Southeast Alaska ’s best-known drive-up ice cube, Mendenhall Glacier is without a doubt Juneau ’s most impressive sight. This moving river of ice pushes down from the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field (the fifth largest in North America) and is 12 miles long and up to 1.5 miles wide.
Since 1750 the glacier has been receding, and it is now several miles farther up Mendenhall Valley. It is retreating at about 150 feet each year, but still calving icebergs into Mendenhall Lake.
The Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center (907/789-6640, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass , daily 8 a.m.–7:30 p.m. May–mid-Sept., Thurs.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. mid-Sept.–Apr., $3, children free) provides panoramic views of the glacier from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Use the spotting scopes to check the slopes of nearby Bullard Mountain for mountain goats. Walk through the interpretive exhibits, slip into the theater for an excellent 11-minute film on the glacier, or buy a couple of glacier postcards in the bookstore.
Forest Service naturalists lead walks on nearby trails and can answer your questions. Walk up at least one of these excellent paths if you want to come away with a deeper appreciation of Mendenhall Glacier.
Although it’s 13 miles northwest of Juneau , the glacier is easily accessible by city bus. Have the driver let you off when the bus turns left a mile up Mendenhall Loop Road. It’s a one-mile walk up the road from here to the glacier. Buses run both directions around Mendenhall Loop Road. On the way back you can catch a bus heading either direction since both eventually drop you off downtown.
Mighty Great Trips (907/789-5460, www.mightygreattrips.com ) provides transportation from downtown to the glacier for $14 round trip, and offers a 2.5-hour tour that includes time at the glacier for $27. Most other tour companies also offer tours to Mendenhall.