Mendenhall Glacier Express Bus
UPDATE: In 2013, posted price is listed as $16 pp round trip!! So this is not really an increase in price.
UPDATE: In 2011 the price of the Glacier Express was $8.00 each way for adults.
UPDATE: In 2006 the price of the Glacier Express was $6.00 each way for adults.
If you arrive in Juneau by cruise ship, instead of taking an expensive excursion tour, consider taking the "Glacier Express" blue bus to the Mendenhall Glacier and Visitors Center. The bright blue buses departs every 30 minutes for the 14 miles trip to Mendenhall Glacier. This service is available daily from 9am to 6pm.
We caught the Glacier Express bus at Franklin Street (downtown) near the cruise ship piers. For $5 per person (2003 prices) each way (children were half price) you can have a scenic ride and possibly learn about the area from the driver. Our bus drivers actually gave us quite a lot of information about the Juneau area and wildlife in just the few minutes to and from Mendenhall Glacier. (If you feel that your driver was very informative and helpful, you might want to offer a small tip on disembarking the bus. Our driver was well worth it!) You can then be free to spend as much time as you prefer at the Visitor's Center and Glacier during normal visiting hours. Your bus driver will inform you concerning the time of the last bus departure from the Visitor's Center. "Glacier Express" bus stops are clearly marked.
You can now pre-purchase tickets on line which will save you some time. When we rode the Glacier Express bus, we purchased tickets from a little kiosk-type set up right there near the pier. You can probably still do this, but if you like to have the tickets in hand when you arrive, see the website for "Mighty Great Trips" who run runs the Glacier Express.
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If Traveling by Ferry - Book a Taxi in Advance
Made contact before departure with Dennis, of 12th Street Taxi & Tours - Private Tours, to meet the ferry for a tour to Mendenhall Glacier, and Juneau, and the area. It certainly helps if you have a phone or some means of making last minute connection. In any case, Dennis was right there at the top of the ramp when we got off the ferry. The rate is $70/hour no matter how many passengers were splitting the fare, and he was driving a 7 passenger van, so great if you have a few more people. Dennis is very knowledgeable about the history of the area, of the native culture, and the flora and fauna. As a lifetime resident of the Juneau area, he is justifiably proud of the region, and its beauty. Our first stop, for our tour was at the Chapel of St Therese, where we walked about the property, having the history explained, as well as answering our questions about the flora of the area. We then stopped at a wonderful viewpoint to see the Glacier at a distance, before driving up to the actual Glacier. We didn’t go into the Information Centre, Dennis giving us sufficient information about the Glacier, and where to walk. There had been a female bear around with a cub earlier, but we didn’t see it. Did see a porcupine, and see a beaver dam. From the Glacier, we went into Juneau. If we had wished, we could’ve been dropped off to do some shopping, walking about downtown, but declined. Dennis drove us around the main sites of Juneau and a quick stop at the Alaska Brewing Company, where we were able to partake in the free beers, but as he was working, Dennis did not join us. We could’ve done more but it was a full afternoon and we really appreciated all the information that he shared with us. Would highly recommend 12th Street Taxi & Tours - Private Tours
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Arrange Tours On Your Cruise Boat
When cruise boats arrive in Juneau they generally allow passengers limited time ashore and it is important to be organised should you be interested in seeing the town and the nearby sights.
You must remember that cruise boats these days usually schedule by deck level the disembarkation and there are strict security procedures when leaving and returning to your cruise boat. All this takes up some of your available time in port.
We booked several tours onboard which gave us peace of mind as the bus was waiting on the dock and our tours went without problems. We knew that the boat would not depart Juneau without us as they were responsible for the tour.
If your intentions are to remain in the town then there is no need to book a tour, however we visited the Mendenhall Glacier and later took a sunset whale watching tour and it gave us peace of mind that the ship would not sail without us.
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There is a bus from the airport to downtown, runs every 30 mins during the day and every hour later on. Airport is close to Mendenhall Valley, where a lot of Juneau residents live. The ferry terminal is a different story- you have to hike a half mile or so to get to the Auke Bay bus stop.
