Who wants to do what every other tourist does? Boring. There’s nothing better than having the inside scoop on what to explore in a new city. And, when in Juneau, the trails are the true secrets.
Juneau is a wonderland for nature dwellers, with hiking trails to please everyone. We’re sharing our favorite off-the-beaten-path adventures to add to your Juneau itinerary so you can experience our amazing city just like a local.
6 Secret Hiking Trails in Juneau
The Treadwell Ditch Trail
Nestled in the striking Tongass Forest is the Treadwell Ditch Trail. This trail used to be one long ditch that supplied water to an old mine. Ditches may not sound all that exciting and romantic, but this one sure is. Surrounded by a majestic old-growth rainforest that narrates the history of Juneau, this now ditch-turned-14-mile trail is something we Juneau locals adore.
Why? First, the trail is straightforward and pretty flat, making it approachable to everyone. Second, it’s gorgeous, with lush greenery, idyllic streams, and even bridges to see on your walk. And, most importantly, you can walk through the fascinating history of Juneau’s Treadwell mine, seeing the ruins at Douglas Island.
Last Chance Mining Museum & Perseverance Trail
This may not sound like a trail or hike. But, in a natural wonderland like Juneau, beautiful trails are part of the deal.
Keeping on the mining theme, the Last Chance Mining Museum offers a very unique experience. You can peruse the museum to explore the history of the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining company and even check out one of the world’s largest air compressors (we aren’t joking).
Once you’re done mining for history, head out to the Perseverance Trail. Now, don’t let the name scare you away – it’s more a reference to the trail’s history than its intensity. This trail led to five different gold mining operations back in the day.
Before that, it was a route indigenous Alaskans traveled to pick berries, hunt goats, and go fishing. So, as you can imagine, this trail is pretty darn beautiful. We’re talking waterfalls, berry bushes, and the occasional old mining artifacts left in the valley.
We adore the Granite Basin, a side trail of Perseverance that leads you 1200 feet up, along gorgeous waterfalls and alpine lakes. With all the water around, it’s best to wear good hiking shoes that will keep your feet nice and dry. No one likes wet socks – yuck.
One local’s secret to know is the Ridge Hike. Many Juneauites head to the Ridge on the weekends for an adventure, with a splash of intensity. Essentially, you are hiking the ridgeline of Mt. Juneau, which has some of the most spectacular views. The Ridge is accessed right from the Perseverance basin. The trail is a long one though – about 13 miles with an incline. So, pack food and water, and – most importantly – make sure you go with folks you like.
Alaska is full of glaciers, and we Alaskans like to keep them secret. But, we’ll let you in on one of our favorites because it’s too special not to experience. That’s the Herbert Glacier.
For Juneau locals, the Herbert Glacier is an excellent place for a Sunday stroll with the fam. It’s gorgeous all year round, giving a different experience each season. No matter the time you visit, the Herbert Glacier Trail is approachable and demands little since there’s minimal incline (unless you want a good view of the glacier, things may get a little bit more tricky).
This arboretum is a gem in Juneau, a natural museum of sorts that celebrates the legacy of Marie Peterson, a German immigrant who began the garden – as far back as 1897 – in a stunning location by the Lynn Canal. The gardening tradition evolved through generations, eventually landing in the hands of cousins who partnered with the city to conserve the area and celebrate these gardens forever.
Fortunately, these wishes came true. The Jensen-Olson Arboretum is a public garden for everyone to enjoy. Of course, this may not be a hike or trail. But, it’s surely walkable and makes for the most picturesque picnic.
The local secret – though – is the primroses. This garden received National Collection status for its genus primula (or primroses for us normal, non-scientific folks). Visit Juneau in the Springtime and you’ll be spoiled with all the luscious colors of this incredible Arboretum.
West Glacier Trail
Warning: this is a difficult hike best suited for hiking junkies.
Want to get a sick view of the Mendenhall Glacier? Then, you need to get moving on the West Glacier Trail. This 3.5-mile hike is a tricky one, but man is it fun. From mild rock climbing to crossing creeks, it’s quite an adventure. We suggest getting a guide if it’s your first time so that you can safely make it to the glacier overlook.
What’s also epic about this trail is that it can lead you to the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves. It’s like being in a Disney-like winter wonderland. And, if you want a happy ending, get a guide for the caves too. Navigating ice caves isn’t something to do alone.
The Mendenhall Glacier ice caves are a winter-only experience, might we add. So, plan your stay at the Silverbow accordingly…!
Mt Roberts Trail
For one gorgeous panoramic view, you have to hike Mount Roberts. It’s a challenge, sure. But, when you sip a cool beer at the top while overlooking the ocean, Silverbow Basin, and mountains, you’ll forget about the 5-ish mile uphill hike you just accomplished.
Mt Roberts Trail is like our I-5 Interstate – it’s well maintained and visited super often as it gives wicked-fast access to Juneau’s stunning wilderness. Of course, we should mention that people have disappeared on this trail. No, big foot doesn’t live around here. History is to blame. Old mining tunnels still linger below, with old air vents that a person could slip through when not paying attention. But, if you stay on the trail, you will not disappear, we promise.
One of the best perks about this trail is that there is a tram up to and down Mount Roberts. The Goldbelt tram is a classic Juneau experience. It also gets you 1800 feet up higher, after you sip a beer, of course, to get to Gold Peak for an amazing view.
The Goldbelt tram also saves the day if you hike up and then decide you’re ready to head back for a rest at the Silverbow Inn’s rooftop hot tub. Did we mention the Silverbow is a convenient 10-minute walk from the trail?
Planning a trip to Juneau? You seriously cannot miss any of these trails. Beloved by locals, these places are all little secrets we don’t share often. So, take them seriously and add them to your itinerary!