You remember the first time you climbed on your little bicycle and wobbled away without the assistance of a grownup, don’t you? I sure do; it was an orange, banana-seated Schwinn job, and I loved it. For kids, the allure of freedom via two-wheeler is a huge rite of passage, and now, with a big push to get vacationing families a bit more active, a big draw for tour companies across Alaska. AK Fam discovered one such company, Alaska Bicycle Tours/Sockeye Cycle while in Skagway on our Southeast Alaska Tour this summer.
The advantage of utilizing bicycles as a form of transportation seems obvious; no car rental fees, easy access to out-of-the-way places, exposure to the great outdoors…the possibilities are endless. But parents often feel left out of the cycling loop when it comes to equipment for their kids, and indeed many bicycle rental companies do rent only to adults. But Sockeye Cycle in Skagway had everybody covered, even AK Dad, who at three months post-mountain-bike-crash climbed back in the saddle with obvious relish.
Sockeye Cycle is tucked away on 5th Avenue in Skagway, and at 24 Portage Street in Haines. As both a bicycle rental and sales shop, the stores are full of bikes, trikes, and gear to satisfy the most ardent cyclist while still appealing to visitors who are looking to cruise these charming little communities (and their tshirts are oh, so cute, too). Both sites offer rentals, tours, and plenty of guidance with itineraries and spots to savor the beauty of southeast Alaska while engaging in a little physical fitness.
Gear is modern, safe (I had my personal mechanic husband check things out beforehand), and staff are well-versed in their knowledge of bicycle novices and wanna-be experts like AK Kid. Said kid wanted badly to try a 14-speed, 24” mountain bike, but after testing it out in the nearby alleyway, and after some kind words from our rental expert, he settled for a Tag-along behind his papa. AK Dad and I chose sturdy mountain bikes, we all plopped helmets on our heads, and away we went down the back roads of Skagway, which, I will add, is way more fun to explore on two wheels than four. Just sayin’.
We discovered the cemetery and Soapy Smith’s grave, investigated a deserted railroad car, and rode out to Taiya Inlet and Skagway river, where a metal bridge delivers intrepid explorers to Dyea Road on the other side, a great shortcut to the village of Dyea and the start of the Chilkoot Trail. It was two hours of uninterrupted family time as we sailed around town, waving at tour buses and taking but one break at the local school’s playground.
Sockeye Cycles also offers bicycle tours with family-friendly appeal in both Haines and Skagway. Popular with parents and kids is the Rainforest Tour in Skagway; an easy, 5-mile, 3-hour ride along scenic (and flat) trails and roadways, perfect for youngsters who may be unsure about riding unfamiliar bikes. Riders will pass through the historic townsite of Dyea before heading into the peaceful and scenic forest nearby. Sockeye staff ask that independent riders be at least 10 years old before embarking on this trip without the benefit of a Tag-along, since navigating in a group can be difficult for new riders.
Tours in Haines include the Glacial Fjord trip, a 9-mile, 3-hour journey along the gorgeous Lutak Inlet, where eagles, bears, whales, and sea lions frequent the chilly waters and rocky shores. Suitable for kids age 10 and above, this tour, while on flat terrain, does utilize the road system around Haines, so young riders (and their parents) should be aware of potential hazards from autos, and subsequent “rules of the road.” (Photo above courtesy Sockeye Cycles).
Be mindful of the fact that although Sockeye Cycles does mention tour availability for kids 10 and up, that doesn’t mean younger kids are excluded from the fun. On the contrary, bike trailers and those aforementioned Tag-alongs provide parents of the littlest members a chance to be part of the action without sacrificing safety. This, folks, is how we like to see family vacations!
Sockeye Cycles has plenty to offer the bigger kids, too. With daylong and multi-day trips that truly provide an Alaskan wilderness adventure, combo tours can include everything from a train ride via the famous White Pass Yukon RR to canoeing the Yukon river. Their website lists every trip, tour, and rental option available, with a very responsive staff ready to answer questions about rides, equipment, and the surrounding landscape.
On a cruise? Check with the shore excursion desk and see if an Alaska Bicycle Tours/Sockeye Cycle tour is available. If not, consider renting a bike and exploring on your own, the scenery and solitude might just be worth it.
Bicycling the historic grounds of our nation’s gold rush. Truly, it’s a gateway to family fun and fitness while on vacation. Nice. Very, very nice.
If You Go:
Sockeye Cycles is located at 381 5th Avenue in Skagway. 877-292-4154, firstname.lastname@example.org, and in Haines at 24 Portage Street. (Same contact info).
Bike rentals include Trek and Specialized brands, with Tag-along and trailer options for infants, toddlers, and pre-riders. Kids’ bikes start at 24”.
Prices average $82/adult, $62/child for Skagway’s Rainforest Tour and the Haines Glacial Fjord Tour, but include bike, helmet, rain gear, gloves, and a knowledgable guide.
Bike rentals for self-guided riding average $16/2 hrs, $26/4 hrs, and include all the above-mentioned equipment. A trailer rents for $21/day, and a Tag-along is $16 with bike rental.
Ask staff for a comprehensive map of the Skagway or Haines area before heading out, keeping in mind every rider’s capabilities. Take snacks and water, and remember to stop and smell the roses, er, fireweed, every so often.