As locals say, when you're in Alaska, you don't have to go very far to get to Alaska. What they mean is that even when you are in a city, the wilderness is never far away. Within minutes of Juneau and other southeast Alaska communities on cruise-ship routes, the temperate rain forest awaits. Go with a guide, or just set out on your own.
Pacific Catalyst. It's fitting that the 74-foot Catalyst began its life in 1932 as an oceanographic research vessel for the University of Washington. You might say it's still gathering data, only today it does so for 10 passengers at a time. Highlights of the beautifully appointed wood ship's Frederick Sound excursion include hiking in the rain forests of the bear-free Brothers Islands off the southeastern edge of Admiralty Island. Trips begin in Petersburg or Juneau, run from May through August, and include all meals, use of kayaks and fishing gear, and interpretation by an onboard naturalist. $2,500 for eightday trip. (800) 320-2793.
Boat Company. Two converted World War II minesweepers are used for intimate trips that focus on southeast Alaska's rain forest ecology but also include plenty of time for halibut and salmon fishing and canoeing. Passengers have a large say in the day's itinerary, and the food is uniformly good. Most trips begin in Juneau or Sitka and run from May through September. 53,100 for six-day trip, $4,475 for nine-day. (360) 697-5454.
Alaska Discovery. The oldest wilderness guiding company in Alaska leads several kayaking-and-camping trips from Juneau. A floatplane takes you to Admiralty Island National Monument, which contains one of the largest intact tracts of old-growth rain forest. …