7 Things To Do In Juneau
Rich with history of the city and state, Alaska’s capital should be added to your must-see list. Luckily for you, Juneau’s incredible dining and craft-beer scene will fuel you after a long day of hiking, dog sledding, fishing, and scenic helicopter rides.
1. Go Camping and Hiking
Explore the area via more than 250 miles of hiking trails, which take visitors to mountains, forests, meadows, waterfalls, glaciers, and more. Some of the most popular hikes in Juneau range from downtown trails to “out the road” adventures - anything located on the Glacier Highway, from outside of Juneau to the end of the road near Echo Bay. Check out paved nature walks or try something a little more challenging. Either way, the trip is sure to offer views that don’t disappoint and plenty of wildlife. Guided trips are available, and some even pick up right at your hotel. Get adventurous and end the hike with a night under the stars. There is nothing like campfires and sleeping bags to really get connected with the beautiful wilderness in the area. There are several well-maintained campgrounds near Juneau, many complete with picnic tables, fireplaces, and RV hookups.
2. Try Dog Sledding
Already planning on touring a glacier? Make it an even more memorable experience by including a dog sledding experience. Many tour operators have dog sledding camps on the tops of area glaciers to teach visitors about mushing, introduce them to the dog teams, and then enjoy a ride on the dog sled. Even without a flight to the top of a glacier, there are still ways to get on a dog sled. Dog teams in the summer take visitors on a thrilling trip on wheeled sleds.
3. Go Fishing
Get hooked on Pacific halibut and salmon fishing. Full- and half-day fishing charters make reeling in a big one very convenient. Purchase a fishing license from the boat captain or at major retail outlets and don’t worry about packing a rod because boats are loaded with all the necessary supplies. Take off to Gastineau Channel with dreams of a freezer stocked with salmon and halibut and return to shore with a packed cooler. Drop the fish off at one of the area’s processers so they can take care of it and even ship home for you. Peterson Creek, Windfall Lake, and other area rivers and streams also offer great fishing opportunities. Local companies can take visitors on guided fly-fishing trips in a skiff or onshore. Some tour companies will even fly travelers to remote rivers and lakes for a truly off-the-beaten-path angling experience.
4. Indulge Your Taste Buds
Start the day with fresh-brewed coffee from a Juneau roastery. There is a coffee shop or kiosk on almost every corner! Next, plan meals for the day featuring the best flavors of Juneau. An abundance of fresh seafood and appreciation for locally sourced ingredients has caused an uptick in fine-dining options. Stick to seafood for a taste of salmon, halibut, crab, scallops, and spot prawns, all caught locally. Or, go beyond the catch of the day and get a taste of locally foraged ingredients prepared by award-winning chefs. Several salmon bakes in the area combine the outdoor experience of Alaska with amazing local flavor. Don’t stop with dinner. Alaska’s capital city is also home to some amazing local craft brews and spirits. Local breweries and distilleries often experiment with fresh, local ingredients, so the end result is always something truly unique.
5. Dive into Juneau’s History
This Alaska community certainly doesn’t lack character or charm. On historic South Franklin Street, many buildings from the early 1900s are now bars, gift shops, and restaurants. While the history of Juneau can be seen and experienced from most places in town, there are a few places that history buffs should add to their itinerary.
Visit the Alaska State Capitol and Governor’s House. Guided tours at the capitol building that was built between 1929 and 1931 leave every half-hour and are completely free. The Governor’s House is not open to the public, but the Greek Revival-style home built in 1912 is a popular spot for photos.
Next, head to the Alaska State Museum. The museum has more than 23,000 artifacts, works of fine art and natural history, artifacts from Alaska’s major indigenous groups, and exhibits to show the state’s Russian period and major gold strikes. At the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Building, walk through an authentic clan house and listen to ancient stories.
6. Hit the Water and Skies
Fly above glaciers, kayak along the coast of Tracy Arm, or charter a boat for whale watching tours. No matter the mode of travel, it will be an adventure of a lifetime. From above, travelers can get a true sense of Juneau’s rugged beauty with its surrounding mountains, glaciers, and waterways. Helicopter and flightseeing tours take visitors to the skies and some even offer tours that allow people to touch down on a glacier to explore up close. For another view of the area, take a guided day cruise or grab a paddle. Day trips and extended kayak outings are both options through local tour companies that cater each tour to their guests. Day cruises are a great option for anyone who wants to relax on the water. Pack binoculars to watch for whales, eagles, and more on the trip. Some boat tours spot whales so often that operators will refund travelers who don’t see at least one.
7. Discover Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest spans 500 miles across Southeast Alaska and is one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world. Travel there to see beautiful islands, mountains, glaciers, salmon streams, fjords, and bays.
Start the adventure by watching for wildlife including Sitka blacktail deer, wolves, bears, and more. Don’t forget the marine mammals! Keep an eye on the water for humpback whales, orca whales, seals, and sea otters. To top it off, look to the sky because more bald eagles live in this region than in any other place in the world.
While watching for wildlife, visitors can make their way to the area’s glaciers. Perhaps the most popular glacier to visit is Mendenhall Glacier, sometimes called the “drive-in glacier” for its easy-to-access location just 13 miles from Juneau. Steep Creek at Mendenhall Glacier is also a great place for bear viewing during the salmon spawning season.
To round out the Tongass experience, hit the hiking trails through dense forest, alpine meadows, or boardwalks through muskegs. The trails are well maintained and offer spectacular views.
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