Mendenhall Glacier is by far the most iconic and popular attraction in Juneau, and for good reason. Mendenhall Glacier is only about 12 miles from downtown Juneau, which makes it one of the most accessible in the entire state. You can even get there by bike – with miles of relatively flat and easy trails between our hotel and the glacier. The glacier is part of the Tongass National Forest and is one of many in the Juneau Icefield, which altogether encompasses a massive 1,500 square miles.
While you explore the Mendenhall Glacier and other aspects of Alaska’s capital city, the Silverbow Inn would be honored to be your home away from home. We offer 12 contemporary guest rooms in the heart of downtown Juneau, putting you within easy reach of the city’s top attractions. From here, you can enjoy the area’s top museums, restaurants, and shops, while still being just minutes from some of the area’s best hiking trails.
With far fewer crowds in Juneau than usual this summer, it’s the perfect time to explore this incredible city, and we’d love to be the ones to show it to you. Book your room at our Juneau hotel today!
7 Things to do at Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier is a massive, 13-mile long river of ice. It originates high in the coastal mountains in the Juneau Icefield and terminates at Mendenhall Lake, which was formed by the glacial retreat of the early 1900s. Blue icebergs float in Mendenhall Lake as they break off the glacier, reminding us of the constant and natural process of change. Mendenhall Glacier offers visitors the rare chance to get close to one of these massive remnants of the last ice age.
There’s plenty to do in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. A great place to start is at the Visitor Center, which includes a number of state-of-the-art exhibits, along with a 15-minute film that offers a brief overview of the environmental factors at play here in the Tongass National Forest. Beyond just gazing at this massive field of ice from the Visitor Center, here are a few things to do in the Mendenhall Glacier area:
- Walk 1/3 of a mile on the Photo Trail to snap some of the most iconic and unobstructed photos of Mendenhall Glacier.
- Take 1 or more of the hikes that leave from the Visitor Center, including the Trail of Time, which shows the impact glacial movement has on the surrounding environment. The Steep Creek Trail gives you one of the best opportunities to see bears, especially while they fish for spawning salmon. Other hiking trails around Mendenhall Glacier include the East Glacier Loop, which is a slightly more difficult hike in the area but offers beautiful views of the forest and waterfalls in the area. Experienced hikers won’t want to miss the West Glacier Trail, which is the only one that offers access to the ice itself.
- Wildlife is common in the area, too. Visitors often report seeing black bears, porcupines, beavers, bald eagles, and seasonally returning arctic terns, waterfowl, and sockeye and Coho salmon.
- Take the short hike to Nugget Falls, which is a beautiful waterfall at the base of Mendenhall Glacier. The view of the 377-foot waterfall with the glacier in the background is breathtaking – and it is as close as you can get to the glacier short of taking a tour to actually walk on it.
- One of the most amazing ways to experience this area is via kayak on Mendenhall Lake. Unfortunately, kayak rentals and tours in the area, usually offered by Alaska Boat & Kayak Rental Shop, are closed for the 2020 season. They’ll be back in 2021, though, again offering this unbelievable once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
- You can also experience Mendenhall Glacier from the air via a helicopter tour. This is an incredible way to see the deep crevasses and meltwater pools of the glacier and to just generally appreciate the incredible beauty of this place. You can even enjoy guided ice walks and dog-sledding adventures from these same tours.
- Take a guided hiking tour on Mendenhall Glacier itself, which includes the chance to walk in other-worldly ice caves. Again, many of these tours have been canceled for the 2020 season, but they are currently taking reservations for the 2021 season ahead.
Stay at the Best Hotel in Juneau
While a visit to Mendenhall Glacier is a “must” while you’re in Juneau, there are so many more things to do and places to explore. Give yourself plenty of time to experience this incredible town by staying with us at the Silverbow Inn. Our hotel is located in the heart of downtown Juneau and offers a welcome respite after a long day of adventure. Our hotel offers a delightful range of amenities, including breakfast every morning of your stay, and a rooftop hot tub to unwind in anytime you desire. Book your room at our incredible Juneau hotel today!