Glacier hiking is a surreal experience. You’ll never forget the satisfying crunch of ever-shifting ice underneath your crampons or the giddy feeling of drinking 100-year-old water from a glacial waterfall. Hands down, hiking a glacier is a must-do excursion in Alaska.
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Luckily for people who work in Juneau, there are multiple glacier hikes within day-trip range. Exploring glaciers alone can be dangerous for the inexperienced, and there are plenty of tour guides who take visitors on safe paths year-round.
If you want to hike up to the glacier but not adventure onto its surface (which requires technical knowledge, an ice axe, crampons and a helmet) then you don’t need a guide. For the more adventurous type who want that opportunity, we recommend going with an experienced guide, friend or experienced coworker for your first few glacier hikes.
Regardless if you want to go gallivanting across Alaska’s great glaciers or hike up to their base for a jaw-dropping photo, the hikes near Juneau can offer you options. Here are four hikes we recommend experiencing during your time off!
East Glacier Trail
East Glacier trail is among the most-frequented hikes near Juneau because it’s close to the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center, which is where cruise ships guests disembark. However, the throngs of tourists who cram at the Mendenhall base rarely venture into the lush hills above the visitor center, giving hikers a respite and opportunity to enjoy nature as it’s intended.
East Glacier is home to an astonishing diversity of fauna and flora, multiple ecosystems and panoramic views that leave you nearly breathless in amazement. Because the glacial hills are a forest, you’ll also encounter remarkable flowering plants and mushrooms that offer a dazzling assortment of unexpected colors. This ripe plant life also attracts a high concentration of black bears between April and November, so keep alert during your journey. The National Park Service has great advice about bear safety.
Nugget Creek Trail
To access Nugget Creek trail, you first must hike the initial part of East Glacier trail. After about 1.5 miles, you can hear the cascading thunder of Nugget Falls, and you’ll stumble on an intersection that twists along nugget creek toward the valley carved by Nugget Glacier. Divert your trek to this path and enjoy the smooth, relaxing flow of the gurgling Nugget Creek as it winds its way through the valley.
This hike is among Juneau’s less-traveled trails and offers crisp swimming holes in the summer and fabulous winter skiing.
If you’re looking for a strenuous hike that offers a little bit of everything Alaska, then McGinnis trail is your best option. The hike lets you explore a rainforest, alpine meadows and remarkable dramatic peaks. You can also find views of Mendenhall glacier and the Chilkat Mountains.
If you love fresh fruit, we recommend picking up an Alaska wilderness survival guide before you start your hike; McGinnis trail offers some of the best berry foragings near Juneau. The area has a high density of highbush blueberries, salmon berries, watermelon berries, bunchberries and alpine blueberries.
Herbert Glacier Trail
Herbert Trail is a popular four-mile hike among Juneau locals that winds through an older growth forest, but you can’t easily get access to the ice. Despite that drawback, Herbert is the easiest and most versatile glacier hikes in the area. It has a low-impact gravel trail that is enjoyable by all skill levels of hikers and bikers. In the winter, the trail is popular for people who enjoy snowshoeing and skiing.
Are you ready to get started and go explore the glaciers near Juneau? The first step is to browse our current job openings and seize the opportunity of a lifetime!