Alaska vs Hawaii: Which Is Better for For Travelers?

Alaska and Hawaii.

The two non-mainland states are some of the most sought-after states for serious travelers.

And for good reason.

They are both extremely beautiful places to explore with lots to offer in the bucket list department.

But which one would be better for someone who has never been to either one?

Below, I’ll give you some helpful considerations for you to think about.

I’ll focus on the highlights of both states and by the end of the article you will hopefully have a better idea of which state you should visit.


Hawaii gets a good amount of passenger traffic at various airports including Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Kahului Airport (OGG), Kona International Airport (KOA), and Lihue Airport (LIH).

Most people will probably fly into Honolulu or Maui but you can also find nonstop flights to the other Hawaiian Island airports from different places in the mainland US.

Airfare to Hawaii can actually be extremely affordable especially with the introduction of Southwest Airlines.

This is especially true for inter-island hopping which can be done without hurting your wallet at all.

Seriously, you can fly between Hawaiian islands for like $40.

Related: Flying Southwest Inter-island in Hawaii? Here’s What to Expect

As for getting there in style.

Lots of the airlines offer lie-flat seats to Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines has a pretty solid first class product with lie flat seats.

Alaska receives much less air traffic than Hawaii.

Its busiest airport in Anchorage (ANC) gets way fewer passengers than HNL.

And its second busiest airport in Juneau (JNU) gets a lot less traffic than each of the top four airports in Hawaii.

So if you want to get around Alaska to somewhere other than Anchorage, there is a high chance you’ll have to make a connection.

And you might even have to connect just to get to Anchorage.

I’ve seen some pretty cheap flights from the mainland to Anchorage so I know you can find good deals to Alaska as well.

Sometimes the prices can be very comparable to getting to Hawaii.

However, hopping around to different destinations in Alaska is pricier than hopping around in Hawaii based on my personal experience (Alaska is huge).

You can find lie-flat seats to Alaska from some destinations in the South and East Coast but because there are fewer flights it’s not as easy.

Overall, it’s easier to find a direct/non-stop flight to Hawaii from any given destination and you’ll have more options for premium lie-flat class cabins.

Related: Alaska Premium Class vs Main Cabin vs First Class


A big difference between Alaska and Hawaii is the hotel selection.

In Hawaii, you’ll find many more hotels and full-service resorts geared towards travelers (and families) looking for that tropical getaway or couples in need of a romantic retreat.

It’s also a hotspot for vacation clubs, timeshares, villas, and condominiums.

In Alaska, you’ve got a much smaller selection.

And the hotels won’t necessarily be cheaper.

For example, we recently visited Juneau, Alaska, and found a very limited hotel selection with one of the most expensive properties being the Four Points by Sheraton.

That property was going for $600 a night on some nights which could’ve gotten us a much nicer property in somewhere like Waikiki.

The lack of hotels in some Alaskan cities is not really a surprise given how they are often more geared towards tourists coming from cruise ships.

But just know if you’re hoping to find a bunch of luxury resorts in Alaska, they are going to be slim pickings compared to Hawaii.

Instead, while exploring Alaska you might be more drawn to cabins and lodges in secluded wilderness locations like Gustavus.

It’s very different experience from staying in a beach resort but a lot of people would probably take a secluded lodge in nature over a bustling resort.


Hawaii probably has the best weather out of any state in the US.

And it’s hard to argue with that when you look at the numbers.

The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85° F (29.4° C), while the average daytime winter temperature is 78° (25.6° C).

Those are very stable temperatures.

And then you have those lovely trade winds blowing through the islands just adding the cherry (or pineapple) on top.

I remember playing miniature golf on the terrace of the Holiday Inn in Honolulu one afternoon and feeling like the weather could not have been more perfect.

It can feel heavenly out there.

In Alaska, you get to (sort of) experience the four seasons and some areas have beautiful fall color change.

Alaska is obviously going to be much colder although some parts of it such as Southeast Alaska are a lot milder than you might think.

One thing these states do have in common weather-wise is rain. And lots of it.

Both states have rainforests which means some places get a ridiculous amount of water falling from the sky.

Most of the rain falls on the windward (northeastern) side of the Hawaiian islands and some of those areas can be extremely wet.

For example, some parts of the island of Kauai receive almost more rain than any other place on the planet.

Places in Southeast Alaska also receive a pretty ridiculous amount of rain during the fall and winter.

But experiencing the rain can feel very different.

When we experienced rain in Hawaii it was usually a shower that came in and went pretty quickly.

Meanwhile, the rain in Southeast Alaska was more of a nonstop drizzle that could last for days.

To state the obvious: For the average tourist, Hawaii is going to be much more attractive for the weather.

It’s more stable, predictable, and just feels easier to deal with (but you do have to be prepared for the occasional hurricane.)

But some people love the feel of a cold and drizzly environment and Alaska certainly can fit that bill.


The daylight hours in Hawaii, much like the weather, are going to be pretty stable year round.

You get about 2 1/2 hours more daylight during the summer than winter but in the winter you’re still looking at over 10 hours of daylight.

This is a major reason why Hawaii is so appealing in the winter.

Not only do you get better temperatures in many places but you still have plenty of daylight to enjoy yourself.

For travelers coming from places like the Midwest and Northeast during winter, it could be really hard to turn this down for Alaska where things may be even darker and colder.

Because Alaska is so far north, it’s daylight hours are more extreme than Hawaii.

This is great in the summer because you can have sunlight all through the evening and “at night.”

In some places, you can even experience the “midnight sun” where you won’t ever see street lights come on.

It’s pretty trippy.

But in the winter, you might be dealing with very few daylight hours.

For example, in Fairbanks during December, sunrises happen around 10:00 am and sunsets occur around 2:45 pm.

Some people find that depressing.

But it’s actually awesome if you’re interested in viewing the northern lights because it gives you plenty of time for them to come out.


When you think of states with stunning scenery, the two states that pop up on every list are: Oklahoma and Kansas.

Okay, I’m kidding.

Nothing against those states but Alaska and Hawaii are just on a different level.

Hawaii’s famous tropical scenery is the epitome of paradise for a lot of people.

It doesn’t get much better than warm beaches, breezy palm trees, lush green mountains, and many, many waterfalls.

You’ll see landscapes that look like they are straight out of Jurassic Park (because they are) and plants you’ve never laid eyes on before.

Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island features Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

And on the island of Kauai, you have the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, not to mention the Nāpali Coast.

That only begins to scratch the surface when it comes to impressive Hawaiian scenery, though.

Alaska is known for its many stunning fjords, thick conifer forests, white-capped mountains and who could forget about the mighty glaciers, icebergs, and otherworldly blue ice caves?

It also has its fair share of waterfalls.

Although when you think of volcanoes your brain may instantly go to Hawaii, Alaska actually has way more active volcanoes: 141 compared to Hawaii’s handfull.

And as just pointed out, Alaska has the northern lights which if you’ve ever encountered before, you know that nothing truly compares to them.


If you like to be adventurous when you travel, both of these states will deliver at a very high level.

In Hawaii, the beaches give you access to all sorts of fun water activities.

Obviously, surfing is huge in Hawaii and even if you don’t partake you can check out world-class surfing competitions or just sit on the beach and listen to the waves pounding.

Scuba diving and snorkeling (including cage diving) can be a lot of fun in Hawaii and it’s also a good place for things like fishing, parasailing, paddle boarding, and jet-skiing.

You do have to be careful at some beaches though because the rip currents can be treacherous.

Hawaii also has a lot of beautiful hikes.

You’ll find countless trails taking you to stunning waterfalls and mountain vistas with sweeping views of this tropical paradise.

Just be ready for some muddy and overgrown jungle terrain on some of these hikes — they can be quite the misadventure if you’re not careful.

If you just want to get out on the water there are tons of options for you like boat tours, whale watching tours, and romantic catamaran sunset trips.

And you won’t struggle to find any of the other standard adventure tours like ATVs, zip lining, helicopter tours, etc.

Alaska is also one of the best places in the world for adventurous travelers.

You can hike through mossy rainforests and bag some serious peaks — like the tallest mountain in North America, Denali, which isn’t exactly a day hike at 20,310′ feet.

Helicopters will take you up on glaciers where you can slip on some crampons and trek among deep crevasses or even go dog sledding across ice fields Balto style (or should I say Togo).

Or if you prefer to stay at sea level, boat tours will put you right in front of towering glacier faces to witness breathtaking calving events.

There are plenty of water activities to enjoy in Alaska like whale watching, kayaking, canoeing, and river rafting. Both fishing and hunting are also huge in Alaska.

If you’re adventurous side tends to take you to into the ocean or the thought of exploring a thick tropical jungle entices you like no other then you’ll find more options in Hawaii.

But if you’re drawn to more of a true wilderness experience among the backdrop of mountains Alaska will better suit your taste for adventure.

Tourist attractions

If you’re looking for a typical tourist experience both states can offer you that but Hawaii is going to deliver more in that regard (for better or for worse).

Honolulu, in particular Waikiki Beach, is a tourist mecca.

Hawaii also has Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial which is one of the most interesting (and busy) tourist destinations with a ton of fascinating World War II history.

Retracing film locations from blockbuster movies and shows like Lost is a lot of fun in Hawaii.

You can find places away from the crowds in Hawaii, especially outside of Oahu.

But even in more low-key places like Kauai it’s not always so easy to fully get away from the buzzing helicopters, vehicle traffic, and throngs of beach crowds.

Alaska definitely can feel touristy in certain spots like Juneau which cater to an insane amount of cruise passengers.

But you can easily get out to remote places that don’t feel as touristy such a small, rustic towns and some of the wide open national parks like Denali National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park.

If you are looking for tourist attractions, Hawaii will offer you more of those but if you are looking to get away from the tourists, Alaska will offer you more spaces to do that.


Both Hawaii and Alaska can be pretty expensive, but in my experience the prices add up quicker in Alaska.

Certain types of expenses are more common in Hawaii like outrageous parking fees at your hotel, admission fees to nature spots, etc.

In Hawaii, my biggest complaint with pricing was that you don’t always get what you pay for.

For example, in one outing in Oahu we paid $7 for the little piece of cardboard pizza below.

And on one helicopter ride they stuffed six of us inside and made the people sitting on the inside seats (with extremely limited views) pay just as much as those with the 10X better views up front.

I sort of feel like we were getting herded through experiences with the hope that we wouldn’t notice the at times questionable value.

In Alaska, getting around via seaplanes can get expensive and so can the excursions. We also found some of the rental car prices to be very high as well.

I noticed the tourist up-charge in Alaska but it didn’t feel as egregious to me.

At least when we were paying a lot, I felt like we were still getting a lot in value (when it came to tours and outings – hotels were a different story).

Regardless of which state you visit, just be prepared to expand the travel budget more than you normally would when getting around the mainland.


Both states have very interesting indigenous cultures that still have a very visible presence today.

Hawaii represents the upper geographic limits of Polynesian culture with the earliest natives arriving between the 4th and 7th centuries CE. It’s a beautiful culture and it’s fascinating what their ancestors were able to do navigating the open seas.

In Alaska, various indigenous people have inhabited different parts of the state, since about 15,000 years ago when they followed herd animals across the Bering Land Bridge.

Today, they are divided into different groups each of which has its own fascinating customs and culture.

