With just two days to explore Juneau we weren’t going to waste a minute! First on our list was scaling Mt Roberts to get a bird’s eye view of Alaska’s capital. We had intended to ride the tramway to the peak, but James unearthed a clever alternative. You can pay US$32 each for the short tram ride up Mount Roberts or you can walk up, spend $10 each in the restaurant and you can ride down for free. As our love of walking is equalled only by our passion for saving a dollar you can guess which one we chose!
The walk up is steep in parts but there are plenty of photo opportunities (resting spots!) along the way! We met lots of locals doing the walk with their dogs, but once at the tram stop the locals were replaced by tourists who had taken the easy option. Did we feel superior having walked up? hell yeah! We had our lunch, enjoyed the view and then receipt in hand, caught our free ride down.
There is no escaping it but Juneau is cruise boat central. During our visit, there were four ships in port each day, with on average 2,500 per boat. So avoiding the crowds when we visited Juneau’s top tourist attraction, Mendenhall Glacier was a challenge. One I can tell you we kicked out of the stadium!
Normally we would have caught the local bus out to glacier but it was a public holiday and no buses were running. This left us two options either wait for the first of the boats to arrive and catch a shuttle or take a taxi out there now. As over 9,000 cruise visitors were expected that day we spent our money on a taxi and enjoyed 2.5 hours of the glacier virtually to ourselves.
Mendenhall Glacier is Alaska’s most accessible glacier and the surrounding forest and lakeside are quite beautiful. You don’t have to be a keen walker to enjoy it, there are hikes but there are also gentle strolls on offer. We did the most popular Nugget Falls trail, an easy walk which provided the combo of glacier and waterfall. My pictures do not lie, it really was this incredible.
Yes, Juneau is busy when ships are in port, but you can escape the crowds with a bit of ingenuity. And James and I have ingenuity by the truckload!
Tips for exploring Juneau
Find out from tourist information when the ships are arriving so you can avoid the crowds.
Walk up Mt Roberts rather than catch the tramway, save $$$, and get fit. Spend $10 on lunch and ride down for free.
Catch the local bus out to the glacier $2 each (one way), a taxi (one way) cost us $46 but this also included our tickets to the glacier. The tourist shuttle was $35 each return and included entry to the glacier, but only runs when the boats are in. To get back to Juneau, we left as the tourists were arriving in one of their empty shuttle buses for only $20 (I did smile sweetly at the driver).
As there are bears about, the Glacier Visitor’s Centre doesn’t sell food. So don’t plan to have lunch there, not even a cup of coffee, only water is available. You can eat your own food inside the centre but you are not to take it outside, so eat before you come!