Juneau Travel Guide + 19 Things to do in Juneau
Updated April 2020, The Juneau Travel Guide + 19 Things to do in Juneau was originally written in January 2020
Arriving in Juneau is an adventure all in itself being the only US capital city with no road access. We arrived by flight from Anchorage (near where I live) on a grey January morning. The descent, which on descent takes you past views into Glacier Bay National Park (best serial views in the summer (I confirmed this when I had a July layover in Juneau in 2018), and on the final approach looks like the wingtips are going to scrape the mountains on either side of the plane. This is a landing you’ll definitely want a window seat for to get a look at the lush green forests, glacier cut mountains and valleys, and turquoise seat that welcomes you below.
Alaska’s compact capital city of Juneau has more than its fair share of things to do, so whether you’ll be visiting on an all-too-short cruise ship stop, or spending a few days Juneau there is just about something for everyone in Juneau.
Planning to take an Alaskan cruise? Start searching the best deals below!
Start here: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide
Quick Tips & Things To Know Before Arriving In Juneau
- It rains a lot in Juneau, this is Alaska’s southeast after all! Do not, I repeat, do not forget your rain jacket at home. Rain pants and mud boots are also a good call. Don’t worry, Juneau does get some sun, but come expecting some rain (how do you think it stays so green here?)
- The cruise crowds are at their thickest June-August, corresponding with Alaska’s summer season. If you plan to cruise or want to hit a calmer season while all the tourist amenities are still open May and September are great options.
- If you don’t mind the cold and don’t care if you miss out on a few things like the ziplines and aerial tram, the winter months (and late fall/early spring) of October-April are a great time to visit Juneau. This is what me and my husband opted for with our January visit because we aren’t a big fan of crowds.
- Flights to Juneau are ridiculously expensive most of the time (my theory is that its part of a scheme between Alaska Airlines and our greasy Alaskan politicians’ plans to keep Alaskans out of the capital and from voicing our opinions of how much they suck to their faces, or better yet to prevent Alaskans from revolting and firing them all). Tangent aside, it’s best to try and book airline tickets to Juneau well in advance, or better yet, if you have an Alaska Air mileage (or partner) plan, cash in 15k miles for a roundtrip ticket from anywhere in Alaska.
- One day in Juneau is not enough time! If you’re visiting on an Alaskan cruise ship stop, by all means, make the most of it, but if you have the time and aren’t cruising I recommend at least 3 days in Juneau, 5-7 days is even better.
- Temperatures in Juneau are much warmer than other parts of Alaska, especially southcentral Alaska that see a decent chunk of the tourist numbers. In winter you can expect temperatures that range between the mid 20s-30sºF. Summer temperatures between 50-70ºF. Spring and fall will bring temperatures in the 30-55ºF range.
- Prices tend to be cheaper for hotels, rental cars, etc in the fall, winter, and spring making this a better time to visit for budget travelers.
- If you plan to visit Mendenhall Glacier independently on your Juneau trip, bring your crampons or ice cleats from home. Also, be aware that the famous ice caves collapse, melt, and reform sometimes in different areas of the glacier, so viewing them is not always possible and may look very different from photos you have seen from the past online.
Trying to visit Alaska on the cheap? Check out my post on how to travel Alaska on a budget
Things To Do In Juneau
Visit Mendenhall Glacier & It’s Ice Caves
Mendenhall Glacier is probably the most popular attraction in Juneau for visitors. Whether you plan to head to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center to learn more about the glacier and take in views from across the lake, do some trekking, or walk across the ancient ice yourself, there’s something for everyone and every physical ability at Mendenhall Glacier. A number of different glacier tours are on sale here, whether you want to get out on the ice, or kayak in the lake. At times, there are ice caves at Mendenhall Glacier. In fact, the first ice cave I ever visited were the ones here at Mendenhall. Click here if you’d like to see my journey and how I got to the Mendenhall Ice Caves, but note that the caves featured in that blog post have since collapsed. They do reform, sometimes in the same area, sometimes elsewhere. Most importantly know that going inside an ice cave can be incredibly dangerous.
Trail Of Time
The Trail of Time is a short walk that starts from the visitor center that meanders through forest with views of Mendenhall Glacier. There are informational boards placed along the trail as well.
Hike The West Glacier Trail
Drive out to the West Glacier Campground and from there you’ll find the West Glacier Trailhead from where you’ll begin this 4 mile (8 miles return) trek that will bring you to the western flank of Mendenhall Glacier. Do note that this trail does have a very steep section and is usually wet and slippery. Broken ankles and other injuries are quite common on this trail, so do take caution. Trekking poles can come in handy on this route. Expect the hike to take roughly 7 hours return, possibly more.