Both states offer unique ways to explore and learn about these cultures whether that be in museums, monuments, tribal houses, or even luaus.

So if you’re into learning about ancient cultures, I think both states offer great opportunities for that.


Hawaii’s wildlife mostly comes in the form of smaller animals and birds (hello, chickens).

The marine life in Hawaii is impressive with tropical fish, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, manta rays, seals, and whales.

Something that’s cool is that a lot of the humpback whales that frequent Hawaii in the winter are the same ones that migrate to Alaska for the summer.

You could possibly spot the same whale in both places.

If you’re willing to get out on a boat, or even better, get in the water for a diving or snorkeling session, you likely won’t be disappointed.

There’s nothing like swimming alongside a sea turtle in Hawaii and you can even go diving without a wetsuit in the winter.

For the diver, you have to go with Hawaii.

When you’re talking about wildlife in Alaska, it’s just an entirely different ball game.

It’s the only state where you can find black bears, brown bears, polar bears, moose, caribou, wolves, mountain goats, etc. all in one region.

The amount of mammals capable of having you for dinner is truly astonishing in Alaska.

Spend some time on the water and you’ll come across sea otters, sea lions, humpback whales, killer whales, bald eagles, and the biggest starfish you’ve ever seen.

And you can’t forget about the salmon.

So if you’re looking for wildlife encounters, hunting, or trying to pursue wildlife photography, Alaska is going to offer you a lot more in the wildlife department.

Final word

Overall, you can’t go wrong with either one of these states for your first time visit.

Alaska is about experiencing true wilderness, wide open spaces, and surreal natural scenery. It’s for those open to something rugged, challenging, or even thrilling.

To me, a visit to Alaska feels like it naturally leads to more of a humbling and introspective experience where I contemplate my place in the universe and hopefully don’t get eaten by a bear.

Meanwhile, Hawaii caters more to tourists looking for a re-charging escape via the amazing weather and lots of gorgeous coastal scenery.

It feels more like a place to chill out, mingle, and enjoy the good vibes, which can be done at a busy resort or at some laid-back villas.

There’s definitely still a strong sense of adventure in Hawaii but it feels more tame compared to Alaska. Perhaps I need to see more volcanoes.

That’s my take on these two beautiful states if you have any thoughts to drop them in the comments below!

Juneau’s Salmon Hatchery Review: Worth It?

If you ever find yourself in Juneau, Alaska, you don’t want to leave without first having some type of salmon experience.

One of the best ways to get a memorable encounter with salmon is to head to the DIPAC’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery.

Below, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to have a great visit and to decide if it’s worth it.

What is Juneau’s Salmon Hatchery?

Juneau’s Salmon Hatchery is officially known as the “DIPAC’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery,” and is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in Juneau, Alaska.

It’s a place where you can get close to thousands of salmon in various stages of their life and learn about this bubbling hatchery that’s responsible for raising 130 million chum, king, and coho salmon every year.

The hatchery is open regularly during the summer months from May through September.

Hours are usually 10am to 5pm or 6pm depending on the day of the week but be sure to confirm before your visit.

You can visit during the winter but you’ll need to schedule an appointment first.

The site is pretty small and you don’t need much time to give it a proper visit. 45 minutes to an hour may be all you need.

Related Juneau Posts:

Where is the Salmon Hatchery?

The Salmon Hatchery is located at: 2697 Channel Dr, Juneau, AK 99801.

From the Cruise Terminal area, it should take about 10 minutes to get there by automobile/taxi.

This is only a couple of minutes away from the Salmon Bake, so you can always think about visiting the two together, especially since they complement each other so well.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

Juneau’s Salmon Hatchery experience

As soon as you stroll up, head to a viewing glass window where you can get an up close encounter with these salmon.

When I visited, this was my first time to ever get a good close glimpse at salmon and I thought it was a pretty fascinating view.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

After that, make your way towards the entrance on the elevated walkway where you might encounter a group congregating for a little intro into the hatchery.

If you stumble upon this in the middle of the presentation, you can just hang out and another one will begin shortly after that one ends.

Your guides will give you some context about the operations here and how they work to enhance the opportunity for the commercial, sport, and subsistence fishing.

Officially their mission is to:

sustain and enhance valuable salmon resources of the State of Alaska for the economic, social, and cultural benefit of all citizens, and to promote public understanding of Alaska’s salmon resources and salmon fisheries through research, education, and tourism.

There is debate about whether or not hatcheries are a net positive but I don’t know nearly enough about that to offer any kind of meaningful opinion.

I just know that people feel strongly on both sides of the debate.

Anyway, while you’re up on the walkway, you’ll have some great views including a good look at the salmon ladder.

This is a 450 foot long “ladder” that simulates a flowing creek for the salmon to swim up against. I’m guessing that it also helps trigger their spawning instincts, too.

It’s one of those unique things where you could go your entire life without ever knowing that it exists so it’s really cool to experience it at least once.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau salmon ladder

The water flows down into the channel and gets funneled through these narrow rectangular slots which is how some of the salmon work their way up.

When we visited in late July, the ladder was filled with adult salmon fighting against the current.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau salmon ladder

At the base of the ladder, salmon entered from the channel amid white water chaos.

Watching dozens upon dozens of these fish propel themselves over rocks really gave me a sense of the type of drive hardwired into these creatures.

The peak salmon run is quite a sight to behold.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau salmon ladder

At the end of the ladder, pools where the salmon work their way into were filled to the brim.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau salmon ladder

After checking out those, you can head inside and purchase your admission ticket.

I was interested in doing the full tour but they were not offering that during our visit so we had to just settle for the standard admission.

To kick off the paid portion of our visit, we decided to head to the other building where they house all of the “baby” salmon.

In here, you will see tens of thousands of salmon during the right time of year. Watching them move in these dark, ghostly clouds back-and-forth was a mesmerizing visual.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

These little fish will hang out here until they get a little bit bigger and then get moved to one of the saltwater net pens outside.

They get released from those pens in late spring to early summer and then head out to the open ocean where they will try to beat the odds for a few years.

Some even swim as far as Japan!

Eventually, they will make their way back to this exact spot which is what we were witnessing during our visit.

The salmon are then separated based on their species and the hatchery begins the egg collection and fertilization process, which will result in millions of fertilized eggs that get developed in the dark incubation rooms.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

After checking out these tiny salmon, we spent a few minutes out on the deck which is also a highlight of the experience, especially if you are interested in wildlife spotting.

We visited on a rainy day but you can still enjoy the site even when it’s rainy. A lot of the outdoor parts are at least partially covered and there’s plenty to see indoors.

From the deck, we could see several bald eagles.

If you’ve never been to Juneau before, especially to this particular area, you may be shocked to see how common bald eagles are.

You can find them on the shore, in the sky, and even on light posts.

I’d actually never seen a bald eagle before so I got more sightings than I ever imagined during our stay.

Look to the water and you might spot some harbor seals.

The seals were busy snatching up salmon that were coming back to the salmon ladder. I’m sure their bellies stay full this time of year given the endless seafood buffet that is open for business.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau seal

From there, we ventured inside the visitor center where there are a few worthwhile exhibits to check out including a beautiful stuffed brown bear.

The hatchery is home to a small aquarium which features a variety of tanks and exhibits.

It’s compact but some of the marine life is really cool.

One tank featured those monster-sized starfish that cling to the rocky Alaskan shores.

This was great because we saw plenty of them from afar on our boat tour of Glacier Bay a few days before.

One giant crab inside the tank was actually feasting upon one of the starfish that was not able to get away — a site that I’ve never seen before.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau aquarium
DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau aquarium

They’ve got some other interesting marine life that you want to check out.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau aquarium

And they also have a touch tank which is perfect for kids and curious adults as well.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau aquarium
DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau aquarium

There are some stairs towards the back that you can head down which will take you down and give you a closer look at some of the tanks.

I’d recommend heading down just so you can get a really close view of the salmon.

Until this visit, I never actually realized how big some of these fish got! They are both hideous and beautiful at the same time.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

It was at this pool where we watched them leaping out of the water, trying to find their way upstream even though presumably this was their last stop. Their inner drive just never lets up.

DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

Final word

Overall, I felt like this was a pretty fascinating destination.

It really helped that we visited during the peak salmon run because seeing so many of them fighting their way upstream was one of the most impressive displays of wildlife behavior I’ve seen.

It would’ve been extra interesting to get one of the behind-the-scenes tours but unfortunately for us those were not being offered.

Given the low price point of the attraction, I definitely say it’s worth a visit especially if you have an interest in the local wildlife.

Layover in Juneau (JNU)? Here’s What You Need to Know

Juneau, Alaska, is a perfect destination for a layover and recently we enjoyed a four hour layover there en route to Gustavus.

But if you’re planning on making the most of your time on a layover in Juneau there are a few key things to consider.

In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to best go about your layover and also some ideas on some interesting things you can do.

Juneau International Airport (JNU)

Juneau International Airport (JNU) is a very small airport.

They don’t have any airport lounges and there are only a few gates.

There are a couple of restaurants inside the airport so if you don’t want to leave the airport that could be a good way to spend some time.

You could also wander through the airport checking out some of the exhibits although that will only keep you occupied for a short amount of time. Maybe 15 minutes or so.

So if you want to stay entertained on a long layover, chances are you will need to leave the airport.

Juneau International Airport (JNU)

Getting out of the airport

Juneau is a perfect place to venture outside of the airport on a layover.

For one, because the airport is so small it’s easy to get in and out.

The airport even has a TSA Pre-Check station so you can really fly through security especially if you’re on a layover because you probably do not have any bags to check.

If you have carry-on bags that you don’t want to bring with you you can check those with the Alaska Seaplanes but it is a little bit expensive.

They will charge you something like ~$30 per bag which can add up pretty quickly. If you’re interested in that option just head to their check-in desk.

Juneau International Airport (JNU)

The major hurdle with doing anything on a layover here is that it can be difficult to utilize Uber and Lyft.

That’s mostly because there are just a limited amount of drivers out there so it could take a long time to locate a driver and for them to get to you.

This won’t be a major problem if you have a long layover of five or six hours but if you are only there for three or four hours, waiting for the rideshare to pick you up from the airport and then pick you up from your destination could eat up a large chunk of your time.

Possibly around an hour of your time.

Also, consider that some places around the Juneau area don’t have great cell phone service so it can be difficult to connect to the app. Make sure you don’t get dropped off in a dead zone!

An alternative would be to schedule a taxi ride.

The taxis can take a while to get to where you are but if you schedule your taxi pick up ahead of time they should be waiting for you right outside of the airport.

If you are looking to book a taxi consider utilizing one of these services:

  • Juneau Taxi: 907-586-1111
  • DLUX Rides: 907-586-2121

Expect to pay around $25 to $30 for a taxi ride between the airport and downtown.

Places to check out on a layover

The Sandbar

The Sandbar & Grill is a small dive bar located pretty close to the airport (just over 1 mile) and it should only take you a few minutes to get there with an automobile.

This place has the best fish and chips in town and it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s got a cool local feel to it and you can pass time by playing pool, darts, or just having a drink.

You could walk there in a little under 30 minutes if you wanted.

Speaking of walking, there are a few establishment located right next-door to the airport like Donna’s Restaurant and Pucker Wilson’s Valley.

