Hyder, Alaska: Visit ” America’s Friendliest Ghost Town”

Last Updated on December 11, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay

Everything you need to know about why you should visit Hyder, how to get there and where to camp. 

There are three reasons to visit Hyder, Alaska – so we were told.

Having never heard of Hyder before planning to drive to Alaska, we were amused at what the man had to say. 

First, you’ve never had any better or fresher halibut sandwich than what you’ll be served at The Bus.

He then proceeded to tell us about The Bus and how the fish is caught fresh daily and served until it’s sold out. 

Second, spend time watching the brown and black bears catch and devour salmon in the river. You can practically do this from your car, he said. 

Finally, drive out to Salmon Glacier – the fifth largest glacier in Canada (yes, the borders are a little grey in this part of the world) and one of the closest that you can drive to. 

The seeds were planted. So as part of our return trip from our journey to the top of the world, we decided we would make the detour off the Cassiar Highway to visit Hyder. 

Here is what we found.

Reasons to Visit Hyder Alaska

Hyder itself is rather proudly considered a ghost town. In fact, according to a sign on the way out of town, it is the friendliest ghost town in Alaska. 

That said, it was once a booming town of several hundred during the 1920s.

Like much mining in the northern latitudes, this industry eventually went bust and Hyder residents have now dwindled down to a population around 70 – depending on whether it is summer or winter. 

As the southernmost and easternmost town in Alaska, this small town has interesting geography.

In fact to visit Hyder when driving you actually go through hours of British Columbia.

Map from Meziadin junction to Hyder
A short detour from the Cassiar Highway to visit Hyder, Alaska

You’ll enter the Canadian town of Stewart, British Columbia and actually drive into Hyder without passing through US customs (though be warned, there is a Canadian customs office on your way to the Canadian border). 

For that reason alone it is worth a wander to visit. 

But here is what we found to be the top 3 reasons to visit Hyder, Alaska. 

1) The Bus DOES serve the best, freshest halibut sandwich in Alaska

We arrived in Stewart around 5 PM. After filling up with fuel we checked to see what time The Bus closed.

Our phones told us 7 PM. But it didn’t tell us when The Bus sold out of halibut – which is the true closing time. 

Because we lacked that information we drove the short 4-minute road into Hyder and found The Bus to be everything we thought it would be: Big, brightly painted and welcoming. 

However, we didn’t expect the sign to read “sold out.”

Disappointed as we were, we decided to walk around and snap a few photos.

After an hour (albeit incredibly scenic) detour from the Cassiar Highway if we couldn’t eat a fresh fish sandwich we would at least take pictures and pretend that we did. 

As we were doing this we overheard a man talking about how they were out of fish and he wasn’t sure when he would get any more.

His first mate was incapacitated indefinitely and he wasn’t permitted to fish by himself (wife rules). 

At that, my ears perked up. I approached the man, who I would come to know as Jim, and offered to sit on the boat so he could do his fishing – that is, if his wife would allow. 

“You mean you want to go fishing,” he asked as excited as a grown man can be. 

“I mean if you want to call it that,” I responded taken aback at the invitation to go fishing.

I wasn’t really sure what fishing meant since I knew halibut was caught in the deepest depths of some really cold water. 

But I paid for a commercial fishing license, making me an official first mate, and met Jim at the dock the next morning. 

You can read the full story of our adventure here

But long story short, by the next evening we had the best, freshest halibut sandwich in all of Alaska. 

Note: While we can’t guarantee that Jim and his wonderful wife Diana can offer the same fishing experience, we can say that they will treat you better than any human beings you have met.

That alone, should you find yourself lacking a halibut sandwich, is reason enough to visit Hyder. 

The bus in Hyder, Alaska
The Bus is pretty easy to recognize

2) Black Bears DO enjoy a tasty snack of salmon 

Just outside of town, on the way to Salmon Glacier, the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site invites you to park and wander along the platform along the water’s edge to wait for brown and black bears to sneak out of the woods to snatch up a few fresh pink salmon.

You can hang out in the parking lot and stand a fairly decent chance of sighting a bear from there in their natural habitat.

But if you visit the fish creek bridge observation site they will show you the log of exactly what they have seen each day, when they saw it and make no promises you’ll see the same.

For a few dollar donation you can enter the Fish Creek Wildlife observation site’s gates and spend as much time as you would like waiting and watching for bears.

You are even granted return access throughout the day if you wanted to wander off somewhere else to explore and then return.

Some visitors claim to have seen dozens of black bears feeding on hundreds of chum salmon out of fish creek.