Hike The East Glacier Loop Trail
The East Glacier Loop Trail is a 3 mile trek that you can begin either from the Trail of Time or from the back of the visitor center. This trek is suitable, even for beginners and has many great views of the glacier and lake. The East Glacier Loop Trail gains elevation to bring you up to epic viewpoints of Mendenhall Lake and Glacier below. This is a great option for those wanting to escape the crowds in summer that flock to the visitor center and Nugget Falls.
Visit Nugget Falls
Nugget Falls is located just east of the visitor center by a 2 mile out and back trail. Since the falls are easy to access it can get very crowded in the summer months.
Shop various Mendenhall Glacier tours here, from glacier trekking, kayaking, whale watching combo tours, and more!
Wander Juneau’s Historic Downtown
Juneau began as a gold mining town in the late 1800s. Though most of the shops in the historic downtown area back then supplied miners with provisions, it has still largely kept its ‘gold mining town’ facade, despite those shops now mostly selling souvenirs or functioning as restaurants. You never know, you may come across your very own gold when out and about, there may still be gold scattered around.
Go On A Whale Watching Cruise Of Tracy’s Arm Fjord & The Surrounding Vicinity
Heading out on day cruise to Tracy’s Arm Fjord and other areas around Juneau is a great way to see the beauty of the coasts nearby. These cruises include a naturalist guide who will point out glaciers, bears, whales, otters, sea lions, seabirds, and more as you putter along this stunning part of the Last Frontier.
Shop different whale watching and cruise combo trips here
Hike Mount Roberts Or Take The Tram
From the Juneau harbor, you can take the tram up to the top of Mount Roberts, or better yet take on the roughly 3 hour, 3 mile hike through lush green rainforest to the top. I was told if you spend $10 at the bar up top or at the gift shop your tram ride down is free, but given the time of my visit the tram wasn’t operating, so I have not personally verified this.
However, if you want to ride to the top it’ll cost $35 for adults (13 and older) and $18 for kids (3-12), children 2 and under are free, but do know that these are all day passes so you can ride as many times as you want. The tram is open May-September, so, unfortunately, I was unable to go on the tram as I visited in January. Mount Roberts Tram tickets are not sold online. They can be purchased either at the tramway station or if you’re a cruiser directly from the shore excursion office of your cruise ship.
Drive All 42 Miles Along The Road From Echo Cove To Thane
Juneau is only accessible by plane and boat, therefore, the road here ends somewhere. 42 miles of road extends from Thane to Echo Cove which is well worth the drive to complete the short road trip. Along the road, you’ll also be able to access Point Bishop, Sheep Creek, Downtown Juneau, Twin Lakes, Mendenhall Glacier & Valley, Auke Bay, the Shrine of St. Therese, Eagle Beach, and more.
Go Ziplining On Douglas Island
Admire Douglas Island from the canopy of the Tongass National Forest on this 5-course zipline tour. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go ziplining on my Juneau visit as it’s only possible from May to September, but I have ziplined elsewhere and it’s a blast.
Did you think you’d be lounging on a sand beach in Alaska? Probably not. Well, Savikko Beach over on Douglas Island offers soft sand to make a beach day of. The beach is surrounded by towering mountains and separated from the city of Juneau by the Gastineau Channel and offers up two-millennia old Tlingit fish traps and petroglyphs to check out, as well as a volleyball net, picnic tables, and a playground.
Take A Flightseeing Trip To Taku Lodge
Wings Airways will pick you up by floatplane and take you on a scenic flightseeing tour of glaciers before landing at Taku Lodge where you’ll enjoy a meal before flying back to Juneau. These trips are offered from late April through the end of September.
Book your Taku Lodge Feast & 5-Glacier Seaplane Discovery Tour for $339 per person here
Auke Bay is just north of downtown Juneau and has its own harbor where you can charter fishing boats and whale watching tours from. If you opt to stay landside, there are plenty of trails around the bay that will give you great views over the water and some of the sea critters that hang out in the bay. Auke Bay also has stunning views of Mendenhall Valley.
Like to plan in advance? Check out this Auke Bay whale watching cruise on Viator
Go Dog Sledding
Did you know that you can take a helicopter to land on Mendenhall or Herbert Glacier and try your hand at dog mushing? Well, you can! Check out the heli and dog sledding tours on offer here. Note that these heli and dog sledding trips usually are only offered from May to the end of July.
Wanna go dog sledding on a glacier and flightseeing? Check out this perfect combo trip on Viator with Coastal Helicopter
Hike The Rainforest Trail On Douglas Island
The Rainforest Trail was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in Juneau. The short 0.8mile trail meanders through mossy rainforest and down to the beach where you’ll have views across Lynn Canal of the Chilkat Mountains and Admiralty Island. The trail is pretty busy between 8 am and 5 pm in summers being inundated with tour bus tourists, but a visit after 5 pm (remember, this is the land of the midnight sun, after all) will likely find you out here with only a few others.
