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Hike near Visitor's Center or walk on glacier?

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San Diego...
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Hike near Visitor's Center or walk on glacier?

My husband and I are going to Alaska in mid-July on the Golden Princess. We are in Juneau from 2:15PM until 10PM (that morning we are taking an excursion on a catamaran through Tracy Arm Fjords, which is why it's 2:15 instead of 2PM). I’m trying to decide the best way to see the Mendenhall Glacier. We would also like to spend some time in the Red Dog Saloon, but Mendenhall is our main priority. My husband and I are in our 50s and enjoy hiking, but we also enjoy seeing spectacular sights and going on tours. Several people we’ve talked to say we “must” set foot on the glacier to appreciate it fully. Is that true? I’ve heard the Nugget Falls hike and the East Glacier Trail allow you to see the glacier from two vantage points, and that the Visitor’s Center is great. Here are my questions: Are we making a mistake to not do a helicopter tour and go to the glacier? If we go this route, are there any companies that you recommend and how much money should we expect to spend? If we hike, do the trails get you near enough to really appreciate the glacier? Do we have time to do both trails? How much time should we allow? I know it stays light out until late, but how late can we safely hike?

Juneau, Alaska
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1. Re: Hike near Visitor's Center or walk on glacier?

Let me answer your last question first. More wild creatures come out at twilight, but that being said, it still very safe to hike until at least 10pm that time of year and it is unlikely you will run into anything. Just be aware. The sun won't even be down by then.

I disagree that you "have" to set foot on a glacier to really experience it, but then I've also lived in Alaska all my life and been on many glaciers. If you just want to appreciate the view, the visitor's center and nugget falls trail are very nice. Combined they might take you 2 hours. There are several other trails in the area, it none are fabulous for viewing the Mendenhall. You could also just walk to the left around the west end of the lake and get some very nice views of berg, the lake, glacier, etc...

There are three helicopter companies. Two fly from the airport, and Era flies from Douglas. I believe those tours run about $300 per person. I have never done one, but I am sure they are an experience. However, if you want something less expensive, there are kayak/canoe tours in Mendenhall Lake where you can paddle right up to bergs (and the glacier I suppose). I kayak in the lake all the time and find it very cathartic and relaxing.

Hope that helps!

2. Re: Hike near Visitor's Center or walk on glacier?

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