Tongass National Forest/Mendenhall Glacier

Our trip to Alaska began in Juneau, the capital. We spent one full day touring the city. The highlight of the day was a visit Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest.

The Tongass National Forest is largest national forest in the United States covering most of Southeast Alaska.

We took the Juneau city bus from our hotel to the visitor. The bus stop was right in front of our hotel. Tickets were $2 for adults and $1 per child. The bus stop to the visitor center is actually about 1.5 mile away from the visitor center, but it’s a pleasant and scenic walk.

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Entrance to the forest.

The Tongass is a temperate rain forest. The moss covered trees turn the forest into a magical storybook scene. There are steams and ponds dotting the path and sometimes you can see black bears, though we didn’t see any on our visit.

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The view of the forest from the trail.
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The trail from bus stop to visitor center is pleasant, but 1.5 mile. Keep that in mind when planning your day.

The best part of the walk to the visitor center was catching the first glimpse of the glacier. Despite it’s massive size, the glacier seems to just pop out.

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The first glimpse of the glacier.

The visitor center has informative exhibits, ranger talks and a movie about the glacier. There’s even a junior ranger program. There are great views and spots to take pictures.

In addition to the Photo Point trail, we also hiked the Nugget Falls trail. The trail ends at a waterfall.

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The view from the end of Nugget Falls trail.
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View of Mendenhall Glacier

My only other experience with Glaciers was at Glacier National Park. Mendenhall was different, The glacier was more intense. Up against the forest, the view was majestic and surreal.

Other things to know

The bus is the most economical way to get to the glacier’s visitor center, but you can also take a taxi or your own car. You can also come through a tour group.

In addition to seeing the glacier, there are a number of trails around the visitor center. These are great for viewing wildlife.

There’s no food for sale at the visitor center, so be sure to pack snacks.

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