First named Auke Glacier in 1879 by Naturalist John Muir for the Aak'w Kwaan of the Tlingit tribe, Mendenhall Glacier was subsequently renamed in 1892 for the noted scientist Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, who served as Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1889 to 1894. Thomas Mendenhall was responsible for surveying the boundary between Canada and Alaska.
The Mendenhall Glacier is only one of the 38 glaciers that flow from a 5,000 sq. mile expanse known as the Juneau Icefield. This glacier is proceeding down a 13 1/2 mile slope toward Mendenhall Lake, bringing with it "rock flour," the by-product of the glacier's grinding of rocks on its way down. The glacier actually started to retreat (reduce in size) in the mid-1700's. At the glacier's terminus of Mendenhall Lake, the ice retreats at a rate of 100 to 150 ft. per year.
The first Mendenhall Glacier Visitor' Center was constructed in 1962 and remodeled in 1999. Check out the Visitor's Center for more information on the history, geology and facts about the glacier. The admission price of $3 is the same in 2012 as it was when we visited in 2004!! The center includes various exhibits, a gift shop and the film, "Magnificent Mendenhall." National Park Rangers are there and at the glacier to answer questions, and conduct guided hikes on the 6 trails in the area. You'll also find the answer here to questions like "Why is the ice blue?" At the lake there is also a Salmon viewing Platform to observe sockeye and coho salmon in their natural enviornment and where you can learn about their spawning behavior.
Restrooms are available, but there was no food service at the Visitors Center when we visited.
8 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. Sun-Sat
Open on Federal Holidays
10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Thurs-Sun
Closed on Federal Holidays
I was told that the one thing we must do when in Juneau was Mendenhall Glacier. Some people recommended taking a tour where you get out and walk on the glacier, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do that, so we got the Grand Tour of Juneau.
We got to the Mendenhall Glacier, and had some time to go to the museum and walk around and take photos. They had an elevator and I took that and Bob walked up the steps. We could have walked out to the waterfall if we did it quickly, but neither of us tried it. At the visitor's center, we saw the film (photo 3), and it explained that the glacier ice is blue because it is so dense that it absorbs all but the blue light spectrum.
From May through September, you'll pay a $3 admission fee to go into the visitor center to view the exhibits and see audio visual presentations. Our admission was through the tour we took and we had wristbands to show that we had paid.
Winter Hours of Operation: Visitor Center Closed.
Summer Hours of Operation: Opening May 3rd
8 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. Sunday through Saturday
Open on Federal Holidays
Special Event: Earth Day Celebration Saturday April 21st 10am to 4pm
About 11 miles out of downtown Juneau, vistors will find one of Alaska's 38 glaciers. Located in the Tongass National Forest, the Mendenhall Glacier area is a wonderful place to hike and experience up close one of natures wonders.
The Mendenhall Glacier Visito center provides an excellent selection of books about the area as well as an overview of glaciers in general; how they are formed; their impact on the earch; etc.
If you're lucky you'll be able to spot some of the bears and big horn sheep that inhabit the forests next to the glacier through the spotting scopes placed on the second floor of the center.
The Mendenhall Glacier is known as the most easily accessible glacier in Alaska. Therefore, it is the most visited! One of the many activities on offer at the Mendenhall Glacier is kayaking and you will often spot people attempting to get closer to the glacier in an attempt to get that “money shot” photo.
If you ask me that is what a zoom lenes is for.
As you can see by the attached photo, this lady is simply enjoying the experience of paddling on a glacier fed lake in brilliant sunshine. She is staying well away from the glaciers face to take her photo.
As is always the case with Glaciers, the ice can take hundreds of years to make its way from the very start of the glacier to when it breaks off the face and slowly dissolves inn the tepid waters.
There are plaques dotted around the waters edge that provides a very informative view on the glacier and the time taken for the ice to “meet its’ end.” The Mendenhall Glacier is 13.5 miles long, (21.60 km’s) and it took between 200 and 250 years for the ice to complete it journey.
Located a short 20 minutes from the centre of town, Mendehall Glacier has a terrific vista, flat walking trails, waterfalls, "icebergs" and wildlife, including bears and salmon.
The coach pulled up into the car park and you could see this spectacular Glacier without even getting off the coach! (But why would you!)
Anne and I spent a fantastic 2 hours walking around the lake and taking in the sensational atmosphere that this peaceful place had to offer.
We took a tour which included a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier, the walking tracks nearby and the Visitor Centre. The glacier is right in front of you and only about 600 metres from the Visitor Centre which allows you to obtain a great view and photo shoot, particularly handy for older people who find it hard to walk distances.