Their sked is at: http://www.juneau.org/capitaltransit/pdfs/busschedule5.pdf
As I mentioned in the intro, the only way to get to Juneau is by float plane or by boat. There are no roads leading to the city because of the way it is situated between a large mountain range and the Pacific Ocean.
If you don't have a car to ferry over, or if you are in a hurry, taking a float plane is a good way to get there. Alaska Airlines has flights to the city as do several independent airlines. The planes land on the main harbor and then ferry you over to a dock. They look pretty cool coming in to land, too.
Note that some planes are used only for sightseeing, not for transportation so be sure to do your homework.
- Family Travel
Good bus system for only 30,000 people
The Juneau bus system is pretty good for such a small city. The long distance (10 miles) between the valley and downtown makes this a good option. Unfortunately, the bus does not stop at the airport. Probably the taxi companies are preventing this from happening. You can,however, walk a pretty short distance (1/4 mile) to the the Glacier Highway and catch it there. Fares are $1.50 each way and run every half hour during the day and every hour in the evening. It doesn't run from about 11pm to 7 am. You can download a copy of the schedule on the CBJ web site.
- Budget Travel
The Golden Circle Route
Consider driving the Golden Circle Route from Haines to Skagway. For those interested in a leisurely but long drive (Over 300 miles) with overnight stays and spectacular scenery that does not repeat itself. Daily ferry service makes this a very popular driving trip from Juneau.
On a recent trip, we rented a car and took it on the ferry throughout our Southeastern Alaska tour. (This was enjoyable and convenient, but expensive when you add in ferry charges.) In hindsight, you can get by without a car in Sitka and many other Southeastern Alaska towns. A car or RV is particularly useful in Haines, Skagway and Juneau.
You will see spectacular scenery in the National and Provincial Parks of neighboring Canada. The little known, Tatshenshini - Alsek Provincial Park and Kluane Lake National Park protect some of the most dramatic scenery in North America. Tatshenshini - Alsek River has become the holy grail for most river rafters. Much of the area is roadless, though it can be toured by helicopter from Haines Junction. From the road you will see many small glacial lakes, Kluane Lake, and a vast tundra, all with high glacial mountain backdrops. Services are available at strategic points along the route. For history buffs, this is also a much more complete look at the Gold Rush sites including the Whitehorse River Boats and the rugged lake country of the South Klondike Highway. This plan allows for the most scenic and detailed overview of the area. It is a perfect way to get a real sense of the interior region without an 800 mile drive to Fairbanks or Denali. With the dryer and cooler weather of this region, you also stand a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Plan at least a half day using the car in Juneau before your ferry departure allowing you to see all the outlying areas.
If you have at least three to five days this is the most dramatic region on the Inside Passage and The Yukon.
- Road Trip
- National/State Park
- Budget Travel
Renting a Car in Juneau
If you have more than 1.5 days in Juneau, renting a car would be both money saving and benificial. Transfer cost add up: airport, hotel, glacier, ferry ect. though many hotels will include airport and ferry transfers.
The real reason to have a car is to enjoy a scenic ride out one Juneau's three main roads: Glacier Highway, Douglas Island and Thane Road. Out Glacier highway visit places like the Shrine of St. Therese, Auk Lake Chapel, Bridget Point, and Eagle Creek and Auk Nu Recreation areas. By taking the bridge over to Douglas you can hike the trail to False Outer Point for whale watching and enjoying magnificent Mendenhall Glacier views from across the water. To the south on Douglas Island is the remains of the Old Treadwell Mine. Even from downtown, a car makes a long hike to the old mining museum and ruins on basin road an easy five minute ride. A short ride down Thane Road will bring you to waterfalls and the Alaska Brewing Company.
Most of the major national agencies are at or near the airport. Find the best price you can on the web. I have generally had better luck going to the individual car company web-sites for National, Avis, Budget, and Hertz. (They are in the airport.) You can reasonably expect them to honor any price and confirmation you get from their own corporate office. We rented a car for 9 days at $306. I had printed confirmation, when the Budget attendant claimed that the web site figured the tax wrong. I stuck by my guns and got that price! The car actually came from the really nice attendents of National. (It seems to be a cooperative affair at the airport.) The least expensive rentals in town generally come fom Rent-A-Wreck ,as with Avis they offer free pick up anywhere in Juneau. (907) 789-4111
Alaska Marine Highway
The Alaska Marine Highway is the only highway that connects all of southeastern Alaska. You can design a trip to all of the highlights of southeast Alaska. Be mindful of departure/arrival times. If you are slightly flexible, there are enough sailings to design a very pleasant itinerary without crazy hours. Book your ferry schedule before your flight.
