Juneau, Alaska is a popular cruise destination on the stunning Alaska Inside Passage route. Alaska’s capital city is only accessible by sea or air.
This picturesque port of call waits to be explored. If you are heading out of town to see some of the sights in the area, this is bear country. Read about bear safety.
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Top things to do in Juneau Alaska
1. Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier is located in the Tongrass National Forest and is spectacular.
How do you get to Mendenhall Glacier?
You can take a cruise ship shore excursion, use public transportation, book tours available at the pier, hire a taxi or take the Glacier shuttle.
The shuttle costs about $45 per person and is first come, first served. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes when cruise ships are in port.
Round trip taxi service is available. If you use a taxi, establish a rate before heading off to the glacier.
We hired a taxi for the four of us and found it less expensive than paying for a tour.
We learned a lot of interesting local Indigenous history from the our Tlingit driver.
Another option is the combo tour offering the Red Trolley Tour of downtown Juneau and Blue Blue Bus to Mendenhall Glacier.
What can you see at Mendenhall Glacier?
The Moraine Ecology Trail is most easily accessed from the paved Steep Creek Trail near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. The easy trail is well worth the time and effort.
We saw a bear in a tree, large salmon swimming along the Steep Creek Fish and Bear Viewing platforms, along with Sandhill Cranes, herons and other birds. On the trail, a park ranger is on hand to answer questions.
The Mendenhall Glacier descends from the Juneau Ice Field into Mendenhall Lake. Cool, icy breezes blow off the lake. A nearby waterfall tumbles down the mountain into the lake.
Where is the Mendenhall Ice Caves?
The Mendenhall Ice Caves melted and no longer exist at the present time. The caves only live on through the stunning images on the internet.
Smaller ice caves can appear but these are very unstable and dangerous.
Why is glacier ice blue?
I always ask this question and always forget the answer. Here is the scientific reason why.
Glaciers can appear icy white or icy blue due to the light it absorbs, transmits and scatters. If the light travels a long distance through the ice it appears more blue.
2. Waterfall at Menenhall Glacier
Nugget Falls is a short walk from the Mendenhall Visitor’s Centre.
3. Mount Roberts Tramway
Mount Roberts tramway provides sweeping views of snow-capped mountains, city, Admiralty Island and Gastineau Channel.
The tram takes visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Robert to experience the rainforest, cultural heritage, hiking trails and shopping in the gift shop.
Catch the tram outside the main cruise terminal.
4. The Famous Red Dog Saloon
The Red Dog Saloon is a well-known place to check out. The lively atmosphere hits you as soon as you walk through the swinging doors and onto the sawdust covered floor.
Find a table, sit back and enjoy a few old songs played on the upright piano. Take a look around at the decor of furs, guns and antiques.
Legendary American lawman, Wyatt Earp’s gun is displayed behind the bar.
The saloon has a gift store where you can purchase t-shirts and other items stamped with their logo.
5. Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure – Tongass National Forest is home to Glacier Gardens rainforest adventure.
Learn about the southeastern Alaska’s temperate rainforest while walking through a botanical garden of unique upside down hanging baskets known as “Flower Towers”.
The grounds also offer waterfalls, ponds and panoramic views of the surrounding inlets.
Steve Bowhay came up with the “Flowers Towers” idea after he turned a landscaping equipment disaster into a beautiful opportunity.
Frustrated by the mishap, he picked up a large tree with the equipment and flung it into the air. The tree landed upside down into the soft mud.
With the tree’s root ball now suspended in the air, Bowhay imagined the hanging roots looked like hanging vines of a petunia.
Every year about 30 blooming “Flower Towers” come to life. Each tower has 75-100 flowering plants growing at the top of the uprooted trees in the root ball bed of moss and soil.
The gardens are about 10 minutes from the cruise ship terminal.
6. Whale Watching
Whale Watching excursions offer a chance to view humpback whales, migrating gray whales and orcas. Some tours offer a combination of land wildlife viewing and an ocean experience.
7. Juneau Walking Tour
Take a walking tour of downtown Juneau. Here is a map. You will want a photo of the life size Breaching Whale Statue in dancing Fountain located downtown at Mayor Bill Overstreet Park.
Not up for a walk, try the historic city and salmon hatchery tour on the Red Trolley. Check out the combo tour offering the Red Trolley and Blue Blue Bus to Mendenhall Glacier.
8. Dog Sledding Adventure
Dog sled on a glacier. Check with local guides or look for the tours available with your cruise.
9. Drink Local Craft Beer in Juneau
Drink local craft beer made in Alaska. Here are three craft breweries to check out in Juneau.
Alaskan Beer Company is 5 miles from downtown and offers a tasting room with 20 beers on tap.
Barnaby Brewing Company is located in town and offers beer and food options.
Devil’s Club Brewing Company opened by three Juneau locals is withing walking distance of the cruise ships.
Quick Facts about Juneau Alaska
- Juneau became the capital of Alaska in 1906. Get an official guide planner
- The largest temperate rainforest in North America is on Admiralty Island.
- Mendenhall Glacier is almost 13 miles long.
- Mendenhall Ice Caves melted and no longer exist at the present time. The caves only live on through the stunning images on the internet.
- The trek to the Mendenhall Glacier can take up to eight hours.
- Southeastern Alaska has the highest concentration of grizzlies in the world. Peak viewing season is July and August.
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