Another popular spot by the airport is the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure. We didn’t get the chance to visit but they get a lot of great reviews.

The Mendenhall Glacier

One bucket list worthy destination to check out would be the Mendenhall Glacier.

This is a beautiful valley glacier that is one of the most accessible glaciers you will probably ever come across. It should take about 15 minutes to get there via vehicle from the airport.

You want to schedule a taxi to get you back though because rideshare services are not allowed to pick up passengers there.

A good layover itinerary would be to check out the visitor center and do the 2 mile round-trip hike to Nugget Falls.

All you need is about an hour and a half to two hours max to see all of this which is why it is such a perfect layover destination.

The Salmon Bake

The Salmon Bake could be a good layover stop and it’s only about 10 minutes away from the airport.

It’s an outdoor salmon buffet located along Salmon Creek and offers a beautiful setting complete with a waterfall. You definitely “feel like you are in Alaska” when you visit, which I think is kind of the whole selling point.

I have mixed feelings about the quality of the food there but the overall experience is a unique one and could be fun to enjoy on a layover.

The only challenge is that they don’t open very early so if your layover is in the morning that could be an issue.

Downtown Juneau

It doesn’t take very long to get to Downtown Juneau from the airport (~12 minutes) so that’s definitely a doable spot to hit up. The main street is Franklin Street where you can find tons of shops, restaurants, and a lot of tourists coming off the cruise ships.

This is also where you will find a lot of attractions like the Mt Roberts Tramway which is a cableway that takes you up to the higher reaches of the rainforest and offers sweeping views of Juneau.

What’s great about the tramway is that it stays open pretty late so if you were on a late layover it’s a good choice. This is especially the case if visiting May through August considering how much daylight you have during the summertime.

If you have enough time you can check out the restaurant up there and even do some hiking.

While in Downtown Juneau you could hit up Tracy’s King Crab Shack for some delicious and huge king crab. The line here can get a little long but it does usually move pretty fast.

If you’re looking for a memorable dining destination, this spot will for sure offer you that.

There are also other food truck like destinations such as Pucker Wilson’s (burgers) and Deckhand Dave’s (fish tacos) where you can get in and out relatively quickly depending on the lines.

The Alaska State Museum is a cool museum that is not too big and you could easily get through in about an hour to an hour and a half. So it would also be a great layover attraction, especially if you want to do something indoors.

If you’re trying to do something adventurous like a whale watching tour or helicopter tour a lot of those take at least 4 to 5 hours.

So you would also need time to get there and back which means you would have to have a very long layover of close to 7 to 8 hours to make that doable.

Final word

Juneau, Alaska, is a great layover city because you can get out of the airport so quickly and there are a lot of interesting destinations that only take about 20 minutes or less to get to.

It will be best to do some planning though so you can figure out if you’re okay with paying to store your carry-on bags and so that you will have your transportation figured out since rideshare services are not very reliable here.

Review: Four Points by Sheraton Juneau (Convenient but Pricey)

Juneau, Alaska does not have a whole lot of options when it comes to national chain hotels. One of the options that sticks out is the Four Points by Sheraton Juneau.

But this hotel can be pretty pricey at times so is it actually worth it or will you be overpaying?

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about the Four Points by Sheraton Juneau.


We paid cash for four nights at the Four Points by Sheraton Juneau and let me tell you that if you are coming during peak season (which is basically just the summer) the prices are going to be up there.

The prices can fluctuate a lot throughout the week so you can always try to time it for the cheaper rates but that’s not always practical.

We paid:

  • $617
  • $332
  • $391
  • $440

Plus fees.

It’s one of those properties where the prices shoot up but don’t align with the quality of the hotel. This is not what you think of when you think of a $600 a night hotel.

Maybe $300 a night.

However, if you want to stay in a nice, national chain hotel this is one of the only options in Juneau.

I did hit Platinum status on this stay and earned 31,350 Points, so that’s something I guess?

One more thing, if you’re coming during peak season you might want to book a little early because the hotel was sold out on several days when we initially tried to book this trip.

It’s a pretty popular hotel.

Related Juneau Posts:

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau

Location: Downtown Juneau

The Four Points by Sheraton Juneau has a great location in Downtown Juneau. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fantastic location, I don’t think we would have chosen this property.

Walking around Downtown Juneau is extremely easy because the entire downtown area is not very big at all and this hotel sets you up for easy exploration.

The location is also nice because it is just far enough away from the cruise terminal that you don’t really feel all the heavy foot traffic from there.

From the hotel, we easily made it to various restaurants and shops, and it only takes about five minutes to get to the heart of the tourist/shopping area on Franklin St.

Attractions like the Alaska State Museum are also nearby.

The large blue building across the street from the hotel has some pretty nice dining spots in it which are ultra convenient.

Inside, there is a large hallway that takes you through the different restaurants so you can escape the elements if needed.

Make sure you try out the Russian dumplings! Yum.


The hotel has a small and somewhat cozy little lobby where you can also find a compact lounge area, coffee/tea station, and the market.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau lobby

There’s also a little work area.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau lobby

They also have a concierge station although I was never able to actually see anybody at that desk.

All of the front desk agents made a good impression during our stay and check-in went smoothly although I was a little bummed I did not get any kind of upgrade as a Titanium member.

We did get put on one of the higher floors with a decent view so I guess that counts but Marriott Titanium status has been one of the most disappointing elite statuses I’ve had.

One thing about this stay is that one of the elevators was broken almost the entire time.

This really slowed things down and just got a bit annoying especially considering that they got fixed the day we were checking out….

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau lobby

The Room

Our king room with a Mountain View was a basic room but spacious enough.

It was nice. Not $600 nice, but pretty nice.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau mountain room
Four Points by Sheraton Juneau mountain room

I thought the king bed was comfortable. Not $600 comfortable but pretty comfortable.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau mountain room king

Maintaining temperature in the room was never a problem although they do have some specific controls for the heater.

On one side of the bed, you’ll find a phone and lamp (with outlets) on the nightstand, along with some branded stationary.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room nightstand

On the other side you’ll have an alarm clock with power outlets and USB ports.

Related: Should You Use USB Ports In Hotel Rooms? (Stay Away!?)

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room nightstand

There’s a chair you can relax on in the corner near the window. I like that you could open the windows and get a nice cool draft coming in.

We left our windows open the entire time and I think it helped keep the room comfortable.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room

But just in case you did get a little warm, the hotel does supply a fan.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room fan

There’s a large flatscreen TV in the middle of the room for your entertainment needs.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room tv

I appreciated the water bottle and the clear signage that this was an actual free item. No confusion here.

Below the TV was a mini fridge. No microwave.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room mini fridge

And in the corner there was a nice workstation that had a lamp with power outlets.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room desk

It also had the coffee machine with Café Valet rainforest blend packages. (You can find some teas downstairs in the lobby.)

As always, I brought my portable kettle with me since I don’t use hotel coffee makers.

We had plenty of closet space and even a secondary fan inside the closet.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau king room closet

I did enjoy the view although it is a little weird because there are some houses situated up on the hill and they are right in your backyard.

Whenever the clouds moved out, it was really beautiful looking out to the mountains and all of the waterfalls and mountain streams running down.

Four Points by Sheraton Juneau mountain view

Overall, the bathroom was nice, clean, and spacious enough. No complaints.

Really loved this $600 a night shower.


There’s a restaurant connected to the lobby called McGivney’s Sports Bar & Grill Downtown.

What’s interesting and kind of annoying is that the hotel does not offer you any kind of food credit for that restaurant and that’s not even where breakfast is.

Instead, you have to go to the Baranof Downtown hotel where you can use your breakfast credit at the restaurant called 127.

It’s about an eight minute walk to get over there, which was a first for me.

This meant we would have to walk in the rain to get to breakfast which sounds bad but you’re mostly dealing with drizzle and so if you have a good rain jacket it’s not a big deal walking around downtown Juneau in the rain.

That might be a different story when it’s freezing cold outside.

Baranof Downtown hotel

You’ll be able to enjoy a basic breakfast buffet which to be honest wasn’t bad at all. Eggs, bacon, potatoes, and pancakes were all part of the buffet. Continental breakfast options like cereal also were available.

You can always order options off the menu but you will have to pay for those.

I’d much rather have breakfast somewhere like Sandpiper but if you want to take advantage of your free breakfast perk this hotel is not a bad place to do it.


If you’re wanting to get a workout the gym is pretty compact but decently equipped. Not $600 a night equipped but equipped enough.

Final word

Overall, I love the location of the hotel and the service was good throughout our stay.

The breakfast situation is a little weird but doable if you’re okay with doing some walking.

The biggest issue is the price point.

The rooms get very expensive during the peak summer season and it’s just difficult to pay that much money and not receive that much in value from your room.

Perhaps if my Titanium status had gotten me an upgrade to a junior suite or something I would feel different?

I’m not sure but at properties like this you really have to adjust your expectations to avoid feeling unsatisfied over your booking.

In the end, I would recommend the hotel (mostly for the location) but try to time your stay so that you can catch it when the prices are on the reasonable side (closer to $300).

Mount Roberts Tramway Review: Here’s What You Need to Know

Juneau, Alaska, is surrounded by beautiful mountains and one of the best ways to take in the city and the surrounding area is to gain some elevation.

Luckily, you don’t have to plan an all-day hike to get up there thanks to the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Below, I’ll give you a full breakdown of what to expect if you choose to experience the Mount Roberts Tramway.

What is the Mount Roberts Tramway?

The Mount Roberts Tramway is an aerial tram that zips you up 1,800 feet to some of the best views of Juneau, Douglas Island, and the Gastineau Channel.

It’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in the area.

Home to a restaurant and quality gift shop, the tram is also a gateway to some great hiking trails.

Tickets for adults are $45 and $30 for ages three through 12. (You can purchase them online or in person.)

The daily ticket is good for the entire day so you could literally spend your entire day just riding up and down this thing (please don’t do that).

The tram usually opens at 8 AM and closes at 9 PM.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Mount Roberts Tramway

Where is the Mount Roberts Tramway?

You’ll find Mount Roberts Tramway right by the Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Area.

The Tramway is a popular meeting destination for various tours so if you book any kind of tour requiring a shuttle bus pick up, there’s a good chance you’ll end up here.

That makes this site a really convenient attraction to add on to the beginning or end of your scheduled activity.

It’s also located right next to the famous Tracy’s King Crab Shack so if you are wanting to check that off your list, it doesn’t get any more convenient.

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Mount Roberts Tramway

Pre-visit tips

Since this is just a tram ride there’s not a whole lot you need to do to prepare for your visit but I would recommend you to consider two things.


Juneau can be a very cloudy and rainy place and when the low-lying clouds roll in, you might lose out on your view entirely from up on the Mount Roberts Tramway.

So you have to think about whether or not it will be worth it to go up there when it’s super cloudy.

It’s a tricky decision because the clouds can move out pretty quickly and views can open up even when it’s pretty cloudy.

Plus, those clouds can create some very dramatic views that would arguably be more stunning than a clear day.

Because the daily pass allows you multiple rides, you could always head back down and then try to come up later on in the day when the weather changes.

Mount Roberts Tramway fog


You also want to think about the type of activities you’d like to do up there.