Hike Mount Juneau
Mount Juneau is a great 7 mile out and back day hike, accessible from the Perseverance Trail. There are some steep sections, so do take care, but the views from the top over Juneau are well worth the effort on a clear day.
Go Bear Viewing On Admiralty Island
Admiralty Island, just southwest of Juneau and Douglas Island is crawling with bears, in fact, one of the highest densities of bears in the entire world. In the Tlingit language, Admiralty Island was named Kootznuwu, which translates to ‘fortress of bears’. Grab a floatplane from the Juneau Harbor from where you’ll take off for Admiralty Island for a scenic aerial tour before landing in search of bear sightings.
Take A Fishing Charter
In Juneau but don’t have a boat or gear? No problem! You can book a salmon or halibut charter and attempt to catch some from Alaskan fish to take home with you.
Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
From the top of Glacier Gardens, you’ll have great views over the city of Juneau. On the way up you’ll be taken in a cart through the rainforest where a naturalist guide will introduce you to Juneau’s flora and fauna.
Shrine of St. Therese
Just 22 miles north of downtown Juneau, on Pearl Harbor sits the most gorgeous little shrine connected to land by a narrow isthmus, which reminded me of an Alaskan version of Sveti Stefan in Montenegro. We were alluded to the Shrine of St. Therese by a local we were drinking beers with at the Red Dog Saloon (if you know anything about me, it’s that I fail to plan much in my travels and wind up finding the best things on my way), a place I’d never heard of. Our new friend’s eyes lit up as he described the small shrine hidden in a lump of moss and rainforest overlooking Lynn Canal. The Shrine of St. Therese is a ministry of the Diocese of Juneau. On your walk along the beach and isthmus, keep an eye out for otters frolicking in the bay and sea lions lazing about on the beach.
Learn more about the Shrine of St. Therese & plan your visit here
Go Skiing Or Snowboarding At Eaglecrest
Visiting in the winter? Head across to Douglas Island to Juneau’s only ski resort: Eaglecrest. It’s comprised of three lifts and a day lodge. You can rent gear if you don’t have yours with you. Eaglecrest has a variety of terrain despite its small size with beginner runs all the way to black diamonds.
Hit The Breweries
Juneau is home to a few breweries including Alaska Brewing Company, Barnaby Brewing Company, Devil’s Club Brewing Company, and Forbidden Peak Brewing.
Check out this ales & whales combo beer tasting and whale watching tour
Juneau-Douglas City Museum
The Juneau-Douglas City Museum showcases several exhibits that display the culture and history of the Juneau-Douglas region, from ancient times to present day. Admission is $6 for adults 13 and older and free for kids 12 and younger.
Alaska State Museum
The Alaska State Museum houses Alaskan artist and photographer exhibits from all over the state. Summer admission fees are $12 for adults 19 and up and free for kids 18 and younger. In winter admission is $7 for adults 19 and up and free for kids 18 and younger
Last Chance Mining Museum
Juneau began as a gold mining town in the late 1800s. The Last Chance Mining Museum is located in the compressor building that was part of the former Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company. The museum is located a short walk uphill. Admission is $5 per person.
Getting In & Out Of Juneau
By air: Juneau International Airport is predominantly served by Alaska Airlines, but Delta flies here as well and is connected with several destinations in Alaska, as well as Seattle.
By water: The Alaska Marine Highway System helps to connect several of Alaska’s coastal communities, including Juneau by ferry. Click here to search dates and see the ferry schedule. Most visitors, however, will arrive by cruise ship either coming from Seattle or Vancouver, or headed south from Seward or Whitter.
Where To Stay In Juneau
We stayed at the Baranof Downtown, which we thought was a good midrange option, within walking distance of most points of interest in downtown Juneau, and had plenty of parking. For those on different budgets here are some more options:
Harbor Haven Auke Bay
| Booking.com |
Getting Around In Juneau
Getting around Juneau and to most of the sites around and outside of town is easiest if you have your own wheels, so if you’re visiting and not on a cruise, I recommend renting a car. If you plan to only explore the downtown area, getting around on foot is perfectly fine. Juneau does have a public bus system, though it is fairly limited in where it goes. Uber and Lyft operate in Juneau in addition to taxis.
Best Restaurants In Juneau
- Tracy’s Crab Shack
- Alaska Fish & Chips Company
- Hangar On The Wharf
- The Rookery
Juneau Bars, Breweries & Nightlife
- Red Dog Saloon
- Devil’s Hideaway
- Triangle Club
- Alaskan Amber Tasting Room
- Barnaby Brewing Company
- Devil’s Club Brewing Company
- Forbidden Peak Brewing
Have Any Questions About Visiting Juneau Or Any Of The Things To Do In Juneau Mentioned Above?
Ask your Juneau travel questions in the comments section below.