No visit to Juneau is complete without a close-up look at the Mendenhall Glacier — one of Alaska’s most popular attractions. The 13-mile-long (19 km) glacier ends at Mendenhall Lake and is easily viewed from the historic Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. On a sunny day the glacier is beautiful, with blue skies and snow-capped mountains in the background. On a cloudy and drizzly afternoon, the glacier is even more impressive, as the ice turns shades of deep blue.
Near the face of the glacier is the visitor center, which houses various exhibits including a large map of the Juneau Ice Field, an observatory with telescopes, and a theater that shows a film about the glacier every 20 minutes.
- If you plan on walking, dress accordingly and be prepared for changing weather conditions.
- Those visiting by cruise ship can take a tour of Mendenhall Glacier as a shore excursion.
- No food or drink other than water is allowed from May through September, due to bear activity.
- Look for Nugget Falls, a salmon-viewing platform overlooking Steep Creek, and for six hiking trails of varying difficulty.
How to Get to Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier is located about 12 miles (19 km) outside of downtown Juneau, at the head of Glacier Spur Road. You can reach the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center by taxi, car, or bus.
Note that the city bus drops visitors a mile and a half from the visitor center so plan accordingly.
When to Get There
From May through September, the visitor center is open daily between 8am and 7:30pm. October through April, it’s open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. The trails and outdoor areas are open all year.
Mendenhall for Adventurers
If you’re visiting Alaska, chances are high you’ve already got a bit of the adventurous spirit. There are many glacier tours catering to adrenaline junkies and nature lovers. Opt for a combo that includes a whale watching tour, a hike along the glacier, and a salmon bake; paddle down the river to the glacier from Juneau by raft, kayak, or canoe; or embark on a guided adventure tour that includes hiking or ice exploration.