Some of the hiking trails can take you a couple of miles up on the mountain which means you could be spending a couple of hours on a round-trip hike. So you want to bring water, snacks, and possibly bear spray.

They also have a nature center along with a restaurant so you might want to think about whether or not you’d like to eat up there.

Visiting the Mount Roberts Tramway

Inside the bottom lobby of the Mount Roberts Tramway you’ll find a bathroom and also a café in case you need a little bit of a jolt before heading up on the tram way.

That may or may not be a good idea for some people.

Mount Roberts Tramway cafe

We purchased our tickets at the time of our visit and there was virtually no line for tickets or for boarding. During peak afternoon hours on a beautiful day, though, I’m sure it gets busier.

Mount Roberts Tramway lobby

We loaded into the gondola and it was nice to see that an attendant is inside one of the cable cars at all times.

Nothing worse than getting stuck in one of these things without any idea of what’s going on while you dangle hundreds of feet in the air.

Your capsule is entirely enclosed although there are a couple of small windows in the front and back that open with a gap of only a few inches. You can sit or stand as they have some benches inside.

Mount Roberts Tramway car

Because of the low-lying clouds we only had views for a short amount of time so we were trying to take them in as much as we could.

Mount Roberts Tramway view Juneau
Mount Roberts Tramway view cruise ships
Mount Roberts Tramway view

The clouds drifting through the spruce trees were pretty mesmerizing.

Mount Roberts Tramway view

We soared through the clouds for a little bit until they completely engulfed us as we arrived at the top.

Mount Roberts Tramway view

It took us about seven minutes to get up to the top.

At no point did we ever not feel safe inside the gondola nor did it ever bounce around or act funny like these things can sometimes do.

So if you are a bit on the fence about doing this due to a fear of heights, I think you’ll probably be fine.

Once we got up to the top, it was pretty evident that we wouldn’t be spending much time at the overlooks but I’m sure they have some pretty nice views for you to admire on a clear day. Or at least that’s what they tell me.

Mount Roberts Tramway view

This view right here is about as good as it got for us. And believe me, it didn’t last too long.

Since we didn’t really have any views to check out, we decided to just explore some of the surroundings.

Initially, we wanted to do a hike but we had to switch around our plans for various reasons.

Plus with the record levels of recent rain, the trails were very muddy and I’m pretty sure we would not have had views on the hike anyway.

However, we did wander down the trail a little ways and it was a really cool experience because I’m always down to explore a foggy rain forest.

Mount Roberts Tramway hiking trail
Mount Roberts Tramway hiking trail

Plus, you never know what you’re going to come across like these carvings in the trees.

We made our way over to the nature center but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. With the views also closed for the moment, we didn’t really have whole lot to do up on the mountain except to wander.

The good news is that there are some indoor activities you can enjoy like the special film Seeing Daylight they put on at the 120-seat Chilkat Theatre.

It’s all about the native Tlingit culture and their indigenous ways of life and plays every 30 minutes or on demand if you are visiting during off hours.

Mount Roberts Tramway theater


Eventually, we decided we wanted to try out the restaurant “Timberline” to see what was all about.

Since we were visiting later on in the day and during a cloudy time, we basically had the restaurant to ourselves.

Mount Roberts Tramway restaurant

They serve some specialty drinks up there and we tried out the “glacier margarita.” Very strong and sweet with a pretty blue color.

Mount Roberts Tramway restaurant

For food we went with the popcorn shrimp and french fries.

The shrimp was super crispy on the outside and very soft and mushy on the inside which was just not my thing.

But the fries? Those were amazing.

I probably just should’ve just ordered a burger, though, because that is what they are known for.

Mount Roberts Tramway restaurant

The restaurant should have some pretty amazing views and they even have an outdoor deck where you can really soak up the views (or fog).

Mount Roberts Tramway restaurant view

Goldbelt Tram Gift Store

Later on we decided to take a visit to the Goldbelt Tram Gift Store.

It’s actually a really nice gift shop up there and they have a lot of 100% indigenous designed home and apparel products that looked really cool.

If you are into porcelain bowls, you’ll have a wide selection to choose from but they have a little bit of everything.

Mount Roberts Tramway gift shop
Mount Roberts Tramway gift shop
Mount Roberts Tramway gift shop


One of the main reasons you would want to ride the tram is to get access to the trails up here.

You’ll trek through a mossy rainforest and then make your way up on the ridge overlooking the Juneau area. You might even spot some deer or goats. Of course, you could also spot a bear.

The higher you go, the more difficult and overgrown the terrain may be. So just remember you can venture partially down these trails without getting in over your head.

You’ve got a few different options when it comes to hikes.

The hike that we wanted to do called the Mount Roberts Tramway to Gastineau Peak starts from near the upper Mount Roberts Tramway station. From there it’s a 3.9 mi round-trip hike with about 1,889 ft elevation gain.

Another more strenuous option is to begin at the Mount Roberts Trail trailhead down at sea level and then head your way all the way up at the top. You can then utilize the tram to get you down a little bit quicker. In that case, you only pay $15.

If you’re planning to make it up to one of the peaks, you may have to navigate through snow or ice so crampons might be necessary. This could be the case even in June or possibly July.

Also, there is an area at the upper station where you can clean the mud from your boots.

Mount Roberts Tramway hiiking trail

Final word

The tramway is a great way to get some good views of Juneau, Alaska.

However, with the way the weather is out here those views may not always be possible.

Thankfully, there are other things you can do here like hiking through a beautiful rainforest, shopping, enjoying a meal, or watching a film on the local culture.

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Tracy’s King Crab Shack Review: Worth It When in Alaska?

Tracy’s King Crab Shack is definitely one of the dining hotspots in Juneau, Alaska.

And for good reason.

What trip to Alaska would be complete without a plentiful serving of Alaskan King Crab?

In this article, we will take a look at what it’s like to dine in at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. We’ll cover the menu, prices, and what you can expect with the overall experience.

What is Tracy’s King Crab Shack?

Tracy’s King Crab Shack is one of the premier dining venues in Juneau, Alaska. It’s famous for its huge red king crab legs straight out of the Bering Sea that you can order by the bucket.

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Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Where is Tracy’s King Crab Shack?

Tracy’s King Crab Shack has two locations in Juneau.

The main location is directly across from the Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Area at 432 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK 99801. It’s in a big red building that is basically impossible to miss.

The other location, Tracy’s King Crab Shack 2, is about 10 minutes away and it’s found at 300 Whittier St, Juneau, AK 99801.

Tracy's King Crab Shack Juneau

Tracy’s King Crab Shack

Whenever you arrive at Tracy’s King Crab Shack, there’s a good chance that you might be turned off by the long line outside of the restaurant.

But don’t worry, from what I witnessed it moves relatively quickly.

(Btw – they don’t take reservations here.)

Tracy's King Crab Shack line Juneau

The way it is supposed to work is that you go through the line, make your order, and then find you an open seat.

If you’re visiting during a peak time like we did when virtually all of the seats are full, you might want to send one member of your party to go lock down some seats while someone else waits in line to place an order.

People are constantly going and coming so it’s not that hard to find a seat to open up.

Some benches are located outside and there’s also an outdoor area that is covered in case of rain.

Tracy's King Crab Shack covered outdoor seating

But we opted to eat inside where I felt like we could experience the true atmosphere of Tracy’s King Crab Shack.

Tracy's King Crab Shack

There’s quite a few different seafood options available at Tracy’s King Crab Shack: Dungeness crab, snow crab, crab cakes, crab bisque, etc.

But if you are like me you have your taste buds set on King Crab.

We decided to do it big with one of the three pound crab leg buckets which ran $220! A pretty penny.

It comes with coleslaw, three rolls, and melted butter. I felt like this was plenty for two people.

Take a look at the menu below but keep in mind prices are subject to change.

Tracy's King Crab Shack menu

When you put in your order they will take down your name and whatever state/country you would like to claim so that whenever they read out your name it will be easier to tell your order apart from others.

And if you place an order for one of the crab buckets you’ll trigger a special bell ringing and restaurant-wide shout, because it wouldn’t be a crab shack without some type of obnoxious gesture, am I right?

Most of the seating inside comes in the form of long benches which means you’ll likely be sitting close to other people when you finally find a seat.

This helps to create a pretty lively atmosphere inside the restaurant where passengers from various cruise ships interact. You never know who you might meet.

(If you’re looking for a quiet place to feast on crab legs, dining inside may not be the right move.)

There are tools that you can use to help you get some of the crab meat out and you might want to secure some of these while you wait for your grub to arrive.

Another customer actually offered these to us and while we waited for our food we set them down on the table only for some klepto crab lover to come and steal them! WTF?

We asked the staff if they had any others and they told us no which I thought was the only real negative of the experience.

I mean we are paying $220+ for a crab bucket and it doesn’t come with one of these handy tools? It really put us in a *pinch*.

Tracy's King Crab Shack tools

Anyway, when the crabs came out it was time to get to work.

Well, almost.

If you order one of the buckets you owe it to yourself to snap a few photos with the “best legs in town.”

Tracy's King Crab Shack crab bucket 3 pounds

Once we placed all the crab on the table, I was pretty amazed by the sheer size of the crab legs.

Tracy's King Crab Shack crab bucket 3 pounds

When you have not eaten a lot of crab — especially huge crab like this — you sort of forget how much work is involved but it is 100% worth it.

Everybody may have their own technique for getting the meat out but here’s my recommendation.

You can snap off the smaller portions of the legs at the joints and then carefully crack the leg piece in half. Bend the cracked leg back-and-forth until the shell separates. Then slide 1/2 of the cracked leg off and pull the meat out as seen in this video.

Other times you may need to just crack it down the middle.

Once you get your form down, the well-cooked crab with then slide out effortlessly.

Tracy's King Crab Shack crab bucket 3 pounds

I’d never held such huge, unbroken pieces of crab before so this was a first for me.

As far as the flavor goes, the crab lived up to the hype. Well-cooked, soft, and buttery. Pretty much all you could ask for.

The sides also delivered which included the fresh rolls and heavy, mayo-based coleslaw.

The only thing we didn’t care too much for was the crab bisque. Very creamy but faint flavoring for our liking.

We chatted it up with some people next to us who ordered the crabcakes and they had very positive things to say about them, so maybe give them a shot as well.

Once you start to make a pile of discarded crab, you can simply toss it in your bucket to keep your space nice and clean.

When you get done dealing with all those buttery crab legs chances are you’re gonna need to wash your hands thoroughly and they have a couple of “sink bucket” stations for doing that.

If you’re in the mood for a drink they do have a bar where you can pour up some local beers. Fill up a pitcher for $20.

Tracy's King Crab Shack beer
Tracy's King Crab Shack drink menu

There’s also a gift shop with some apparel, and a lot of souvenirs including special crab sauce.

One last thing to note is that you can actually order their products and have them shipped to you. This includes crab!

Final word

Because of how busy the place is and the prices, I could see a lot of people taking a pass on Tracy’s King Crab Shack.

Yes, a lot of times it is going to be full of hungry tourists coming off the cruise ships which are basically right in front of the restaurant.

However, it’s a fun place to splurge on some crab legs and the quality of the crab cannot be denied.

I wish they were not under supplied with the crab shell tools but other than that, I’d say it’s worth checking out.

Using Turo in Juneau: Good Idea or Should You Rent a Car?

