4. West Glacier Trail, Juneau

If you want to get close to a glacier but can’t fit Seward into your itinerary, Mendenhall Glacier is practically in Juneau’s backyard. The trailhead is minutes away from downtown’s cruise ship terminals, the airport and the state ferry dock. There’s even a city bus stop a mile from the trailhead!

This Juneau hiking trail starts well-defined and not particularly steep with only 250 feet of elevation gain in the one mile it takes to get to the first overlook. Here, you get a beautiful view of the glacier and lake at its base, as well as Nugget Creek Falls on the far side. The first section of the trail is an excellent option for those short on time or not interested in the steeper climb later on. 

hiking in Alaska
Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall Glacier. Photo by Karl Sander

Continue hiking to take in views of Mendenhall Glacier 

If you keep following the West Glacier Trail path, you’ll eventually climb out of the young forest and find yourself following cairns across bare rock. After cresting a rock shoulder, you come right to the edge of the glacier.  When we did this Juneau hiking trip, the air noticeably cooled as we neared the ice. We appreciated the temperature dip as it was a warm afternoon for late May!

You can get right up to the ice and take in the varying shades of white and blue. Keep in mind, extended travel on the glacier is for those with the proper experience (or guides!) and equipment.  Commercial outfits in Juneau offer guided glacier explorations and even the chance to explore ice caves within the glacier!

About the author

Karl Sander

Karl Sander

Skier, hiker, and cyclist in the PNW

Karl is an adventurer and outdoor enthusiast living in the Pacific Northwest, where he enjoys alpine skiing, hiking, road biking, and camping. He’s been skiing for more than 35 years, mainly in the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and Alaska. He’s camped under Alaska’s midnight sun, toured Washington’s San Juan Islands on bicycle, and his hiking adventures have taken him from the foothills of Denali and the glaciers of Alaska to Mount Adams in the Cascades and the high deserts of the Great Basin.

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