A Beachy Backpacking Weekend at Caines Head

I just got back from Yosemite, and all I want to do was hike now that we are back in Alaska!  So last week my husband and I checked out the weather down in Seward and discovered that our favorite notoriously rainy town was going to just be cloudy for the weekend.  So we decided to cross a big hike off our bucket list by backpacking out to Caines Head!  Caines Head State Recreation Area is a headland that juts out into Resurrection Bay.  The only way to get to it is either by boat/kayak or by hiking out on the beach at low tide.  This means that once you get out there on foot, you’re basically “trapped” there until the next low tide, effectively making this a backpacking-only trail.  We’ve wanted to do this hike ever since we moved to Seward three years ago, and now we finally have the backpacking gear to do it!


On Friday night we packed up our gear and headed down to Seward.  We spent the first night at our friend’s house in Seward, and he helped us verify that the tide chart (go here for Seward tide information) showed that we needed to leave the trailhead at 10:00 am on Saturday.  We woke up to a typical chilly and drizzly day in Seward, but still decided to head out on our adventure!


The starting point for the Caines Head hike is at Lowell Point, a beach area at the end of a dirt road.  We had 4.5 miles to hike to get to our campsite at North Beach, and one of our friends hiked out with us through the woods to the first beach, Tonsina Point.  I’d done this part of the trail many times but it was definitely more challenging with a giant backpack on my back!

Tonsina Point

After leaving the forest, we were now officially on the beach trail.  FYI, “beach” means something totally different in Alaska.  I was expecting the trail to look like the beach at Tonsina (small gravel-looking chunks of stone) but the rocks were actually pretty big and some were even wet and slimy because they were only exposed at low tide.  It was hard to walk without constantly looking down at your feet, so I wasn’t able to stare off at the gorgeous views of the fjord.  After a few miles of scrambling over slippery and wet rocks, we were at Derby Cove.  There were a lot of tents set up at the edge of the beach, so we chose to hike up through the woods to get to North Beach.  This area has official campsites, a bear locker for food, and even outhouses.  We picked a gorgeous site in a meadow that was far enough away from the high tide line but close enough to have front row views of the ocean.

Our campsite at North Beach

After setting up camp, we did a 5 mile hike up to Fort McGilvray.  This is the site of a WWII fort that was built just in time for the end of the war.  It was never actually used, and was completely abandoned once the war ended.  The fort was creepy and dark so we didn’t explore much, but the views of Resurrection Bay were worth the climb!


When we got back to camp we were all tired and hungry.  We made some warm dinner and then boiled some creek water to drink on our hike back on Sunday.  We spent the rest of the night playing with Ridley and relaxing.  It was amazing to lay on the beach in our tent reading while listening to the waves crashing on the shore!


The next morning we took our time waking up and spent a few hours relaxing and watching sea otters swim by.  Eventually it was 11:00 am, which was our scheduled time to start walking back to hit low tide.  We hiked back to town, stopping to admire the views and look for whales.  Our first order of business when we got back to Seward was a big lunch at Chinooks and visiting some of our old coworkers at the boat tour company where we worked a few summers ago.  It was an amazing weekend and we were so happy to have finally crossed that hike off our list!

Seward on a cloudy Sunday

I loved that this trail was remote yet still had amenities like a bear box that made me feel safe.  I also loved that we got to camp right on the beach and that the trail didn’t have a ton of elevation gain.  I’m looking forward to going back to this hike again next summer so we can hike even more of the trails around Caines Head!


Have you ever camped on a beach?  Did you ever have to use a tide chart when hiking?

7 thoughts on “A Beachy Backpacking Weekend at Caines Head

    1. Thanks! Yeah the first time I came to Alaska I knew I had to move up here. Everything is beautiful!

  1. I camped on the beach in North Carolina. It was HARD to walk with our packs through the soft sand. Then at night the wind blew sand into the tent all night. I had to sleep with a bandana tied around my face, lol. But it was more than worth it. Someday, I will hike and camp on a beach in Alaska! Great post! You’ve definitely got my wander lust for Alaska!

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