Excursion on Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

Juneau was a dreamlike day as we experienced the Ice Age. Indeed, we paddled a canoe to reach the Mendenhall Glacier and trekked on the surface of the ice-field. What an exciting and unique experience! We completed this delightful day with an urban tour of historic buildings in downtown Juneau.

History and Amazing Fact


  • Juneau is the capital of the state.
  • It’s the only capital of the country accessible only by boat or plane.
  • Gold was found by prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris in 1880. They were guided by Tlingit Chief Kowee.
  • Juneau was a source of lucrative mining operations between 1881 and WWII, the Juneau Gold yielded 6.7 million ounces of gold and 3.1 of silver.
  • Gold town, city’s mines produced $150 million worth of gold ($7 billion today).
  • The Mendenhall Glacier flows 12 miles from its source
  • It was formed during the “Little Ice Age” about 3,000 years ago.

Canoe Excursion


Fully equipped with boots, crampons and so forth, our journey started with a two-mile (3.2km) canoe trip to access the glacier. Along with two other couples and one guide, we crossed the Mendenhall Lake on an overcast morning. This weather is perfect to view glaciers. Indeed, ice by absorbing and reflecting light emits a magical blue glow.


The Nugget Falls


As we canoed we passed by the Nugget Falls. Located next to the Visitor Center, it’s the starting point of trails. From there the waterfall seems small but if you get closer you’ll realize it drops 377 feet (115m) in two tiers.



Trek on the Mendenhall Glacier


We landed by the Mendenhall Glacier for a two-hour trek. It was MAGIC!

First I was surprised to see big rocks on the top of the glacier and this greyish color. Well, the glacier is moving and can transport large rocks, sediments…


We climbed on the glacier and started to trek. From there we enjoyed natural ice formations, ice walls, ice fields, small watercourses, etc. Being alone on the glacier is unique. Silence fills the space and you feel connected to the greatness of nature. Pictures below will probably be more evocative than my Shakespearish prose (no offense Shakespeare!).



Pure water


I drink this pure water and it was deliciously cold 😉


Leaving the Mendenhall Glacier behind


Time flew SO fast as we were trekking on the glacier, I wish I could have stayed all day long….Anyway as we were leaving the Mendenhall Glacier behind to embark on our canoe, we crossed this rocky landscape, what a strange contrast!

As we paddled back, we enjoyed this beautiful environment, turning our heads back to capture one last view of the glacier and surroundings. And, on the top of a few trees, we saw a couple of bald eagles.

Our canoe excursion started at 7am and ended at 5pm. It left us totally stunned (and a little bit exhausted)! For a few hours, we were alone with our small group to experience the glacier. It was just incredible and unique.


Downtown Juneau


Now it’s time to exit this natural parenthesis to enter downtown Juneau. During less than two hours, we explored and walked in narrow streets and alleys. There was definitely more tourist in town enjoying the numerous shops and restaurants. According to our guide, this part of city flourishes during the high season, after it’ll become a “ghost town.”


Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church


Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church was built-in 1894 when Russian priests returned to Alaska after the Treaty of Cession was signed. This Treaty guaranteed freedom of religion and allowed the Orthodox Church to keep its property. I really appreciate this picturesque church as part of Alaska’s Russian history and heritage. Did you know that it is the oldest original Orthodox Church in Southeast Alaska? Yup!

Interior of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church

Red Dog Saloon


Don’t be disappointed, even if this building is not historic, the saloon became touristic due to its atmosphere. Step inside to be immersed in the gold-rush era decor.

Mount Robert


Mount Robert tramway is another tourist attraction for those who want a panoramic view of the city. There are also various trails for if you’re looking for some exercises.


What a breathtaking natural experience, right?!



  • The Mendenhall Glacier is located 14 miles from town.
  • We booked our shore excursion via our cruise company. It was expensive but it totally worth it!
  • Not a canoe addict? You can access the Mendenhall glacier via helicopter too.


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share with a traveler visiting Alaska ♥

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