The daily Lynn Canal summer schedule starts at the beginning of June and ends mid September. This is the easiest and probably most scenic trip to plan from Juneau. See Haines/Skagway pages for ferry schedule. Consider the Circle tour with a rental car through Canada from Haines to Skagway. See General tips for details. Sitka, Peterburg, and Wrangell require a little more careful planning. They are reached on scenic routes through the narrows that are not traveled by the cruise lines.
This plan worked fairly well with the ferry schedules:
Juneau - Sitka - Overnight ferry to Skagway - Haines - Overnight to Wrangell - Overnight back to Juneau. (No crazy arrival times and the most scenic routes on the inside passage.) It included stopovers in each town. We dropped Wrangell due to time considerations. Play with their web reservations site. It is challenging but fun.
If you need to reserve a cabin or you are traveling with a car it is important reserve ahead. Either will add significantly to the fare. Staterooms are generally the less expensive of the two. This can easily be done at the AMH web site. Make sure you reserve everything you need on each segment you book. Round trips and through trips cost less than a series of one way fares.
For longer trips they also offer cabins which rent by the room and not by the person. They provide a comfortable and private place to rest with your own bathroom. Rooms with three berths or larger are likely to be arranged with beds side by side instead of bunk style.
The ferry terminal is 14 miles north of downtown Juneau. Taxi and shuttle bus service is available. Some hotels include this service.
- Budget Travel
- Sailing and Boating
Fjord Express from Skagway and Haines to Juneau
Travelers arriving by car or motorhome to Haines or Skagway may find this mini-tour of one of the most scenic parts of the inside passage to Juneau very attractive. The biggest advantage is that the trip is made in half the time of the traditional ferry and all sightseeing transportation and most meals are included in the price. Depart Skagway and Haines in the morning and head south through Lynn Canal for a fully-narrated wildlife cruise each morning.
Upon arrival at Auke Bay, board a motorcoach for a tour of Juneau's highlights, including the state capitol building, the governor's mansion and downtown Juneau. Spend the afternoon having lunch, shopping and exploring the downtown district. A bus meets you downtown for a trip to breathtaking Mendenhall Glacier before returning you to Auke Bay for an evening cruise back to Haines and Skagway. A light dinner is served underway. Travel to Juneau aboard the Fjordland, a new 65-foot, state-of-the-art, fast-hulled catamaran.
May 23 - Sept 1, 2003 (Daily Schedule)
Depart Skagway: 8am
Arrive Juneau: 11:30am
Juneau City Tour: 11:30 am to 5:00pm
Depart Juneau: 5:00pm
Arrive Haines: 7:30pm
2003 Prices - adult / child
Fjord Express to Juneau Day Cruise Package
From Skagway $129 / $99
From Haines $119 / $89
Price includes roundtrip wildlife cruise and sightseeing bus tour of Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier.
(boat only fares for the same day return)
From Skagway $109 / $89
From Haines $99 / $79
One-way or overnight trips
Skagway-Juneau $85 / $65
Haines-Juneau $75 / $55
Passenegers staying overnight will be charged for two one way fares.
- Family Travel
- Whale Watching
AMH Ferry (Alaska Marine Highway)
AMH is the state's public transportation system. Its ferries are often nicknamed "poor men's cruise". Although Juneau harbor is big enough to accommodate many cruise ships at a time, to take AMH ferries you have to go to Auk Bay, 14 miles to the north. This is because AMH ferries don't enter the narrow Gastineau Channel. Also Juneau-Douglas Bridge is too low for most ferries to pass under.