We walked the bush tracks down to the waters in front of the glacier, it looked huge when you were very close to it. As we were there late afternoon this was as close as we could get and I am unsure whether you can get any closer on a guided tour.
The glacier is the centrepiece of a very beautiful scene and is well worth visiting.
The Mendenhall Glacier is almost everyone's most lasting memory of Juneau. Its 12 mile long and 1 1/2 mile wide, 1500 sq. mile expanse that will leave you breathless - bring your camera and lots of film (dress warm too). It challenges your since of scale and perspective. If you walk the short trail to the powerful Nugget Falls, or just watch others walking that trail from Glacier Point Overlook you will see what I mean. The interperative talk at Glacier Point was also very informative. There is a very nice national forest visitor's center at the glacier that charges $2 to watch the film and tour the impressive exhibits and viewing room. The glacier itself is free.
It is just a short 7-mi. drive along State Route 7 and the Mendenhall Loop road to the glacier. If you are staying at the Best Western Country Lane it is only a four mile cab ride or you may talk them in to a courtesy shuttle ride.
If you need transportation from a downtown area hotel to the glacier, the best bet is probably Mendenhall Glacier Transport's 2 hour tour. It cost only $15. Take this tour right from the cruise ship dock downtown. Across from Taku Smokeries. For $25 you can also get a bus tour of the city with the glacier transportation.
Capitol City Buses - Public Transportation4
The Capitol transit's city buses will also take you within two miles of the glacier on the Lemon Creek Mendenhall Valley Route. You will have to get off at Mendenhall Valley/Boulevard and walk the roadside trail for two miles to the glacier. $2.90 If you use the city bus to get to Auk Bay Ferry terminal you will also have two mile walk, as the bus only goes as far as Deharts Store at the Auk Bay Boat Harbor.
I've been out to the glacier many times over the years. My daughter lives less than a mile away. Visitors I've run into remark that this is the best view they have had of a glacier so far during their Alaskan travels.
The glacier is an easy drive from downtown Juneau. Buses are available from the cruise ship docks for $7 each way (in 2008). I hear you can take a city bus for even less but they stop at least a mile short of the visitor's center.
The visitor center is interesting, but a nice way to avoid the crowds is to hike to the falls at the right side of the glacier. About a mile over fairly flat and sandy trails during the summer when the water level of the lake is lower. UPDATE: In the summer of 2010 a new trail has been established to provide easier access. Nicer walking surface but now more people will take the short hike.
Keep in mind that this is black bear country. Exercise caution in the early morning , late evening times when there aren't many folks around. Make noise in the bushes so you don't surprise them.
Definitely one of the most amazing things a person can experience in their lifetime. In one excursion, I was able to do three things that not many people can say they’ve done: ride in a helicopter, set foot on a glacier, and take a dog sled ride on snow. We booked the Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier Tour through Temsco and they picked us up at the Mt. Roberts Tramway parking lot at 8:15 am. They drove us to their office and helicopter pad, where we watched a safety video, locked up our belongings (no bags allowed, only cameras), and donned snow boots. There was only one other person in our group, so it was just 3 of us. They assign your seat on the helicopter based on weight. My husband and I were put in the front row with me in the middle next to the pilot. The other passenger was in the back by himself. This was our first helicopter ride and it was exhilarating! If you’ve never been in a helicopter, the accent is quite an experience in itself. It was amazing how it could lift you straight in the air. The views of the mountain tops and the glaciers were absolutely stunning. It seemed like there were windows all around us, even under our feet, so when we were up above the trees and glaciers, it was like we were flying! The view was spectacular and gorgeous. I didn’t realize how big the glaciers are until the pilot pointed out the dog camp and I could barely see it until we got closer. The landing at the dog camp was very smooth but walking around on the glacier wasn’t easy. I feel on my butt once or twice! We were taken to the sled with dogs already hooked in. The dogs were all very obedient and very friendly. The musher introduced us to each dog and then we were off! There were three stops along the ride so we each got to try sitting in a different spot or stand in the back for each leg. It was so amazing dashing through the snow with surrounded by such beauty. The weather was very nice, though it got chilly once the sled was moving. We wore long-sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, and gloves. It worked out perfectly. The sun was very intense though so wear sunscreen and sunglasses. It’s a truly amazing experience. The ride lasted about 20-25 minutes. After it was over, we got a few more photos with the adult dogs and then moved on to the puppies! There were about 4 puppies at the camp and we took turns holding the 2 that were awake. Adorable little guys!! Then we waited for a few minutes as our helicopter returned to fly us back to Juneau.
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