Climbing Mt. Roberts
The most convenient way to get a panoramic view of Juneau and Gastineau Channel is by taking the tram to the summit of Mt. Roberts ($27 round-trip), directly behind town. A more aerobic way is to take the 2.5-mile rain forest trail that begins at the east end of 6th Street. This enjoyable climb attracts many locals, especially on summer weekends, when you’ll even encounter Ironman-type joggers.
After a strenuous hike you’re suddenly surrounded by hundreds of folks—some barely ambulatory—who have ridden the tram from their cruise ships to commune with nature and visit the gift shop, restaurant, espresso stand, and theater. It’s a bit disconcerting, but that’s the new Alaskan “wilderness experience” made easy for everyone.
Beyond the tram station, well-maintained trails climb uphill past Native Alaskan–carved trees to spectacular viewpoints and a large wooden cross just above the tree line at 2,030 feet. There may be snow above this point until late July.
Once you get beyond the cross, the crowds quickly thin and then virtually disappear. The trail continues up to 3,666-foot Gastineau Peak, six miles from town, then on along the ridge to the summit of Roberts Peak (3,819 feet), nine miles from your starting point.
Experienced hikers with a map and compass may want to continue along the ridge, eventually connecting up with other trails in the area. Weather conditions change rapidly on these ridgetops, so be aware of incoming clouds, and never hike into fog.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition