Flightseeing and Glacier Landings
Flightseeing and charter flights are available from Ward Air (907/789-9150 or 800/478-9150, www.wardair.com), a long-established company with a good safety record and an excellent local reputation. Glacier Bay flightseeing can also be booked, but they’re expensive due to the distance. Wait until you visit Haines, Skagway, or Gustavus, where the cost and flying time to the park are lower.
Several companies offer helicopter glacier tours to spectacular Juneau Ice Field, with landings on crevasse-free portions of the glaciers. These flights remain controversial in Juneau, primarily because of the constant din they create in Mendenhall Valley. Flights operate May–September, but trips that include dogsledding start later and end earlier due to snow conditions.
Era Helicopters (907/586-2030 or 800/843-1947, www.flightseeingtours.com) lands on Norris or Taku Glacier. A one-hour trip with a 20-minute walk is $279. It also offers a longer two-hour trip ($489) that includes a dogsled ride.
Temsco Helicopters (907/789-9501 or 877/789-9501, www.temscoair.com) has a one-hour flight ($259) that spends 25 minutes on Mendenhall Glacier. Other flight options include a “pilot’s choice” 90-minute flight ($379) with two glacier landings, and a 1.5-hour trip ($479) that includes a 25-minute dogsled ride.
Coastal Helicopters (907/789-5600 or 800/789-5610, www.coastalhelicopters.com) charges $245 for a 60-minute trip, or $380 for a 90-minute trip; both include 15 minutes on Herbert Glacier or Gilkey Glacier. Also popular are dogsled tours on Herbert Glacier. These include an hour on the ice with the dogs and 30 minutes of flying time for $450.
Northstar Trekking (907/790-4530 or 866/590-4530, www.glaciertrekking.com) specializes in Mendenhall Glacier hikes of varying lengths, starting with a flight plus a one-hour hike for $359, up to three hours on the ice with the chance to learn basic ice climbing for $499. Clients are fully outfitted with mountaineering gear and crampons.
All four of these companies include transportation from downtown Juneau to their landing pads and also provide chartered flights to the glaciers for heli-hiking or skiing. Warning: Helicopters can be dangerous, and a number of fatal crashes have taken place around Juneau. Be sure to ask about safety procedures before stepping on board.
Travelers looking for something more challenging than a helicopter glacier tour should check out Above & Beyond Alaska (907/364-2333, www.beyondak.com). Their seven-hour Mendenhall Glacier trek ($189) involves a hike to the west side of the glacier and time on the ice exploring its features, including the ice caves; crampons, a helmet, and an ice ax are provided. Another trek teaches basic ice-climbing skills, and custom overnight trips are also available. This trek is recommended, but you need to be in good physical condition.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition