The Mendenhall Glacier probably ranks as the standout attraction to see when visiting Alaska’s capital city of Juneau. A massive sheet of ice that cascades its way along twelve miles of valley floor before plunging into a beautifully clear lake, the Mendenhall Glacier Juneau is genuinely a sight to behold. Whether you’re a nature-lover, a budding photographer, or simply a tourist who likes to explore the sights, a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier is a must while visiting this part of America.
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau Alaska
The Mendenhall Glacier is found only fifteen minutes' drive from downtown Juneau, which makes it an easily accessible day trip out. Getting there normally involves one of four options: renting a car and driving, taking the tram, jumping on the designated blue Glacier Express bus that runs regular trips throughout the day, or joining a tour. The last option is particularly common thanks to the many cruises that disembark at Juneau for a day or longer. Cruise passengers either join the cruise line’s tour to the Mendenhall Glacier or sign up to an independent tour once their ship has reached the Juneau cruise dock. There are a handful of stalls set up by tour operators at the dock, so buying a ticket is not a difficult process.
Once at the Mendenhall Glacier Juneau, guided tours will provide you with an informed perspective on this astounding natural phenomenon. That’s not to say joining a tour around the Mendenhall Glacier is crucial, however, as there’s also an informative visitors center should you wish to learn about the glacier at your own pace. The paths around the glacier are also clearly marked, which means you don’t have to be part of a group to enjoy walking around this breathtaking natural phenomenon.
These paths that cut around the Mendenhall Glacier Juneau don’t actually cross the glacier itself—walking on ice is, as the phrase suggests, a little precarious! Instead they traverse the mountainside next to it, offering endlessly scenic views as they rise up the valley sides. The shortest walk here is well under a mile, and that links the parking lot to the glacier edge; from here you can take any number of trails that extend up to six miles and take in two waterfalls as they go. These walks are probably best enjoyed during the summer months, when the weather is at its warmest and visibility at its clearest, although the glacier remains open to visitors all year round.
If you really fancy doing a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier in style, it’s possible to book a helicopter tour, which will give you a memorable bird’s eye view of the sheet of ice. These aren’t the cheapest way to experience the glacier, but they are one of the more exciting! And keep in mind that the glacier itself isn’t the only attraction in Juneau: This area of Alaska is also known for its black bear population, and visitors here more than often get to steal a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.