Southeastern Alaska is a masterpiece of nature where the Pacific Ocean meets a rugged coastline covered in mountains and glaciers. The Juneau Icefield is a 1,500 square mile block of 38 interconnected glaciers, an overwhelming mass of white and crystal blue icy ridges and valleys. One of the gateways to this magical world is the Mendenhall Glacier, located only 13 miles from downtown Juneau. It’s an easy trip to make from the city, offering tourists an experience that’s once-in-a-lifetime. whale watching juneau alaska
It’s a common misconception that glaciers are just massive stationary blocks of solid ice. They are in fact powerful frozen rivers that can move as fast as a few feet per day. In a region full of rivers that lead to fjords along the Pacific, the icefield is the source of these frozen rivers. Their incredible force gives them the power to reshape the actual landscape, flattening mountains, carving out valleys, and filling lakes. Their surface may be white as snow, but their interior is a deep crystal blue color, visible when peering into crevasses or when the end of the glacier calves, dropping massive blocks of ice into the lake created by the melting glacier. On a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier it’s possible to trek across this ice and peer into these icy deep crevasses.
Surrounding the ice is a network of hiking trails, allowing for different views of the glacier and amazing photo opportunities. It’s possible to take tours that bring visitors to the glacier lookout point to take in its majesty and then return to Juneau in time to set off on a Humpback Whale and Orca watching boat trip. One of the most popular ways to visit Mendenhall Glacier however is a helicopter trip. This offers the chance to fly over the ice, which demonstrates the otherwise incomprehensible scale of the glacier, before landing and trekking across the ice for up to an hour or two. Walking across the ice is an unforgettable way of truly soaking in the atmosphere of that fantastical world.
To get to Juneau tourists must arrive by either air or ferry. Once they arrive they are minutes away from some of the most amazing natural scenery in the world.