- Hours: Open year round, visitor center open mid-May to mid-September only
- Reservations: Not required for the visitor center, but recommended if you're taking a private boat in
- Cost: No entrance fee for non-commercial visitors
- Location: 65 miles from Juneau, directions below
- How Long: Guided boat tours take a whole day
- Best Time to Visit: Glaciers calve more often in warmer weather, and it's more comfortable to be outside to see them. Winter services are very limited.
- See It Now: Glacier Bay Photo Tour and Calving Glacier Photo Tour
This place is a National Park, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage site for a reason. It encompasses a large collection of tidewater glaciers and a bounty of wildlife that have impressed visitors since naturalist John Muir first came here in 1879 and described it as "a picture of icy wildness, unspeakable pure and sublime."
Glacier Bay ReviewMost visitors come to Glacier Bay on a cruise ship, and this stop is the highlight of many cruisers' trips. Commonly-sighted wildlife include whales, black bears, mountain goats, Steller sea lions, tufted puffins and bald eagles. Many visitors get to see a glacier calving, as a big piece of ice breaks off and hits the water with a thunderous crash. The trip in and out takes about eight hours.
No matter how you get to Glacier Bay, you'll need warm clothing. Visitors often say it feels like they're standing in front of the freezer with the door open when they're facing one of the glaciers. A hat or scarf to cover your head and a pair of gloves will go a long way toward keeping you warm, and even if you don't take a heavy coat, pile on all the layers you can muster. For even more warmth, go to your local sporting goods store and pick up some disposable pocket hand-warmers. Wear sunscreen. You'd be surprised how much of the sun's burning rays get through, even on a rainy or cloudy day.
Getting to Glacier BayGlacier Bay
Glacier Bay website
No roads go into Glacier Bay. Your only options to get here are by airplane or boat. Alaska Airlines provides daily service to Gustavus during the summer. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry runs here from Juneau a few times a week.
Most visitors come here on an Inside Passage cruise. If you'd like to see Glacier Bay as part of an active Alaska vacation, The World Outdoors offers a six-days Alaska trip that includes exploring by kayak and on foot.
The independent traveler can find tour boats and charter boats offering Glacier Bay cruises several times a week from Juneau, Gustavus and other area towns. The national park concession runs a daily tour boat from late May through mid-September.
Private vessels need a permit to enter Glacier Bay between June 1 and August 31. Contact the National Park in advance.