Port of Call: Juneau

21 10 2012

Mendenhall GlacierPort of Call: Juneau

Juneau is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. The city nestles in a valley, between the Gastineau Channel and the towering Coast Mountains. It is completely land locked by the Juneau Icefield to the east. No roads lead to Juneau, you can only get there by air or sea. Juneau’s proximity to mountains, glaciers, and the ocean offer some unique opportunities for activities. If you have every wanted to stand on a glacier, Juneau is the place to make that dream come true.

The Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau Icefield, the Tongass National Forest, and the Gastineau Channel delight scenery lovers. Adventure lovers can choose from a bounty of choices: kayak in the Channel or on a glacier lake, hike, dogsled, raft, flightsee or fish. History lovers can enjoy the downtown Victorian houses and St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.

The easy accessibility of the Mendenhall Glacier makes it one of the top attractions for Juneau. There is a range of options for experiencing the glacier. The basic experience is to ride a bus to the visitor’s center and view the glacier from the overlook. Adventure lovers have many more options on the glacier; you can hike up to the glacier; you can hike or even ice climb on the glacier; you can kayak in the glacial lake; you can ride a helicopter to land on Mendenhall or one of the other glaciers in the area. The ultimate experiences are a helicopter tour and dog sled ride or flight seeing glaciers in an Alaskan bush plane. If the more exotic adventures call to you, book early or you will be disappointed! They are popular and do fill up.

Orca whales feed in the inside passage from April to November, so you are almost guaranteed seeing a whale on your cruise. Whale watching tours from Juneau range from kayak tours to zodiacs to tour boats. It is possible to combine a tour of the Mendenhall Glacier with a whale watch tour to capture two of the quintessential Juneau experiences.

Gastineau ChannelIf fishing is your passion, your choices include fishing for salmon while enjoying views of the incredible scenery. Commonly seen on boat trips are views of Humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, harbor seals, porcupines, eagles, salmon, or even black bears. (Keep your binoculars handy as the ship cruises into and out of Juneau) For the more adventurous, fly a floatplane to your fishing destination and be rewarded with a lifetime of unforgettable landscapes.

If you find yourself with some extra time before the ship sails, the Mt. Roberts Tramway is an easy walk from the cruise pier. The Tramway will take you to the top of Mt. Roberts, where you can enjoy the extraordinary views of the Chilkat Mountains, Stephens Passage and downtown Juneau. Trams run about every 10 minutes and the ride to the top takes about 6 minutes.

Outdoor adventure choices are almost too many to list, ride the tram to the top of Mt. Roberts and ride a bike down, hike a glacier, raft, kayak, or fish. Since there is so much to see and do in Juneau, you will probably want a combination tour. The problem is deciding what to leave behind!


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