Best 5 things to do in Juneau
October 5, 2021
If you arrive by ferry to Juneau, you have a fantastic view of the Mendenhall Glacier. The ferry from Sitka to Juneau took about 12 hours and was by far the most beautiful ferry ride I have ever taken. By approaching the capital of Alaska bit by bit, you have enough time to admire the surrounding fascinating landscape. Current ferry schedules can be viewed or booked here at Alaska State Ferry.
Juneau has only about 32,000 inhabitants and is therefore much smaller than Anchorage. Nevertheless, Juneau is the capital of the state of Alaska. With its many mines, the city was originally a mining town. Since the Second World War, however, the mines have been closed and, apart from tourism, the public service is the city’s most important employer. The city’s administration grew more and more with the construction of the Trans-Atlantic Pipeline, which was completed in 1977. The completion of the pipeline, which transports the precious oil from the Arctic to the Pacific coast, cost 8 billion USD, which is many times the price of Alaska (see also Sitka – what to do in the south of Alaska).
As in Sitka, most roads in Juneau end in dead ends. It is therefore not possible to leave Juneau via the road network. This makes it the only capital of a US state that can only be reached via the harbour or airport. After this short introduction, we now come to the top 5 sights that should not be missed during a visit.
Hike the West Glacier Trail
An absolute highlight is a hike to Mendenhall Glacier. Very well signposted, the trail starts at the end of Skaters Cabin Rd at Mendenhall Lake. There is not much to write about this, because the view on and above the glacier is simply breathtaking and it is a beautiful hike. If you want to experience a glacier up close, there is no way around this hike.
Whale Watching Tour
Juneau is great for whale watching because of its glacier. Namely, the glacier’s production of nutrient-rich water makes it a perfect feeding ground for humpback whales and orcas. There are few areas better suited for a whale watching tour than Juneau. For me it was an amazing experience and I spotted not only a few whales I also catched this stunning jump on a video.
Take a day out on the boat to go fishing
The narrow passages along Juneau are great for saltwater fishing. Anglers from all over the world come to Alaska and the fishing centres on salmon and halibut. Halibut weighing 200kg are sometimes pulled from the water here. In Juneau, there are many operators who offer fishing tours for tourists. I was lucky here, as friends had a boat on site and so we were able to fish in beautiful weather.
Stroll through the city
Although it often rains in Juneau, the city centre has great old buildings and an incredibly exciting and short hiking trail, the Flume Trail. Here you can pick up the feeling of the mining boom of the 1880s on a beautiful hiking trail. The Flume carried water for about 20 miles and was used until 1885. Gold miners extracted up to 20 million USD in gold from here. The walk takes only 30 minutes and is perfectly combined with the city centre.
Dinner at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos
You can round off a successful day with dinner in the beer garden at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos. Here you can get fresh fish and fresh tacos, mainly salmon and halibut. And of course absolutely delicious!
Let’s finish with a short anecdote. After the landlady prepared the first drinks at the bar, she noticed my accent and when she found out that I was from Germany, she pointed directly to the Kölsch. Since Kölsch is produced exclusively in my neighbouring city of Cologne, I was able to tell her a little about the history of Kölsch. And all the shop talk was rewarded with a free pint on the house. And I have to say, the Kölsch was indeed incredibly close to the original variety. I wouldn’t have thought so, thumbs up Alaskan Brewing Co!
In a few days I will continue with my last post about Alaska and my time in Seward and the beautiful hiking trails.