Top Attractions in Juneau
Juneau might be Alaska’s capital, but the city offers much more than business and politics. From easy sightseeing to epic outdoor adventures, Juneau’s activities and attractions include everything you’d want for a trip-of-a-lifetime in Alaska. Whether you’re staying for a day or a week, here are a few of the most popular things to do in Juneau.
Juneau’s most popular attraction (for a good reason), the Mendenhall Glacier is a half-mile wide, with ice 300 to 1,800 feet deep. It provides some of the most spectacular landscapes in Alaska. Even more amazing, the glacier constantly moves and changes with the seasons — so no two visits are alike. Pressed for time? Don’t miss the view from the visitor’s pavilion, which will only take about 90 minutes. You’ll be able to take some great photos, too. With a little more time, enjoy beautiful hiking trails that get you up close to the glacier and its surrounding nature. The most rewarding hike is to Nugget Falls. Imagine a very large, beautiful waterfall cascading directly into an iceberg-filled lake with a glacier in the background — ready to visit?
Hop on a boat for a classic Alaska whale watching adventure. At the right time of year, you’re bound to see humpbacks and orcas congregate in the calm waters and put on a show. See them flip their tails above water or breach (when they leap all the way out of the water and then splash back down). With luck, you’ll get the breathtaking sight of bubble net feeding—a unique technique used by humpback whales circling and blowing bubbles to bring fish to the surface of the water when they spontaneously swim upward together. Many options are available for whale watching tours, from large catamarans to medium sized jet boats to smaller six-passenger vessels. Most operators guarantee whale sightings, and tours generally last 3-4 hours and include transportation.
Tracy Arm Fjord
Forty-five miles outside of Juneau, this scenic destination has it all — mammoth glaciers, towering granite walls, breathtaking mountains, waterfalls, and a large variety of wildlife. Tracy Arm is a 30-mile long fjord — a narrow inlet created by glacial activity — formed thousands of years ago. It winds its way past 7,000-foot snow-capped mountains and floating icebergs. At the end of the fjord lies the stunning Sawyer Glaciers, translucent blue mountains rising majestically out of the water. About once every hour, the North Sawyer and South Sawyer glaciers “calve” — an awe-inspiring phenomena in which large chunks of ice tumble into the sea below. Tracy Arm is also home to a large variety of wildlife including bald eagles, brown bears, goats, and whales. It provides some wonderful opportunities for capturing beautiful vacation memories.
Wander the streets of downtown Juneau and you'll come across unique sites that make this historic district the gem that it is. In just a few square miles, browse buildings celebrating Alaska's Native heritage, multiple museums and an arts center. Make pit stops along the way at multiple public art installations, such as the Before I Die... board, multiple totems, the Ancon Mural... the list goes on. Stop by one of Travel Juneau's visitor information sites for a Downtown Walking Tour Map and be your own guide!
No trip to Alaska is complete without bears. Just twenty minutes from Juneau by floatplane is Admiralty Island, home to one of the world's highest density brown bear populations. Nicknamed “Fortress of the Bears,” there are approximately 1,600 bears — one for every square mile of the island. The most popular place to see these big, fuzzy creatures in action is Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary. Watch bears feed on salmon during the peak viewing season (July through August). In addition to bear viewing, you might spot seabirds, harbor seals, sea lions, whales, Sitka black-tail deer, or sea otters. The island is also home to the world’s greatest concentration of nesting bald eagles. Permits are required and a guided tour can help provide them and arrange transportation. You can reach the island via floatplane, boat, or kayak, depending on weather and ability.
There’s no doubt Alaska is one of the greatest fishing spots in the world. In addition to its huge halibut, Alaska offers five types of Pacific salmon and each has a season. Hire a professional guide to pick the best option on any given day, and Juneau offers dozens of excellent fishing guide services. Full- and half-day charters take you on guided fishing trips, either in a boat, on shore, or by hopping a floatplane to a remote river or lake. You can rent a skiff or charter a vessel to customize your own fishing adventure. A number of options are available to process and ship your prized catch home for you, including Jerry’s Meats and Seafoods and Alaska Seafood Company. Learn more about salmon fishing in Juneau here.