If you’re visiting Juneau, Alaska, you may be wondering what is the best way to get around?

It’s a beautiful city and there are quite a few places worth visiting outside of Downtown Juneau such as the Mendenhall Glacier, Eagle Beach, and others.

But is Turo a good option for getting around or could you end up saving a lot of money by going a different route?

In this article, we will take a data driven approach to figuring out the best way to get around Juneau when it comes to driving yourself around.

Why rideshare services can be a problem

If you only plan on going to one or two places from the cruise terminal area or from Downtown Juneau then you might be really tempted to simply book a rideshare vehicle to get you there.

If you’re hoping to rely on rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, you might be in for a bit of a shock because it can sometimes be difficult to find a driver.

During our weeklong visit, we were not able to find a single driver on a few occasions even after waiting around 10 to 20 minutes.

(That may not sound that long but when you’re just sitting around waiting it actually feels like an eternity. Remember, that is just waiting to find a driver.)

It also wasn’t super uncommon for the driver that dropped us off to be the same driver that picked us up.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still use Uber or Lyft in Juneau but I would not exactly call it the most dependable method of transportation.

When we finally would find a driver, it wasn’t uncommon for the driver to cancel or to be switched out (sometimes multiple times) which would further prolong the wait, sometimes up to 15 minutes.

I certainly would not rely on rideshares if I really had to be somewhere at a specific time, such as the airport in the morning.

Plus, you have to deal with the fact that ride shares are not supposed to be servicing passengers at certain locations like the Mendenhall Glacier.

This fact can make utilizing rideshare services extra difficult and put you in an awkward position if your rideshare driver does not inform you about this.

You can always book a taxi but sometimes the waiting time for a taxi could be around 45 minutes or so.

Thus they are not exactly the most efficient way to get around, unless you are scheduling a specific time ahead of time.

But when you’re traveling on vacation it’s not always so easy to schedule timeslots for transportation like that because you never know what kind of thing may come up or how long you want to spend at a given destination.

For those reasons, you may want to seriously consider renting a car.

You can go the traditional rental car route or you can also try out Turo.

Below, we will walk you through some prices and data points for using Turo in Juneau.

You might also be interested in:

Turo prices in Juneau

Here is all of the data summarized with average prices for different types of rentals from Turo and from the rental car companies: Enterprise, Avis, Alamo.

All data was collected in August 2022 with travel dates approximately the beginning of September 2022.

We broke down the prices so that you can see the different estimates for renting things like cars, SUVs, trucks, etc. We also tested out rental times, such as rentals for one day, three days, and seven days.

Rental TimeVehicle ClassAvg. Price TuroAvg. Price AlamoAvg. Price AvisAvg. Price Enterprise
1-Day Rental
Electric Hybrid$167.67N/AN/AN/A
3-Day Rental
Electric Hybrid$417.82N/AN/AN/A
7-Day Rental
Electric Hybrid$880.75N/AN/AN/A

As you can see, going with Turo in Juneau is not always the cheapest option. In fact, it can actually be the most expensive option in some scenarios.

It’s possible that prices may drop in the future based on supply and demand but the prices that we found during our visit certainly were not the best when compared to traditional rental car companies.

In addition, Turo just did not have a lot of options to choose from (although the rental car companies also had a limited selection in a lot of cases).

I will have to give Turo credit though, because Turo at least had options for some of the categories like trucks and minivans and the rental car companies did not.

One interesting find was how cheap Avis was when compared to the other rental car companies. If you were coming in on a cruise you could rent a car for one day for under $70. You could also rent an SUV for under $100!

Avis was definitely an outlier when it came to price.

As already mentioned, prices are always going to fluctuate but this just goes to show that if you were planning on renting a vehicle in Juneau you definitely want to compare a few different companies because the pricing could be dramatically different.

Don’t assume that Turo will get you the cheapest deal but feel free to use them if you’re trying to find a truck or minivan because that may be your only option.


We always believe in being transparent with the data that we present to readers. So below you can find all of the individual data points that we found and used to compile our data.


1 Day Rental


  • 2015 BMW 3 Series – $199.43
  • 2017 Honda Civic – $84.52
  • 2015 Toyota Camry – $132.47
  • 2017 Dodge Challenger – $233.21
  • 2020 Subaru Outback – $173.79


  • 2019 Nissan Pathfinder – $177.37
  • 2020 GMC Acadia – $186.89
  • 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe – $247.74
  • 2022 Toyota 4Runner – $177.96
  • 2019 Jeep Cherokee – $119.86


  • 2016 Toyota Tacoma – $157.07
  • 2021 Jeep Gladiator – $263.52




  • 2013 Nissan Leaf – $92.17
  • 2017 Nissan Leaf – $108.36
  • 2015 Tesla Model S – $235.82
  • 2013 Tesla Model S – $234.33

3 Day Rental


  • 2015 BMW 3 Series – $485.35
  • 2017 Honda Civic – $216.74
  • 2015 Toyota Camry – $321.44
  • 2017 Dodge Challenger – $568.06
  • 2020 Subaru Outback – $447.60


  • 2019 Nissan Pathfinder – $479.99
  • 2020 GMC Acadia – $505.98
  • 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe – $639.83
  • 2022 Toyota 4Runner – $481.61
  • 2019 Jeep Cherokee – $306.98


  • 2016 Toyota Tacoma – $457.21
  • 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 – $435.22
  • 2016 Toyota Tacoma – $404.20
  • 2021 Jeep Gladiator – $642.23


  • 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan – $481.61
  • 2022 Toyota Sienna – $707.99
  • 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan – $404.20
  • 2015 Chrysler Town and Country – $408.29


  • 2013 Nissan Leaf – $210.95
  • 2017 Nissan Leaf – $248.00
  • 2015 Tesla Model S – $641.50
  • 2013 Tesla Model S – $570.81

7 Day Rental


  • 2015 BMW 3 Series – $1,044.41
  • 2017 Honda Civic – $467.98
  • 2014 Toyota Corolla – $699.16
  • 2017 Dodge Challenger – $1,223.40
  • 2020 Subaru Outback – $1,020.89


  • 2019 Nissan Pathfinder – $1,005.58
  • 2020 GMC Acadia – $1,154.83
  • 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe – $1,337.35
  • 2022 Toyota 4Runner – $1,042.92
  • 2019 Jeep Cherokee – $699.16


  • 2016 Toyota Tacoma – $986.90
  • 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 – $942.05
  • 2016 Toyota Tacoma – $874.71
  • 2021 Jeep Gladiator – $1,384.18


  • 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan – $1,086.64
  • 2022 Toyota Sienna – $1,526.88
  • 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan – $874.71
  • 2015 Chrysler Town and Country – $885.94


  • 2013 Nissan Leaf – $411.64
  • 2017 Nissan Leaf – $486.20
  • 2015 Tesla Model S – $1,395.82
  • 2013 Tesla Model S – $1,229.35

Alamo Rent A Car

1 Day Rental


  • Compact – Nissan Versa or similar – $140.22
  • Midsize – Toyota Corolla or similar – $152.82
  • Economy – Mitsubishi Mirage or similar – $157.77
  • Standard – VW Jetta or similar – $160.30
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Malibu or similar – $160.30


  • Midsize SUV – Nissan Rogue or similar – $207.17
  • Standard SUV – Ford Edge or similar – $227.27

3 Day Rental


  • Compact – Nissan Versa or similar – $473.29
  • Midsize – Toyota Corolla or similar – $477.10
  • Economy – Mitsubishi Mirage or similar – $473.29
  • Standard – VW Jetta or similar – $480.89
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Malibu or similar – $480.89


  • Midsize SUV – Nissan Rogue or similar – $621.49
  • Standard SUV – Ford Edge or similar – $678.37

7 Day Rental


  • Compact – Nissan Versa or similar – $620.03
  • Midsize – Toyota Corolla or similar – $620.08
  • Economy – Mitsubishi Mirage or similar – $931.99
  • Standard – VW Jetta or similar – $620.11
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Malibu or similar – $620.11


  • Midsize SUV – Nissan Rogue or similar – $620.13
  • Standard SUV – Ford Edge or similar – $620.17

Avis Rental Car

1 Day Rental


  • Compact – Kia Soul or similar – $67.85
  • Intermediate – Toyota Corolla or similar – $70.38
  • Economy – Toyota Yaris or similar – $64.04
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Impala Limited or similar – $75.44


  • Intermediate SUV – Toyota Rav4 or similar – $89.37
  • Standard SUV – Hyundai Santa Fe or similar – $108.37

3 Day Rental


  • Compact – Kia Soul or similar – $203.52
  • Intermediate – Toyota Corolla or similar – $211.11
  • Economy – Toyota Yaris or similar – $192.12
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Impala Limited or similar – $226.31


  • Intermediate SUV – Toyota Rav4 or similar – $268.11
  • Standard SUV – Hyundai Santa Fe or similar – $325.10

7 Day Rental


  • Compact – Kia Soul or similar – $286.79
  • Intermediate – Toyota Corolla or similar – $312.12
  • Economy – Toyota Yaris or similar – $261.46
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Impala Limited or similar – $337.45


  • Intermediate SUV – Toyota Rav4 or similar – $388.11
  • Standard SUV – Hyundai Santa Fe or similar – $514.77

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

1 Day Rental


  • Compact – Nissan Versa or similar – $133.24
  • Midsize – Toyota Corolla or similar – $145.21
  • Economy – Mitsubishi Mirage or similar – $149.92
  • Standard – Volkswagen Jetta or similar – $152.32
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Malibu or similar – $152.32


  • Midsize SUV – Nissan Rogue or similar – $196.83
  • Standard SUV – Ford Edge or similar – $215.95

3 Day Rental


  • Compact – Nissan Versa or similar – $449.74
  • Midsize – Toyota Corolla or similar – $453.33
  • Economy – Mitsubishi Mirage or similar – $449.74
  • Standard – Volkswagen Jetta or similar – $456.95
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Malibu or similar – $456.95


  • Midsize SUV – Nissan Rogue or similar – $590.51
  • Standard SUV – Ford Edge or similar – $644.55

7 Day Rental


  • Compact – Nissan Versa or similar – $589.29
  • Midsize – Toyota Corolla or similar – $589.33
  • Economy – Mitsubishi Mirage or similar – $885.62
  • Standard – Volkswagen Jetta or similar – $589.34
  • Full Size – Chevrolet Malibu or similar – $589.34


  • Midsize SUV – Nissan Rogue or similar – $589.36
  • Standard SUV – Ford Edge or similar – $589.40

Final word

If you plan on renting a vehicle in Juneau make sure that you compare different rental car companies and that you do not assume that Turo will be the cheapest route. You can still find good deals on Turo and they also may have the best availability for certain classes of vehicle such as trucks.

But the point is: just shop around a little bit.

Juneau Whale Watching Review: Flukes for Days!

If you’re coming to Juneau, Alaska, it’s hard not to think bout going on a whale watching adventure.

The Juneau area is one of the best places to catch humpback whales in the summer and you can easily book a tour whether you are flying in or coming in on a cruise.

In this article, I’ll show you what you can expect when doing a humpback whale watching tour. I’ll give you an overview of the experience and also some tips to make the most of your time out on the water!

