Stewart is an eclectic, remote border town with a population of approximately 400 people. Established in 1905, the community has a rich history of mining and exploration. Stewart is named after the Stewart brothers, early prospectors in the area.
Stewart sits on the Alaskan border, immediately next to the even smaller American town of Hyder (bring your passport). Stewart is at the tip of the Portland Canal, a passage that stretches 114 km (71 mi) to the Pacific Ocean. The towns are dominated by the nature that surrounds them, including the American Misty Fjords National Park mountains, just across the canal.
The community is just a few blocks, but the main street is lined with colourfully restored historic buildings and has big personality. Visitors can choose from a handful of quirky restaurants.
While Stewart is off the beaten track, the drive here is a big reason to come. When the snowpack is melting, waterfalls line the Glacier Highway (Highway 37A). One of the most prominent sites to see is the Bear Glacier, just 27 km south of Stewart. The glacier can be seen from Highway 37A. Prior to 1940, the Bear Glacier touched the highway but has since receded. You can feel the cold emanating from snow when you stand in front of the toe of the Bear Glacier.
A larger glacier is north of Stewart. The Salmon Glacier is the largest road-accessible glacier in the world. Cross the US border into Hyder and drive 37 kms along the gravel Granduc Mine Road. The viewing point on the road is wide open.
In addition to glaciers, people from around the world travel to Stewart for bears. From mid-July to mid-September, the town comes alive with American and European tourists driving and camping in RVs, keen to see Grizzlies and black bears up close. These huge animals often walk through the streets without much concern.
For great photos, walk along the viewing platform at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site 5 kms past Hyder. Watch as Grizzlies and black bears catch and eat Pink and Chum salmon in Fish Creek below.
August is the busiest month of the year in Stewart. The second week of August, the town hosts the Bear Arts Festival. Events include music shows, nature hikes, children’s games and a photography contest.
In summertime, aim to get out on the ocean to catch salmon, halibut and crab. There’s a public dock if you have your own boat or book a trip with a local fishing charter. Another option is to take an aerial tour of the area with and fly over Alaska and the Salmon and Frank Mackie Glaciers.
The area has several hikes with spectacular views of the Portland Canal below including Barney’s Gulch, United Empire and Titan trails. Year-round, be sure to take a stroll along the 278-foot long estuary boardwalk above Stewart’s tidal flats. Or for some local mining and community history, head to the Stewart Museum.
Winters are slower in Stewart; many restaurants and businesses close for the season, but the town’s dense coastal snowpack still attracts snowmobilers and back-country skiers. Heli-skiing is another winter activity. At 10,100 square kilometres, the local heli-skiing area is about four times the average size of a BC heliski area.