To go to Auk Bay Ferry Terminal is not straightforward. Unless you take a taxi or private shuttle service, the closest bus stop is still a mile away. Given that Juneau has no road connection to the outside world, I would imagine AMH plays an important role in Juneau's transportation. So I guess the reason Capital Transit (Juneau's public transit system) doesn't service Auk Bay Ferry Terminal is that it doesn't want to compete with local tourism; the same reason they don't service Mendenhall Glacier.
- Budget Travel
- Sailing and Boating
LITTLE BIT BIASED BUT CAN'T...
LITTLE BIT BIASED BUT CAN'T RECOMMEND A CRUISE SHIP ENOUGH, THE SIGHTS YOU SEE ALONG THE WAY YOU WOULD NEVER SEE ON A PLANE.
ONCE YOU ARE THERE, LOTS OF TRANSPORT MODES AWAIT YOU, SEAPLANE, HELICOPTER, FISHING BOAT,TRAIN, CANOE, CAR OR BUS!
DEFINATELY A CRUISE SHIP,IF...
DEFINATELY A CRUISE SHIP,IF YOU CRUISE UP THE INSIDE PASSAGE YOU CAN HAVE A WHOLE DAY OF SPECTACULAR VIEWS.
INCLUDING LOTS OF WHALES,OTTERS,BEARS AND BALD EAGLES ETC.
BUSES ARE QUITE FREQUENT,RELIABLE AND CHEAP!HELICOPTERS AND SEAPLANES ARE FREELY AVAILABLE AND NOT THAT EXPENSIVE!
Yes - this is a photo taken...
Yes - this is a photo taken from the road...
Hiking of course!!!
The flume - Easy nice walk reached from Basin Road or Evergreen Ave. You walk along a wooden boardwalk. A favorite local evening
Perseverance Trail - If you are in the mood for something still mellow but longer, this is a also a very nice walk in an old mining area.
6 miles roundtrip.
Mount Juneau Trail - This is a much more difficult trail - but offers amazing views of Juneau if you up for the VERY steep hike. The trail
head starts off the Perseverance Trail. 6 miles roundtrip.
Granite Creek Trail - Also off the Perseverance Trail - this trail ends in a beautiful valley just after a waterfall. 7 miles roundtrip.
Mount Jumbo Trail (also called Mount Bradley) - This is my personal favorite trail. Its very difficult, but offers amazing views when you
get to the top. The trail head starts in Douglas behid the 300 section of 5th Street. 5.5 miles round trip - but VERY steep.
Mount Roberts Trail - Also downtown, this trail starts at the staircase at the end of Sixth Street downtown. The trail is worn from
overuse, so wear waterproof, mudproof boots. You can ride the Mount Roberts Tramway down for $5 (or up for more $). There's a web
of alpine trails that continue up the mountain from the top of the tram. Expect lots of company - day-trippers often avoid the lower part of
the trail by riding the tram and hiking from there. 5-9 miles round trip (depending on how far you go).
Mendenhall Wetlands Trail- Easy flat trail close to the airport, offers excellent opportunities for watching waterfowl and birds.
West Glacier Trail - this is another favorite. It offers great views overlooking the glacier (pictured above), and if you know the secret
way to go, you can actually walk ON the glacier - but only do this with an experienced local please! 7miles round trip. If you really want
to exhaust yourself, you can go all the way to the top of Mount McGinnis - 11 miles roundtrip - but it might just be better to camp at the
top. SO pretty.
East Glacier Trails, Nugget Creek Trail, Moraine Ecology Trail and a new five-minute wheelchair-accessible Photo
Point Trail - all somewhat easy trails accessible from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
False Outer Point Loop Trail - the trail starts at the end of North Douglas Highway, it is an easy place to explore tide pools and
Salmon Creek Dam Trail - Yet another great hike. Ends at an amazing dam built in 1914 that is still being used.
Dupont Dock Trail - The trail begins at the end of Thane road. It is a flat but muddy trail, which will bring you to a view identical to that
on the Alaska Amber beer (which you should surely be drinking when you are here), and an old dock used in the old days of mining.
3.5 miles round trip.
Air or cruise. You can catch...
Air or cruise. You can catch a cruise ship out of British Columbia or even Seattle I believe. But I suggest flying into Juneau, it is really convienient.
Bus and cruise line. I took a plane into Juneau, and cruised my way out on a ship to Skagway.
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