Caines Head Coastal Hike

  • Self Guided
Person
Free

Hike what Backpacker Magazine has ranked one of the top ten costal hiking trails in North America.

Hike Caine’s Head Marine Park

The trail starts just west of Miller’s.  This tide-dependent walk follows the inter-tidal coastline to Caine’s Head State Marine Park where there’s plenty of trails, to South Beach, through the fort & around the area.

The Caine’s Head hike is a beautiful 5 mile coastal hike from Lowell Point (where Miller’s Landing is) to Caine’s Head State Marine Park. This hike was listed as one of the top ten hikes in Alaska by Alaska magazine. Once there, there is a hike up to Fort McGilvary too (*see hiking on Caine’s Head to Fort McGilvary section).

Something is always happening along the beach on the five-mile hike to Caine’s head. You might see a sea lion gorging himself on a fish, a humpback whale cruising the bay, or a flotilla of harlequin ducks, and the fishing could be hot for silvers or sea-run Dolly Varden. Backpackers also can get a taste of Alaska history by exploring the remains of Fort McGilvary, built to protect Seward during World War II, two miles beyond Caine’s Head.

You must walk part of this hike on the low tide.

It is important to time your trip around the tides. The three mile stretch of beach between Tonsina Point and North Beach can be hiked only during very low tide.

It is not safe to hike a tide higher than a 2.5 foot tide on the tidelines. Miller’s Landing will be happy to help you plan your trip and answer questions for you. Plan to stay at least until the next low tide or arrange to have Miller’s Landing water taxi pick you and your gear up.

The first mile and a half of the trail is all upland, through the woods. It starts near Miller’s Landing and goes to Tonsina Beach Bridge. You will know you are there because that is the first bridge you come to. There is also a picnic shelter there. In late June, July, August and September, there are also salmon spawning in the stream. You can fish from the beach here for salmon in late June through September for pink, chum and silver salmon. Dolly Varden are also caught here. You should allow about one hour from Miller’s Landing to get this far.

From Tonsina Beach you must walk the rest of the hike on the low tide. It is all coastline the next 3 miles. The trail goes past eagle’s nests, 1,000-foot cliffs, and tidal streams bulging with big silver salmon in late July and August. You may share this fishing hole with a few kayakers camped amid the driftwood, but otherwise your only company will be the sea otters, sea lions, eagles and breaching whales. Mid to late August is peak salmon spawning season.

You will not make it any further than this on the trail unless you plan this part of the hike on the low tide. Allow 1½ to 2 hours to get from Tonsina Beach to the North Beach of Caine’s Head (the part you must walk on during the low tide).

While walking the low tide, you will walk past the Callisto Cabin, located between Tonsina Beach and Derby Cove, and also the Derby Cove Public Cabin (somewhat secluded in the back woods area). You can rent these cabins from the Alaska State Park System. For more information on renting the cabins, click HERE:

At Derby Cove (one cove north of Caine’s Head beach) you have the option of continuing to hike the beach trail around to Caine’s Head, or hiking upland on another trail that will take you to the North Beach of Caine’s Head.

There is a trail from Derby Cove to North Beach. The 2½ mile Alpine Trail splits off from this trail and takes you up to several mountain valley clearings and by a beautiful waterfall.

Planning the times to hike the tides: Depending on the height of the tide and how low it is going to be, you can hike from Tonsina Beach to Caine’s Head from about 2 hours before low tide till 2 hours after. So if low tide is at noon, you can walk the beach portion of the trail from about 10 till 2 and you should leave Lowell Point around 8 am to allow yourself the most time to enjoy this area.

With a negative low tide you can probably walk the beach from 3 hours before low tide till 3 after low tide.

With a plus 3 foot low there is probably not enough time for the average person to go from Tonsina to Caine’s Head without getting trapped somewhere along the way. We do not recommend hiking this section of the trail unless the tide is at least a 2.5 foot tide or lower.

With anything in between it is very important to leave Lowell Point at least 4 hours before low tide so that you can be at the points waiting for the tide to go out instead of watching it come in as you go along.

Remember to plan the return trip so that you will be walking on the low tides too. The tide will be low again in approximately 12 hours. You can also arrange for a water taxi pick-up (or drop-off) from Miller’s Landing. Please be sure to make your water taxi arrangements in advance as there are no phones at Caine’s Head. Miller’s Landing has a 32 foot twin engine landing craft water taxi vessel that runs the bay every two hours or so, departing from Miller’s Landing. The water taxi holds 14 passengers at a time.

Once at Caine’s Head’s North Beach, there are picnic shelters, campsites, and latrines near the main trail. A ranger station, staffed seasonally, is located near the north end of the beach. The trail to Fort McGilvary and the South Beach starts here. (Please see the details on that hike also.)

Caine’s Head is the scenic site of an abandoned World War II fort.From the North Beach of Caine’s Head, there are historic roadbed trails leading to Fort McGilvary and the South Beach. (Please see the hiking section for Fort McGilvary and South Beach for information on hiking these trails.)

What to do if the Tides Are Not Right For You To Hike?

Take the Miller’s Landing Water Taxi…. If the tides are too high to walk the trail in the morning or they are too late in the evening for an enjoyable round trip hike, or perhaps you only want to hike one way only, you can still get to Caine’s Head by water taxi. You can make your water taxi reservations online or

Cancellations & Rescheduling