Alaska is absolutely stunning. The ocean waters, snow-capped mountains, and glaciers exceeded our expectations. Juneau not only stuns with natural beauty but offers original Gold Rush-era buildings, art galleries, museums, and colorful neighborhoods. The joy of traveling can be the spontaneity of it. However, with busy lives and limited vacation time, planning can be crucial. Here are our top 10 places to visit in Juneau!
1. Mount Roberts
Easily accessible from the port, the active traveler can hike to the top. You may choose to hike back down or take the tram. The Mount Roberts trail will take you through southeastern Alaska rainforest. The Mountain House at the 1,800-foot level is surrounded by sub-alpine ecosystem. Step on the surrounding trails and climb another 300 feet into the true alpine. Scenic viewpoint will be present along the entire journey. Bathrooms will be available at the Mount Roberts Tramway.
The trail system is well-marked. For active hikers, the entire trail is 7.6 miles out and back with 3,733 feet elevation gain. The tramway can cut the hike in half and will take you to 1,800 feet. For hikes that hike up, the tram back to the ship terminal will be free. We were ready to pay for the journey back down, but no one would take our money!
2. Mount Roberts Tramway
Take the tram. It’s a gorgeous view without the work of the hike if that’s your thing! As one of the most vertical tramways in the world, the ride itself it an experience. The tram takes visitors for sea level to 1800 ft elevation as you pass lush rainforest to the top of Mount Roberts. Adults pay $34 for an all day pass. The tramway is located just south of downtown. Look for the big red building on the ship dock.
The Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway opened in 1996, operating May through September. This is the only aerial tram in southeast Alaska and is a great way to soak in a view without expensive seaplane, arduous hike, or helicopter.
3. Whale Watching
Juneau offers many opportunities for whale watching. The majestic giants are spectacular. In Juneau, chances are you will see humpbacks and/or orcas. Many tours will combine whale watching with excursions to Mendenhall Glacier. Tours are not cheap, running at least $100 a person but the whales are spectacular. Also, taking an excursion on a boat in southeast Alaska is a treat in itself. Cruise ships will be sure to offer whale watching tours and tours packages but you will find cheaper tours on the ship deck or booking ahead. We were fortunate to spend a few days in Vancouver, British Columbia where were saw whale at a fraction of the price.
4. Mendenhall Glacier
The Mendenhall Glacier ends in Mendenhall Lake, easily viewed from the Forest Service’s visitor center, with many easy to moderate trails nearby. The appeal of this glacier is the accessibility to the public. From the ship terminal many travel options are available.
Bus tour or taxi: The bus will run approximately 40 per person. Taxi may be better and more convenient for large parties.
The city bus stops 1.25 miles from the visitor and will be an extremely cheap option. The walk to the visitor center will be along a trail and is a great option for the budget traveler with extra time. For cruisers with limited time at port, this may be a bit problematic.
5. Cruise excursions
Cruise ships will offer many excursions. These will be expensive although certainly enjoyable, and who shouldn’t put value on experiences, not things?
During our day in Juneau, we chose to explore Juneau on foot and did not spend a dime. It was an incredible day with no regrets.
If you have other suggestions for things you loved to do in Juneau, then please free to comment.