Juneau whale watching overview

We decided to do our tour with Juneau Whale Watch.

In total, it’s about a 3.5 to 4 hour excursion that spends about two hours and 15 minutes on the water. The rest of the time is getting situated and transported to and from the dock.

They run quite a few tours throughout the day so you can pick a time slot that works just for you.

I don’t think the time of day really matters that much because the whales are active throughout the day. However, mornings and evenings are typically when the water is calmer.

Prices are $145 for ages 13 and older, $130 for ages three through 12, and free for ages 2 and under. Tours will be offered April through September.

Something I like about these tours is that if you don’t see any whales you can get your money back!

Also, if you shell out $20 more bucks you can combine this so that you get dropped off at the Mendenhall Glacier. You’ll be able to hang out there as long as you want and then board the shuttle bus back.

It’s on the way coming back from whale watching so it makes a lot of sense to knock out that site after a whale watching tour.

Before you go the Mendenhall Glacier, I would highly recommend for you to read our detailed guide of the Mendenhall Glacier.

Juneau Whale Watching

Pre-visit tips for whale watching

In order to really enjoy your whale watching trip you want to make sure that you are 100% prepared and here are some essential tips to help you be completely ready for your visit.

Adjust your expectations

I hate to break it to you but most likely, you are not going to witness a spectacular, once in a lifetime breaching event.

You also will likely not see bubble netting which is a pretty rare event.

You might see these things… but probably not.

With that said, just being able to see humpback whales in the wild is a pretty spectacular site.

And there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to see some majestic flukes breaking the surface at a minimum.

Hopefully, you will see something extra spectacular but just set your expectations so that you’re not disappointed.

Juneau humpback Whale

Getting good photographs

Getting really good photographs of whales is not an easy task on these tours.

One reason is that you have to keep a good distance from the whales and that can make it difficult to get a good shot with a lot of detail.

Another reason is that you have to anticipate their movements and/or just get lucky.

The good news is that you can see so many whales here so that you have a lot of opportunities to anticipate those movements which does make it a lot easier to get good shots.

However, you’re still going to want a good zoom lens if you want quality shots. I utilized my 300 mm Cannon L-series lens and I thought it did a pretty good job.

Serious wildlife photographers might go with something like a 400mm but most of the people on the boat were definitely not serious photographers.

If you only have your smart phone with you that can still get some pretty good shots, especially if you have one of the whales getting a little close.

Video of whales can also come out really nice even on a cell phone.

Juneau humpback Whale fluke

Get a good vantage point

As soon as the second deck opens I would recommend going up there because you just have a better vantage point.

Don’t forget the Dramamine

If you are prone to sea sickness it’s probably a good idea to take some Dramamine.

I think the bay/Inside Passage is often pretty calm and it was definitely calm during our expedition so seasickness is probably not a major issue out here.

But it’s always good to be prepared.

Juneau whale watching experience

Your whale watching experience begins when you meet up for check in. This will take place right outside of the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Depending on the time of day this area can be quite busy but we scheduled our tour for the morning and so it was quite empty, especially because the cruise ships had not arrived yet.

You’ll look for the person wearing the blue cap and simply let them know that you are have arrived.

Soon you will board the whale watching shuttle bus and it is going to take you over to Auke Bay, where you will board your boat for the tour.

Juneau Whale Watching bus

It’s about a 30 minute ride over to the boat full of dad jokes and commentary, which was a little bit difficult to fully appreciate so early in the morning.

The good news is: you may have a surprise waiting for you on the way.

When we took the shuttle, we spotted many bald eagles along the way. A handful of them were just hanging out on top of the light posts along the road.

You also might get lucky and spot a black bear roaming the fields along the main road.

It’s pretty incredible how accessible the wildlife is in Juneau.

Once you arrive in Auke Bay Harbor, you’ll walk down a short dock and then board the 49-person catamaran. When the boat is taking off they may not open up the second deck so you will just need to find a seat on the first deck.

Note that some tours go out on a smaller jet boat that seats 26 people.

Juneau Whale Watching boat

Our boat was really nice and I liked that the seats had a small shelf area so I could easily set my camera down.

Note: They don’t provide meals but they do provide some light snacks at some point during the tour.

Juneau Whale Watching boat
Juneau Whale Watching boat

Large windows provide great views so that you should not have to miss anything. I also appreciated the fact that the windows were well cleaned.

On the second deck, there’s a pretty spacious viewing deck which gives you panoramic views. Once they opened up the top deck, that’s where we spent most of our time.

Juneau Whale Watching boat

There is a bathroom on board but you can also go ahead of time at the dock or at the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Once everybody has boarded you will get your short orientation which will include a very brief safety instruction and then it will be time to takeoff.

Depending on the tides, this will be another opportunity for you to get some unforgettable views of bald eagles.

When we were here, we spotted at least a dozen eagles hanging out and fighting over fish. It was probably the best views we had of them our entire time in Alaska.

Juneau Whale Watching eagles

Once you launch, the instructors will give you a little bit of insight about humpback whales and offer you the chance to check out a baleen which is what some people call a “whale’s tooth” although it’s a different thing.

After cruising out for a little while you’ll eventually be out in the bay where hopefully some pretty nice views will open up. We had lots of clouds on our tour but the sky did open up for a while at some point.

(Even if it is raining outside the tour will still go on so you should not have to worry about cancellations.)

It didn’t take very long for us to get our first whale sighting and once we got the first one they pretty much were nonstop.

Once a pod would pass us by, we would wait around a little bit and then head out to a new spot and pretty much immediately find whales. That’s not always the case on a whale watching tour so it’s definitely not something to take for granted.

Juneau Whale Watching humpback

What I like about whale watching tours is that the boat is geared specifically towards allowing you to view these magnificent creatures.

That’s different from a boat cruise that you can take like the one we did to Glacier Bay which is focused on glaciers and general wildlife.

It makes a pretty big difference because on a whale watching tour you’re likely to get closer to the whales and the boat will stop and allow you to spend more time with the whales.

You can actually hear them blowing water through their blowholes and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) you might even get sprayed.

Seriously, I’ve heard horrible things about the ensuing stench after getting sprayed by a whale.

I’m all about close encounters but that might be pushing it.

But back to the boat tours….

My point is that if you really want to focus on getting a good whale encounter, don’t think that a normal boat tour will always be good enough.

Juneau Whale Watching humpback

The team on the boat is really good about helping to spot whales and will immediately alert you as to what direction to look in.

However, it’s really not that hard to find them in this area because they are so numerous.

All you have to do is look for spouts which are pretty easy to spot with the naked eye, even whenever they are pretty far out.

Juneau Whale Watching humpback spout

Once you see a spout you may then see multiple spouts following which could be different whales or it could be a new spout from the original whale.

Sometimes the whales will hang out near the surface for a while and engage in things like lunge feeding.

But eventually, they will want to take a dive and that is whenever you will see them arch their back and then maybe stick out there fluke. It’s truly a sight to behold.

On this tour, whenever we saw one whale we would usually see one or two additional whales hanging out with it.

Juneau Whale Watching humpback

That was really cool because the only other time I did whale watching was off the coast of Sydney, Australia, and we did not see as many whales.

Another thing that’s cool is that the whales you see likely migrated from Hawaii. So if you are ever there during the winter and do some whale watching it’s always possible that you could actually see the same humpback whales!

At a certain point we stopped to check out some sea lions hanging out on a buoy.

We were pretty close to them so this offered some of the best views I think I’ve ever gotten of sea lions. It was pretty funny watching them sun bathe and continuously annoy each other. Such a tough life.

Juneau Whale Watching sea lions

Chances are there will be other boats circling around the areas where the whales are spotted.

The boats are required to keep a good distance from the whales (100 yards) but some of the smaller boats seem to either disregard that rule or have some kind of exception that allows them to get closer.

It’s possible that you could spot other whales (or orcas) on your tour but we did not see any on this whale watching adventure.

Something that is cool about this tour is that if you get a good photo of a whale’s fluke you can try to identify it by going to

If you don’t see any matching whales then you may have discovered a new one and they will even let you name it!

I believe I found one of the whales I spotted which is known as “moon cheese” and I thought it was pretty cool to be able to identify a whale like that. So far, 150 humpback whales have been officially documented here.

Juneau Whale Watching humpback fluke

After spotting quite a few whales it was time to make our way back.

Once again, whenever we arrived back at the harbor there were a lot of bald eagles hanging out.

Juneau Whale Watching bald eagle
Juneau Whale Watching bald eagle

We also saw a beautiful Canadian goose flying right by.

Final word

If you’ve never been whale watching before this is a fantastic place to do it because you are virtually guaranteed to see some beautiful humpback whales when visiting during peak season.

While I enjoyed this whale watching tour, Gustavus, Alaska, may offer you an even more exhilarating whale experience. If I could’ve had it my way I would’ve done my whale watching tour over there and then done the Tracy Arm boat tour out of Juneau.

But that did not quite work out, which is fine because this tour was still a lot of fun!

Mendenhall Glacier Ultimate Guide: Tips for Exploring

The Mendenhall Glacier is one of the easiest glaciers to access in all of Alaska and arguably the most popular attraction in Juneau.

There are many different bucket-list worthy ways to explore Mendenhall Glacier and in this article I’ll break down all of the different ways you might want to spend time visiting Mendenhall Glacier.

I’ll cover things like hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and how to see things like the ice caves.

I’ll also provide you with a lot of practical tips on things like transportation so that you can have as smooth as a visit as possible.

What is Mendenhall Glacier?

Mendenhall Glacier is a valley glacier only 20 minutes away from Downtown Juneau.

Found in Tongass National Forest, it’s a beautiful 13.6 mile long, 1.5 mile wide glacier with a face towering more than 100 feet at its terminus in Mendenhall Lake.

Due to its beauty and easy access, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier visitor Center sign

Why is Mendenhall Glacier special?

Mendenhall Glacier is a special place to visit for a number of reasons.

First, it’s just a very accessible glacier.

Glaciers are not always the easiest places to visit. They may be tucked away in remote mountains or only viewable after going on a long boat ride through a deep fjord.

You don’t typically have the ability to just “stroll up” to a glacier.

But considering how easy it is to get to this place from Juneau, this might be one of the most accessible glaciers you’ll ever visit.

If you’ve never seen a glacier before, it really is a sight to behold.

The glacier itself will probably be a lot bigger than you imagine and it’s just a really beautiful site that’s kind of hard to put into words.

If you’re from a climate where you don’t see a lot of snow or ice, it’s even more dramatic.

Another reason why this is such a special place in my opinion is the recent history.

This glacier once covered the entire valley during a mini ice age a few hundred years ago. But by the mid-1700s, the glacier began to retreat creating the lake you see you today.

So when you admire the area you’re witnessing a recently revealed landscape with vegetation still trying to find its footing which is a pretty cool sight.

Mendenhall Glacier

How to get to Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier is located at: 6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK 99801.

This is in Mendenhall Valley which is 12 miles northwest of Downtown Juneau and the Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Area.

Driving a rental vehicle from these areas to the glacier will take you about 22 minutes.

If you book any of the adventurous tours such as a kayaking tour, canoe trip, helicopter tour, etc., your transportation should be covered.

You can also book a shuttle bus for $45 roundtrip that will take you to and from the glacier and allow you to spend as much time as you would like there. They sync up schedules with cruise ships which makes things easy.

