Glaciers, brown bears, and the world’s largest temperate rainforest surround Juneau.
Despite being a major Alaskan city and the state capitol, Juneau feels more like a wilderness outpost than a metropolitan area. Tucked between the hulking Mount Juneau and the Gastineau Channel, Juneau visitors quite literally have alpine and coastal adventure at their doorstep. The city is also set within the Tongass National Forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest on earth and the home of ancient Sitka spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees. Here, camping adventures abound with popular wilderness excursions from Juneau including the Juneau Icefield and Admiralty Island. Whale watching is accessible from ferries departing town for the waterways of the Alaskan Panhandle, while anglers in Juneau can charter boats for deep-sea fishing or go fly fishing in the late summer salmon runs.
There are numerous trails from the Juneau area up into the Coast Mountains that reward hikers with incredible views and a deeper immersion into the Tongass rainforest. Douglass Island has some flatter forest hiking trails, as well as the Eaglecrest Ski Area for downhill skiing.
Just 13 miles from downtown Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier is a stunning blue glacier belonging to the region’s enormous Juneau Icefield. Here, the U.S. Forest Service operates the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. There are hiking trails that approach the glacier, and outfitters that rent kayaks or guide canoe trips on Mendenhall Lake.
If brown bear viewing is on your adventure bucket list, you can book a float plane from Juneau to Admiralty Island. Here, in the Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary, the elevated Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area lets you feast your eyes on brown bears while they feast on salmon and clams—you’ll just need to secure a permit for Pack Creek ahead of time.
Juneau is one jumping off point for visits to the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The trip typically requires a flight or a ferry ride to Gustavus, where many visitors stay overnight before taking a guide boat or ferry into the preserve’s icy waters the following day.
Peak travel season in Juneau is May to August. The warm weather and long days (roughly 18 hours of sunlight daily in late June) make the summer an ideal time for outdoor adventures, but you may have to contend with cruise ship passengers and crowds at popular sites. September to April is more affordable and less crowded, but cold temps and narrow days limit activity options.