Hiking in Juneau – Mendenhall Glacier

We had much better weather in Juneau than we did in Ketchikan.  It was still chilly, but we almost missed the rain entirely, since it didn’t start pouring until late afternoon.  We managed to squeeze in a long hike and see some amazing things – several sites we’ve never seen before…but more on that later.

When we first got off the ship, we could see one of the attractions:  a tram that takes riders up to Mount Roberts.  This isn’t a great photo, but if you look closely, you can see the cable car at the top.  We didn’t take it up (we weren’t interested due to the gray, foggy weather), but I’m sure the views are great – especially on a clear day.  We had other ideas.

The tram for Mount Roberts is very near the port.

We had a few errands to run, so we ventured on a few streets in downtown to mail some letters, etc.  We walked quickly past all of the jewelry stores near the port and the other tourist traps.  Here are a few photos from our time in the city.

Kayla and Fred on our way to running errands in Juneau
Fred is pointing out a Filipino plaque. We saw quite a few Filipino monuments, stores, etc.
A view of a street in downtown Juneau

We also visited Hearthside Books when we were in Juneau.  Someone at the local post office told us to go there if we wanted to know anything about the local history – and they weren’t wrong!  The guy working there, who goes by KB, is a walking library of local knowledge.  If you’re ever here, don’t miss this place!  He didn’t want to be in any photos, so Kyle stood in for him 🙂

A photo of Hearthside Books taken from the street in front of the store
Kyle standing in for KB at Hearthside

If you know anything about Kyle, you know he loves llamas.  Remember Fred’s fascination with monkeys?  Well, Kyle and llamas go hand in hand, too.  There is a story behind it, but I will let him share that when & if he ever wants to.  Just know that he really feels a kinship with them.  Anyway, we saw a llama (actually an alpaca) and Kyle just had to take a picture with it.  Enough said.

Kyle and his new llama friend (who is actually and alpaca, but I didn’t want to ruin the moment)

So after running around town getting our errands done, we headed out catch the bus to Mendenhall Glacier.  When we got there, we took the Trail of Time:  a hiking trail that leads from the bus drop off point to the visitor’s center.  It’s quite a beautiful trail.  Fred was hoping to see some bears.  I didn’t expect to see any, since I’ve never seen a bear on any of my hikes before.

We didn’t see any bears on our way to the visitor’s center.  I wasn’t surprised.
Just one of the beautiful scenes on the hike

The trail was so quiet.  There was moss growing on just about everything in sight, so it really absorbed any noise.  Just take a look!  It’s everywhere!

Moss is everywhere on the Trail of Time in Mendenhall Valley

It is a really easy trail with lots of beautiful things to see.  It’s clearly marked and has quite a few plaques with information about the history of the area.  There are also several milestones that mark the glacier’s retreat over time.  Near the end of the trail, there is a fantastic view of Mendenhall Glacier and the waterfall next to it.

This milestone marks the place where the ice was in 1916.
One of the markers that shows the glacier’s retreat over the years – the ice is nowhere near here now
Fred and the kids standing on the Trail of Time

After we made it to the visitor’s center, we walked around inside, warmed up, and watched a short video about the Mendenhall Glacier.  Then we back outside to see the real thing.  We took Nugget Falls Trail, which leads to the waterfall that is right next to the glacier.  It’s about a mile each way and a very easy hike as well.

A view of Mendenhall Glacier at the end of Nugget Falls Trail
Here we are taking a short break at the waterfall.
Just another amazing view when standing with my back to the waterfall

We took the Nugget falls trail and then the Trail of Time to get back to the bus stop and guess what?!  On our way back, we saw not just one bear, but a few of them!  There was a mom with her cubs!  We had to stop on the trail for a while so that she could have space.  We hung out with one of the rangers while she made her way across the trail with her babies.  We weren’t close enough to get any photos and my phone was dead anyway, so you’ll have to take my word for it.  It was incredible!

One last view of Mendenhall Glacier as we headed back to the bus

It didn’t start raining until we were at the bus stop waiting for our ride back – and even then, it didn’t really start pouring until we were on the bus ride back into town.  We jumped off at the last stop, picked up some quick supplies, and took the shuttle bus back to the ship.  It was a lovely day and I think we all agree that it was the most fun we’ve had thus far on this cruise.  Fred is really enjoying the hiking as of late, which makes me truly happy, because hopefully I now have a hiking partner when we’re back in sunny California 🙂