We decided to use a rideshare service to take us over to the glacier and with the tip we ended up spending $38 for the one-way ride.

Utilizing a rideshare like Uber or Lyft in Juneau is not always easy because of the limited number of drivers.

Also, apparently rideshare drivers are not supposed to serve the Mendenhall Glacier so our driver had to basically sneak us in and we had to book a taxi on the way back.

Speaking of taxi companies, if you are looking to book a taxi to the Mendenhall Glacier consider utilizing one of these services:

  • Juneau Taxi: 907-586-1111
  • DLUX Rides: 907-586-2121

Expect the taxi cost to be about $35 one way.

Tip: Consider planning transportation ahead of time because you may not have good cell phone service at the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier pre-visit tips

Before getting into each different way to explore this place I’ll give you some helpful tips for planning purposes.

How much time you’ll need

The first thing to think about is how much time you’ll need.

If you’re just coming to the visitor center and walking around a few of the platforms then you probably only need about 30 minutes to an hour.

If you’re going to hit up the visitor center and plan on doing a short trail or two then giving yourself an hour and a half to two hours is plenty.

But if you want to embark on a kayaking adventure or one of the longer trails then you need to spend half a day or longer here.

Mendenhall Glacier from photo point

Cooler temperatures

Thanks to the natural AC effect, the temperature near Mendenhall Glacier can drop about 10° compared to the outer valley so make sure that you are dressed for the temperature swing.

Check on the visibility

If you’re visiting during a rainy time or when there is a lot of cloud cover, consider calling the visitor center before you head over and ask about the visibility of the glacier.

The park ranger on the phone will likely have a direct view of the glacier when they’re talking to you, so you can get real-time information.

Sometimes you may not be able to see the glacier due to foggy weather but luckily clouds can quickly move in and out over here so there’s always a chance it will clear up later.

Speaking of weather….

Mendenhall Glacier iceberg

Give yourself extra time for air travel activities

If you plan on doing a tour that is dependent upon air travel try to leave yourself with some open dates and brace yourself for cancellations because of how rainy the area can be.

(It’s not so much the rain but the clouds that can be the issue.)

Remember that if you book tours that take place on the water you can pretty much always go out regardless of the weather.

So if you only have one day that might be the way to go.


Bears can be found just about anywhere here so always be prepared for that encounter.

They advise you to not have any food on you when you come here which I think is probably a good idea. The visitor center and pavilion are dedicated eating areas but there are no lockers, vending machines, or food concessions on site.

(If you’re doing a hike you can have some snacks in your pack.)

Exploring Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier visitor center

A great place to start when exploring the Mendenhall Glacier is to simply go by the visitor center — the information hub for Mendenhall Glacier.

It’s where you can learn more about the glacier, browse the gift shop/bookstore, and spend some time indoors if the weather is not cooperating outside.

This is also where you can view the latest wildlife sightings posted by the rangers.

By the way, the park rangers are excellent over here.

Mendenhall Glacier visitor Center

You can make your way up to the Visitors Center via the stairs but if you have mobility issues they also have an elevator that you could take.

Inside the visitor center, exhibits shed light on the local environment and wildlife.

Learn how glaciers produce that brilliant glacier blue color. See a rare stuffed glacier bear.

If you have time consider catching the 15 minute film that covers the history of the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier visitor Center exhibit

If you want some views, large windows brilliantly showcase the glacier and Nugget Falls.

Mendenhall Glacier visitor Center view

It’s a great view but I would definitely prefer to also do one of the hikes below to get a better vantage point.

Mendenhall Glacier visitor Center

Just outside of the visitor center you can find bathrooms and you also can utilize some of the overlooks, where you can check out the interpretive panels while you learn a bit about the history of this valley.

Tip: While the visitor center is relatively close to the glacier, consider bringing binoculars so that you can get a better view.

Don’t expect to see much calving at this glacier though.

This type of valley glacier is very different from a tidal glacier you would find in a nearby place like Glacier Bay National Park or the Tracy Arm.

Those get continuously disturbed by ocean currents and have frequent major calving events.

Those don’t really happen at this glacier — at least not as often.

Mendenhall Glacier

One last thing to mention about the visitor center.

This area technically is a fee zone although it’s a little confusing to me.

Day use passes sell for $5 per person but those age 15 and younger are free.

The passes allow access to the:

  • Pavilion
  • Photo Point
  • Steep Creek Trails

Fees are not necessary for accessing the:

  • Parking areas
  • Nugget Falls Trail
  • East Glacier Trail
  • Powerline Trail
  • Moraine Ecology Trail
  • Trail of Time
  • Dredge Lakes and West Glacier Trails

If you have an annual national parks pass such as the “America the Beautiful” pass, Senior Pass, or Military Pass you can use those to get in for free.

While the website states fees are needed to visit some of the locations above, we did not have to actually pay anything when we visited so I’m not sure how they enforce these fees.

As for hours, during summer months (May – September), the visitor center is open from 8:00am – 7:30pm daily. 

During the winter, (October – March) the visitor center is open from 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, excluding federal holidays.

The grounds surrounding the visitor center are open from 6:00 a.m. to midnight year-round.

Check here for information


There’s quite a few different hiking trails that you can enjoy here.

The “must do” in my opinion is the hike to Nugget Falls. It’s 2 miles round-trip on a gravel path that feels paved and the trail has very little elevation. It will take you somewhere around 45 minutes to one hour depending on how swift you are moving.

Be sure to look for wildlife along the way including porcupines that might be resting up in the trees.

Nugget falls hike

I’d highly recommend you combine this with a small detour to Photo Point which is a paved loop path that offers some great views of Mendenhall Lake, Nugget Falls, and Mendenhall Glacier.

Photo Point hike

You also want to check out the Steep Creek Trail which is a series of boardwalks and paved paths.

A portion of this trail is closed during the peak salmon run but you can still check out some of the raised observation decks which can offer you an amazing (and safe enough) views of black bears and salmon (sockeye and Coho).

Your odds of seeing bears will increase during the peak salmon runs but it’s never a guarantee.

We were told they are most active in the morning and evening when there are fewer visitors but I’ve also heard they can be spotted at pretty much anytime.

And while some of the black bears may appear brown, they do not have brown (grizzly) bears here at Mendenhall Glacier.

Well, at least they are not common.

The last one officially spotted was back in 2008 so it always could be a possibility although extremely unlikely.

On that note, if we’re talking about rare bears a “glacier bear” has been spotted in the Juneau area before. You probably won’t see one but they do have one on display in the visitor center which is an underrated exhibit.

Finally, if you’re worried about finding bear spray, be aware the Visitors Center does NOT sell any.

You most likely won’t need any unless you are doing some hiking, walking with a dog, camping, etc. But you can find some in local sports centers like Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Mendenhall Glacier visitor Center steep Creek black bear
Photo by Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA.

Another trail close to the visitor center is the East Glacier Loop Trail, 3.1 miles and 775 feet elevation gain. It’s a good trail for encountering dense pioneering vegetation such as willow, alder and cottonwood and also for exploring the rainforest.

View from the East Glacier Loop Trail.
View from the East Glacier Loop Trail. Photo by David Baron.

If you want awesome views and to get close to the glacier then you need to hike from the other side of lake via the West Glacier Trail.

The trailhead for this trail is located about 10 minutes away from the visitor center in a completely different area on Skaters Cabin Rd.

West Glacier Trail view
West Glacier Trail. Photo by Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA.

If you wanted to do something more strenuous, then a popular option is the Ice Cave Trail. This is basically just an extension of the West Glacier Trail that takes you down to the glacier.

It’s an amazing experience because you’ll end up right at the foot of the Mendenhall Glacier, offering you an unforgettable encounter with this massive “river of ice.”

This trail is about 6 miles long (out and back) with elevation gain of about 1,200 feet.

That doesn’t sound too bad but the closer you get to the glacier, the less maintained the trail becomes and you may be dealing with a lot of wild tree roots and muddy conditions requiring a bit of technical work.

Rangers don’t recommend that you try this hike during the rain because of how treacherous some of the mossy rocks can become.

For many, this hike is a lot of fun but it’s only a good option for those willing to commit to a fairly strenuous hike. Stop by the visitor center and get a map of the trail and talk it over with a ranger if you are in doubt.

If you don’t feel comfortable leading yourself, you can book a guided adventure. Either way, you will want to have crampons if you plan on stepping on the glacier.

West Glacier Trail view
View at the end of the West Glacier Trail. Photo by Megan Madding via AllTrails.

If you don’t want to do the hiking, you can kayak over to this point. Be sure to pull your kayak way up out of the shore zone because it could be swept away.

Explore the blue ice caves

One of the most stunning sites to behold would have to be the ice caves that form under the Mendenhall Glacier.

It’s the ultimate way to take in that mesmerizing glacier blue and to view an otherworldly landscape that you just can’t mimic anywhere else.

Visiting the ice caves is a little bit tricky because the Mendenhall Glacier is always changing its shape so caves are constantly forming and disappearing.

Timing and safety are major concerns.

To get there, you can do the hike above or you can book hiking or kayaking tours and they will take you to the caves if they are safe enough to visit.

Consider calling in and asking about the latest conditions to see if you have a chance to explore these.

I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable venturing into these caves without a guide but if you know what you’re doing I say go for it.

As far as I can tell, the caves have been difficult to visit as of the summer of 2022 but hopefully that will change.

One way to find the latest conditions in the caves is to filter for things like “Mendenhall Glacier cave” on social media or check the social media accounts of the tour companies.

Make sure people know when to expect you to come back if you are venturing onto the glacier by yourself.

Mendenhall Glacier ice cave
Photo by adam_gulkis.


If you trust your kayaking skills you can bring your own kayak and set off by yourself. No permit needed.

The launching point is very close to the parking lot so it’s really easy to get in the water.

It’s about 2 miles to the face of the glacier so it’s gonna take you anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get there for your average kayaker.

Just remember this water is like 34° so be prepared to deal with extreme cold in the event you take an unplanned dip in the lake.

You can also book a kayaking adventure tour in Mendenhall Lake for around $230.

You’ll set out and paddle something like five or 6 miles around the lake while taking in exceptional (close) views of the Mendenhall Glacier and other sites like Nugget Falls.

Wildlife sightings could include beavers, bald eagles, waterfowl, and arctic terns.

Another kayaking tour takes you out to sea and offers a view from a distance of the Mendenhall Glacier, while potentially seeing porpoise, seals, sea lions, eagles, herons, or even whales.

While having experience will certainly help you enjoy these experiences, experience is not necessary.

With that said, some of these adventures last for quite a few hours so make sure you are up for the physical challenge especially if your adventure combines kayaking with hiking.

Be sure to pay attention to the size requirements when it comes to kayaks.

If you are on the larger side either by height or weight you might consider going with a canoe which could be more comfortable.

Note: When you book a tour like a kayaking adventure, you should be supplied with all of the necessary gear you would need like a dry bag, rain jacket, and rain pants, so it’s relatively easy to prepare for these.

Mendenhall Glacier kayaking
Photo by Dan Nguyen.


Canoeing is another option that might be better suited for people not comfortable in a kayak or who are interested in traveling with more fellow travelers.

