Mendenhall Glacier

Visiting Mendenhall Glacier: 7 Things You Need To Know

No visit to Juneau is complete without a close-up look at the Mendenhall Glacier. It’s not every day you get to see a glacier up close and personal – this is what makes Mendenhall Glacier so rare.

From helicopters, kayaking, and walking tours, the glacier can be explored in many ways. Here’s all the info you need to know to visit this incredible sight…

Visiting Mendenhall Glacier: Things You Need To Know

1. What’s so special about Mendenhall Glacier?

Unfortunately, because of climate change, glaciers in the world are receding and Mendenhall is a clear sign of this. The high melt rate has thinned the Mendenhall Glacier and subsequently reduced the elevation of the ice dam and the size of the lake. It’s not going anywhere that fast but its definitely something that should be seen.

Over 2.5kmwide and stretching 19km in length, Mendenhall is truly a magnificent sight, the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area is comprised of 5,815 acres. The glacier itself was originally known as Sitaantaago meaning ‘The Glacier Behind The Town’. It was renamed in 1891 in honour of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, the famous American physicist, and meteorologist.

2. How do I get there?

Located just 12 miles outside of Juneau it is easily accessible by bus which you can get from downtown for $30 roundtrip or you can take a taxi will cost you around $35 one-way.

3. How much will it cost?

Admission and entrance to the visitor’s center are $5 per person aged 16 and over.

4. How long will it take?

If you just plan on viewing the glacier it can be seen from the car park. This won’t take much time.

You can hike the boardwalk trail across the creek and onto the shores of the lake, walking back along the sand to the car park. This takes between 45 minutes to an hour.

If you want to hike one of their many trails, Nugget Falls is the most popular, it takes about an hour and a half to walk leisurely on the trail. Other trails include; Steep Creek, The Trail of Time, and East Glacier trail (for more advanced hikers takes about 3 hours).

5. When is the best time to go?

The best time to visit is May through October.

6. Where will I get the best photos?

  1. The beach at Mendenhall Lake
  2. Nugget Falls
  3. Tracy Arm Fjord

7. Any insider tips?

  1. Wear warm clothes.
  2. If you want to see a black bear during mid-July and end of August are your best chances of catching a glimpse!
  3. If you want to splash out, excursion operators offer a combination of whale watching and the glacier for $150 per person. A Mendenhall Lake kayaking excursion with views of the falls costs $220 per person.

Photo Cred: trevor_wert

Siobhan McKenny