for over 20 years, I consider them friends. Their property is emblematic of the type of small, sustainable lodge rooted in its local environment that is a perfect fit for AdventureSmith travelers. I know you will agree and encourage you to visit the Bear Track Inn on your next Alaska adventure.
This Bear Track Inn review was written by AdventureSmith Explorations’ founder. Read all AdventureSmith Expert Reviews for more trip reports, or contact one of our Adventure Specialists to learn more about small ship cruises and wilderness adventures: 1-800-728-2875.