We saw exactly ZERO.

But that didn’t deter us from clutching our cans of bear spray tightly as though we were walking through one of those Halloween horror houses where the next step might end in bear surprises.

No doubt it is worth the donation – bear or no bear – because they do great work in monitoring and collecting data on all of the wildlife action in the area. 

READ MORE: Plan these awesome things to do in Seward, Alaska!

3) The drive to Salmon Glacier is pretty spectacular

Further down the road – and I mean THE road because there really is only one – you will begin your trek toward the famous Salmon Glacier.

The road inclines relatively quickly and fades from asphalt to dirt even faster.

But the scenery is spectacular as you drive.

Every now and then you’ll see Salmon glacier reflecting sunlight through the driver’s side window.

And, unofficially of course, you’ll cross between the Alaska and Canadian border a handful of times (no customs agents waiting).

There are several pull-offs along the way where you can stop and enjoy the view and whatever might be left of your halibut sandwich.

We, unfortunately, did not make the entire drive. The road became too steep for our poor truck to climb with all of the weight of our camper bearing down.

But despite our failure, we have friends who have promised us that this truly is one of the best glaciers to see in all of British Columbia and Alaska.

And if you’ve come this far, why not go all the way to see for yourself? 

Truck in front of glacier in Hyder AK
Another spectacular glacier on the way to visit Hyder, Alaska

Hyder Visitor’s Guide

Getting to Hyder From the Cassiar Highway

Hyder is a pretty simple place. The road leading into Stewart from the Cassiar Highway will begin at Meziadin Junction.

It is right around 40 miles, or 1-hour driving (unless you stop at the glacier on the lefthand side of the road, as we did, and stand in awe for another hour or so) and your path will take you through Stewart.

If you need anything (aside from a halibut sandwich and a bear or glacier sighting) be sure to stop in Stewart.

Even those few people that live in Hyder dare the border crossing to do simple things like shop for groceries and fill up on fuel. 

READ MORE: Plan your RV trip to Alaska with our Ultimate Guide to Alaska!

Camping In Hyder

There are a handful of places to camp in Stewart if you’re looking to stay on the Canadian side of the border.

However, we decided that we wanted to boondock in a few places recommended on our iOverlander App, so we camped in Hyder. 

You can camp virtually anywhere. And you’re more likely to be troubled by a curious grizzly than a Hyder native about where you park.

But out of respect for the area, please don’t overnight camp on the pier. It’s a great place to catch whatever part of the sun will set at the time of year you are visiting.

But it’s also officially off-limits for camping and this guy, in particular, would appreciate you respecting that. 

We actually pulled off on the side of the road before the Fish Creek Wildlife Observatory Site and fell asleep to the sound of eagles in the trees above.

Another night we camped at The Bus (with Jim and Diana’s permission, of course).

And a third night we camped in one of 2 formal campgrounds in Hyder (where you pay for a shower in Canadian currency).

Camp Run-A-Muck was just about that, but had the hot shower we craved after a long and dirty day of halibut fishing in the Portland Canal.

READ MORE: How to camp in Alaska for less than $10/day!

If you’d like to get out of your RV for a night, or don’t want to worry about a grizzly joining your cuddle in your tent, the Sealaska Hotel is your best bet for a good night’s sleep.

It’s also a friendly place to have a cocktail and some bar munchies.

This is your quintessential small Alaskan town, so be sure to talk with whoever is the bartender and get caught up in some great storytelling about the area. 

Truck camper park under the Visit Hyder, Alaska welcome sign
Welcome to Hyder, Alaska!

At the end of the Day: Visit Hyder

At the end of the day, a trip to visit Hyder is well worth the 2-hr roundtrip detour from the Cassiar Highway.

If you’ve made it that far – either driving up from or down to the Lower 48 – then these two hours will feel like a few blinks of your eyelids. 

Be certain that you’ll quickly be enchanted by the friendliest ghost town in Alaska.

And if Jim and Diana have fish for the fryer, you won’t have a better-tasting halibut sandwich in all of Alaska. 

Depending on your route, we’d recommend that you make this the final stop in your Alaska road trip as you head south along the Cassiar Highway.

You’re going to want to leave Alaska with a great taste in your mouth for the hospitality you’ll experience throughout the small town. 

Strike up a conversation with Jim, or make friends with one of the other few dozen residents, and find your own Hyder adventure.

Hanging with Jim and diana
We LOVE Jim and Diana and know you will too!

Whatever you do – enjoy the friendliest ghost town in Alaska and be sure to let Jim and Diana know we sent you!     

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