The canoes can hold a lot more people and sometimes you might be paddling along with close to a dozen other explorers.

Again, be ready for a full day adventure in a lot of cases as some of these tours combine hiking with your boat time.

The cool thing about the kayaking and canoeing tours is that not only do you get close to the glacier but you get some close encounters with ice bergs, some of which can dazzle you.

Getting in a kayak or canoe is probably the best way to experience the face of the glacier.

Canoe glacier paddle
Photo via

River raft

Embarking on a river raft adventure is another way to explore Mendenhall Glacier Lake.

You’ll get some time to admire the face of the glacier and then float through the milky blue-gray waters of the lake before starting downstream on your 5-mile route.

You’ll pass through Class I and II whitewater rapids, so it’s a great way to experience some adventure without committing to a super hard-core, white-knuckled rafting ride.

Expect to shell out around $165 for this adventure.

Glacier walks, treks, and climbs

One of the most memorable ways to experience Mendenhall Glacier is to actually step foot on top of the glacier.

To me, this is the ultimate way to experience the glacier as it’s not every day that you’re standing on hundreds of feet of tightly packed ice that’s been carving its way through mountainous terrain for centuries.

You can find three different types of adventures that will allow you to accomplish this. The price range is usually around $400 for these.

The first type it’s called a walkabout or walking tour and it will land you on the glacier and allow you to simply walk around and admire the scenery.

This is the most tame and least demanding type of experience but could still be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The second type is a trek that will be a little bit more physically demanding as you explore more of the glacier’s features. This type of trek takes you up close to crevasses, over glacier pools, and offers more of a work out.

And then finally there is a more strenuous option where you can even do a little bit of climbing. If you want to know what it’s like to go fully vertical on a wall of ice this is the type of tour you want.

Mendenhall Glacier trek
Photo by Jill /Blue Moonbeam Studio.

During our trip to Juneau, we booked a glacier trek but unfortunately we were forced to cancel due to the weather. This was a major bummer because we also had to scrap our last plan to glacier trek in Iceland due to me getting sick!

I’m not sure when it will be but one of these days I’m going to find my way on to the top of a glacier!

Mendenhall Glacier trek
Photo by elaine.

Helicopter tours

Seeing Mendenhall Glacier from the air is one of the most impressive views you could have in Juneau.

You can accomplish this with a helicopter tour that will take you over the glacier. You can also book flight seeing tours.

Mendenhall Glacier View from helicopter
Photo by elaine.

If you’re not able to book any of those you can often see the Mendenhall Glacier from your plane whenever you fly in or out of Juneau.

We definitely had a great view coming back from Gustavus and I was able to sneak in a quick photo of the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier View from plane

Dog sledding

If you’ve ever seen the movie Togo or Balto then you know how far back dogsledding goes in Alaska.

You can venture up to the ice field further back on the Mendenhall Glacier via a helicopter and experience firsthand what it’s like to go dogsledding.

In my opinion, this is a much different “glacial” experience because the ice field is a very different environment than where you would be treking on the glacier or kayaking closer to the face.

However, if you wanted to experience dogsledding this would be a fantastic place to do it and it looks like an adventure of a lifetime. Prices are about $550.

Mendenhall Glacier dog sled
Photo by Curtis & Renee.

Package deals

There are tons of package deals that include a visit to Mendenhall Glacier.

You can often add on an experience like whale watching, the Salmon Bake, the Salmon Hatchery, or something else in the area.

Because the glacier is a little bit away from downtown it makes sense to go ahead and lump something else in so that you can efficiently use your time.

That is especially true if you are on a cruise ship.

Final word

As you have already seen, there are a lot of different ways to explore the Mendenhall Glacier. At the very least I would recommend a visit to the visitor center and doing the Nugget Falls Trail along with Photo Point.

If you can handle something more strenuous, the West Glacier Trail would be my preferred choice.

When it comes to the adventurous tours, I think the glacier trek would be amazing because you get exceptional views while in the air and also get to get up close to some glacier features.

But if you’re not able to get up in the air then kayaking or canoeing in the lake among the icebergs and face of the glacier would be quite the experience.

The Gold Creek Salmon Bake Review: Worth It? (Juneau, Alaska)

No visit to Juneau, Alaska, could be complete without feasting upon some fresh wild caught salmon.

Whether you’re visiting on a cruise or spending multiple days in Juneau, one place where you may think about doing this is the Gold Creek Salmon Bake.

In this article, I’ll highlight everything you will want to know before visiting the Gold Creek Salmon Bake.

What is the Gold Creek Salmon Bake?

The Gold Creek Salmon Bake is an outdoor restaurant venue located in Juneau, Alaska.

It offers a buffet dining experience in a scenic rainforest setting along Salmon Creek. In addition to dining, you can explore the surrounding scenery which includes a beautiful waterfall and historic mining ruins.

It’s open from late April to early October and prices are: $62 for adults and $46 for children. Give yourself about an hour and a half to enjoy the site.

Plenty of people combine a visit to the Gold Creek Salmon Bake with other activities like a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching so look for packages that appeal to your interests.

Looking for Salmon Bake tickets? Click here to purchase.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake

Where is the Gold Creek Salmon Bake?

The Gold Creek Salmon Bake is located at: 1061 Salmon Creek Ln, Juneau, AK 99801.

This is about 10 minutes from Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Area/Downtown Juneau. It’s also located just a couple of minutes away from the DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery.

You can take a free Salmon Bake shuttle bus that will take you from the Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Area/Downtown Juneau.

Related: Mendenhall Glacier Ultimate Guide: Tips for Exploring

Gold Creek Salmon Bake

Did you know? The Gold Creek Salmon Bake was featured on Top Chef, Season 10, Episode 14.

The Gold Creek Salmon Bake experience

As soon as you enter the Gold Creek Salmon Bake premises, you’ll find the “Gold Strike Saloon” where you can purchase soft drinks, wine, and beer.

If you are a walk-in guest, this is also where you can purchase your tickets for the buffet.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake bar

Only water, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, and lemonade are included in your standard ticket and you can find the drinking station towards the back of the buffet area.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake drink station
Gold Creek Salmon Bake drink station

When you’re ready to sit, you can select any table that you can find open. Lots of the tables are covered so even if it’s raining you can dine without getting drenched. Some of the seating options even have heating towers to help you stay warm.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake

When we arrived there were quite a few tables open and we found a spot right on the creek which was a super scenic spot to eat.

It’s a little confusing because of the restaurant’s name, but the creek that runs through here is actually Salmon Creek. Gold Creek runs through the heart of Juneau.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake creek
Gold Creek Salmon Bake

The buffet

After finding our table and settling in, we then made our way over to the buffet where they had:

  • Salmon Caesar salad
  • Cornbread
  • Cheechako chicken
  • Chilkoot baked beans
  • Tongass wild-rice pilaf
  • au gratin Potatoes
Gold Creek Salmon Bake buffet
Gold Creek Salmon Bake buffet

I enjoyed the salmon Caesar salad flavor although it was a little soggy and overdressed for my liking. The baked beans were very good and the moist cornbread also delivered with a nice slightly sweet touch.

The wild rice was a little bland and the potatoes were good but nothing special.

As for the chicken, it was well cooked with a nice barbecue flavor but the skin a bit much.

And then there was the alderwood-grilled wild salmon.

They throw a lot of salmon fillets on the grill at once and then whenever they are cooked they will ring a bell to let you know that they are ready to be served. So if you want it fresh, just listen for the bell.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake grill
Gold Creek Salmon Bake grill

Some of the salmon fillets are plain while others are glazed. Interestingly, one of the salmon filets contained about a dozen bones while the other one was bone free.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake buffet

The plain salmon was well cooked but didn’t offer a ton of flavor. Luckily, the glazed salmon offered a lot more flavor with a tinge of caramel sweetness.

If you’re wanting to experience some type of unique salmon flavor, the glazed is definitely the way you want to go.

After your entree you can move on to dessert.

They serve a special blueberry cake that you can find off to the side of the buffet. It’s a fluffy and powdery cake that I thought was one of the best things offered on the menu.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake buffet dessert

Sometimes they have live Alaskan folk music playing that can help liven up the atmosphere.

Nature path and waterfall

After finishing up our meal, we wanted to check out the rest of the property which to be honest was the highlight of the whole experience for me.

There’s a path that takes you along the creek where you can admire the scenic rainforest.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake nature path

It’s a very peaceful and short stroll along the creek.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake Salmon Creek

You may be able to spot some berries like salmon berries along the way.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake salmon berries
Gold Creek Salmon Bake salmon berries

Because we were visiting in late July, you were able to spot quite a few salmon swimming upstream in the spawn area. This was a really cool moment because up to that point I had not actually seen any salmon in the wild.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake wild salmon

A bit further down you’ll find the beautiful Salmon Creek Falls which is a must to check out.

You might get sprayed by the falls so having a rain jacket is definitely handy if you want to get close.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake Salmon Creek Falls

Mining relics

It’s also really cool to see some of the mining relics which played a role in the Juneau gold rush back in the late 1800s.

The Chilkoot Shaft, found by Salmon Creek Falls, is an old remnant of an airshaft that served the Wagner Mine, which was part of the Alaska-Gastineau Mining Company.

It was part of the massive $38 million dollar investment which was ultimately abandoned in 1930 after running out of profitable ore. It looks like something you would see at Disney World.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake Chilkoot Shaft

Another cool piece of history to check out is the big water wheel known as a “Pelton Wheel” invented by Lester Allan Pelton, which was a water turbine that extracts energy from the impulse of moving water.

These played a major role for mining operations back in the gold rush days and so it was interesting to get up close to one in a setting like this.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake Pelton Wheel
Gold Creek Salmon Bake Pelton Wheel

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at panning for gold they had a little set up there so you could give it a shot.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake Panning for gold


They offer complimentary marshmallows and you can take those over to the campfire areas and roast marshmallows on a stick (you can get these from the bar).

They used to provide an entire smores set up but too many people littered for that to be sustainable.

The campfire areas are covered and have low-lying benches so you can warm up by the fire.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake campfire
Gold Creek Salmon Bake campfire

After checking out the falls and the fire pits, we wandered into the gift shop which is located towards the back where you can also find the bathrooms.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake gift shop

They have a little bit of everything inside the shop. It’s a lot of the same souvenirs you will probably find in other places in Juneau but some unique things as well. If you are a fan of the glaze they put on the salmon you can actually purchase it from the gift shop.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake gift shop
Gold Creek Salmon Bake gift shop

After the gift shop, it was time for us to head back.

I didn’t realize it until later but the Salmon Bake provides transportation to and from Downtown Juneau via their yellow buses that you can’t miss.

That’s a pretty important detail because of the cost of the experience.

If you’re able to take advantage of the free transportation that could end up saving you about $40 that you would otherwise be paying to a ride share or taxi company.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake bus

Final word

The Gold Creek Salmon Bake is a unique Alaskan experience.

If you’re going purely for the food, you may be a bit disappointed based on everything that we tried (to be fair, plenty of people seemed to enjoy the food a lot more than we did).

But if you’re going for the overall experience which includes spending some time in a beautiful Alaskan rainforest setting, encountering wild salmon, roasting marshmallows by a campfire, and getting a nice dose of history then the experience may live up to your expectations.

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