Just north of the Gulf of Alaska, and on the coasts of several bays near Whittier, lie 8 State Marine Parks that beckon to those with adventure on their minds. Whittier is a small town of only around 220 people, but since it lies at the head of the Passage Canal and serves as a port of the Alaska Marine Highway, it sees its fair share of marine tourists, many pass through for the marine parks. Unlike other state parks, these Alaskan marine parks are pawtastic places for water-loving pups who long for the great outdoors, and their humans who do too!
The closest at 8 miles away on the eastern end of Passage Canal, Decision Point State Marine Park is pupular with small boaters and kayakers. It offers uplands of sruce and hemlock, and camping on two beaches with a latrine and fire rings. Water can be found in the coast in the bight, or the bend, behind the small peninsula.
Travel 2 miles east of Decision Point to reach Entry Cove State Marine Park, right where the Passage Canal meets Port Wells. Often used by larger kayak groups, this park features upland forests that surround a lagoon and cove, with views of the Tebenkof Glacier. Anchorage here is best on north wind days, as the evenings bring variable winds. The lagoon has a shallow entrance and is best accessed by small boats during high tide, and is pupular for clamming. A gravel beach east of the lagoon offers 10 tent sites, with drinking water available from a stream near the lagoon entrance.
South of Entry Cove on the mouth of Cochrane Bay is the Surprise Cove State Marine Park. Featuring two large lakes that drain into Surprise Cove surrounded by upland forests, this is one of the most pupular boat landing sites in the area. With several camping sites available on the beach, hillside and forest, a latrine and bear locker, and trails for hiking inland, this park draws a lot of visitors in on the weekends.
Heading back north, past Entry Cove, you can find Ziegler Cove State Marine Park, right on the north side of the entrance to Pigot Bay. This park is 18 miles from Whittier, and offers a cove with protected anchorage surrounded by a spruce, alder and muskeg forest. There's a picnic site with a fire ring, and a campsite at the edge of the forest at the north corner of the cove. Water for drinking is available in Pigot Bay.
A bit farther from Whittier in Prince William Sound are 4 more pawtastic parks to explore. Heading north from Ziegler Cove is Bettles Bay State Marine Park on the northeast area of the island, with a well-protected lagoon. Here you can find an old stamp press, a gold mine, views of the Bettles Glacier, and an upland forest of alder and muskeg. Campsites are available, but they flood during high tide. Better campsites can be found on the southern beaches by the entrance to Bettles Bay. Be sure not to disturb the marshland just south of the park, as it is home to nesting waterfowl.
At 25 miles from Whittier on the northwest corner of Esther Island, the Granite Bay State Marine Park offers two bays and protective islands, and a shoreline composed of granite cliffs and slabs. Lakes and ponds dot the forest uplands where hiking is available. You can fish in Tange Lake for rainbow trout, and boat landings are excellent in the bays. Camping is on the beach during low tide cycles, with other sites in the beach grass or heather. Do beware of the reef south of the southern bay's mouth that stretches a mile offshore.
Heading to the south end of Esther Island, you can explore the South Esther Island State Marine Park, right on two bays. Lake Bay houses fish hatcheries, while Quillian Bay offers anchorages. A hike along a lagoon takes you through a forested area to Esther Lake. While you can tour the fish hatchery, chances are you and your doggo would prefer to check out the scenic overlooks, or fish in the bays, at least 300 feet from the holding pens. Camping is not available here.
South of all the other parks, and 3 miles northeast of Chenega on Latouche Island, is the Horseshoe Bay State Marine Park. With historic and active mine plots, and public uplands of spruce and alder, occasional beaches can be found here. Campsites are available along the rolling bog just north of the bay. While this area is public, all lands that surround it are private, so be aware of your boundaries here.
Your pup can join you at any of these pawtastic parks, on a six foot leash of course! Well-behaved doggos under voice command can explore backcountry areas off leash. Be sure your dog is licensed, vaccinated and tagged before you tackle these puptastic parks. While drinking water is available at some of these areas, always be sure to have enough on hand to share with your dog. Also be sure to pack food and clean-up bags, and pick up whatever your pup leaves behind.
For an incredible experience that only the wilds of Alaska can provide, grab a boat and sail to one of these marine parks near Whittier with your pup!