A Visitor’s Guide to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

Traveling in Juneau and hoping to see a glacier? Well you have the chance to! Located about 12 miles from downtown Alaska capital city, Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is a spectacular place that is not to be missed when visiting in Juneau and it’s also one of the more accessible glaciers in America.

This glacier is a relic from the Little Ice Age time, which is about over 3,000 years ago. As the glacier melts, it goes into Mendenhall Lake, which is the blue-colored lake you see in these photos. In Mendenhall Lake, you’ll also see icebergs floating around, which doesn’t look much during the summer at all.

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Lake
Mendenhall Lake with Mendenhall Glacier in the background

To see this glacier, there are many activities around to get the chance to see the glacier. You can go hiking around it, kayaking near it, go inside the ice caves with a guide, take an airplane tour over it or go glacier climbing.

Know before you go: Make sure to book an excursion tour.

If you’re coming from a cruise and stopped by Juneau as a port stop, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make it over to Mendenhall Glacier and to explore it especially since you’re only there for a few hours.

As you get off the cruise ship, there will be so many tour companies lined up offering plenty of tours. This is how I found mine, which basically just includes a shuttle transfer and an interactive tour guide who talks about the history and stories of Juneau.

The tour company I decided to go with is M&M Tours of Juneau using the Glacier Express tour, which costs $47.25 per person. They have other available tours than the one I took, which is basically a blue bus that takes you directly to the glacier (and back) with an informative tour guide to give you the history and facts of Juneau and the glacier.

This is the blue tour bus that I rode in
The Juneau views I saw as the tour bus was driving us to Mendenhall Glacier
Juneau, Alaska
More views I saw through the shuttle bus tour… love this picture I took with my Sony camera!

Depending on the seasons of when you’re visiting Alaska, the availability of tours on certain activities/excursions vary. If you’re planning to visit during wintertime and want more of the glacier experience of climbing and going into ice caves, it is very advisable to book with professional tour guides who can guide you there.

Visiting Mendenhall Glacier

Hiking trails

Since the tour I took just drove us over here, it gave me the freedom to go explore the glacier myself. Of course, you need to be professionally guided to see the glacier up close and personal or to go on it, but there are a few hiking trails you can take around the surrounding areas by this glacier! I did two of the trails and many of these trails are short and easy!!

Recommended trails:

Steep Creek Trail

The first trail I got to experience around Mendenhall Glacier is this one. Steep Creek Trail is a very easy trail. It starts off at the parking lot where the shuttle buses can drop you off at. This trail will take you inside the forests with many opportunities to see the creek flowing underneath these wooden boardwalks. If you’re lucky, you might see salmon in the creek and some bears. There will be some breathtaking viewpoints to see from this trail too. You will need to pay for the $5 permit straight from the parking lot if you plan to go here, if you do not have the $5 day use pass.

Steep Creek Trail near Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska
Views from the Steep Creek Trail
Steep Creek Trail near Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska
Views from the Steep Creek Trail
Steep Creek Trail near Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska

Nugget Falls Trail

This is such a popular trail and it’s going to be obvious as to why if you choose to do this too. This trail has such a powerful waterfall that has the 377-feet Nugget Falls and it flows epicly into Mendenhall Lake. These falls were actually formed as the glacier melted and continues to melt… and so it flows into the pristine blue Mendenhall Lake. Around the trail, you’ll get to walk through trail ways sometimes shaded with trees and towards the end by the falls, you’re led to this sandbar-looking area.

Nugget Falls Trail in Juneau, Alaska
Nugget Falls Trail
Nugget Falls Trail in Juneau, Alaska
Nugget Falls Trail
Nugget Falls Trail in Juneau, Alaska

Visiting the Visitor Center

The visitor center is maintained by the US Forest Service and it requires a day use pass for a $5 fee. This same pass is also good to use for the Pavilion, Photo Print, and Steep Creek Trails. The visitor center is accessible from the parking lot and is handicap-friendly, creating way with an easy ramp. In the visitor center, you can meet with Service Rangers who can answer questions and talk about the landscape. There is a 15-minute film you can watch inside to learn about the glaciers around Tongass National Forest.

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