Set 2,000 feet (610 meters) above Downtown Juneau, the 1,500-square-mile (3,885-square-kilometer) Juneau Icefield is the fifth largest in North America and feeds 38 major glaciers, including Mendenhall Glacier. Visitors come from around the world to trek on the 3,000-year-old icefield itself or tour one of its many glaciers.
A vast majority of visitors who step foot on the icefield do so as part of a helicopter tour from Juneau. A typical helicopter flight takes visitors above the icefield for a landing on one of several different glaciers and a guided walk on the surface of the ice. Those with an interest in Alaskan dog sledding can combine a helicopter tour of the Juneau Icefield with a dog sled ride from a camp on secluded Herbert Glacier.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Juneau Icefield is a must-visit for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Dress in warm layers; it’s much colder out on the ice than it is in Juneau.
- Opt for a basic glacier landing, or upgrade to a dog sledding experience.
- Most helicopter tours include round-trip transportation from Juneau.
- Some helicopter tours are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
While situated only a stone’s throw from Juneau, it takes an airplane or helicopter ride to access the icefield itself. The only safe way of getting there is by booking a guided tour.
When to Get There
The best time to visit the icefield, as well as Juneau’s other outdoor attractions, is from May to August when days are long and relatively warm. Crowds on the icefield are never really a problem, but you’ll find a much quieter Juneau if you bundle up and visit during the offseason (September to April).
Going, Going … Gone?
The Juneau Icefield and the glaciers it feeds have been retreating since the 1700s. Experts studying the ice sheets of Alaska predict that if current global warming trends continue, the Juneau Icefield will be half its current size by the end of this century and will disappear entirely by the end of the next.