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Southeast Alaska has just one glacier accessible by road, but it makes up for its novelty in being extremely accessible; more than 400,000 visitors travel here each year.
Once dubbed the Auk Glacier by John Muir (after a member of the Tlingit tribe), the Mendenhall had its origins in the Little Ice Age that started about 3,000 years ago.
The Mendenhall Glacier is located just 12 miles outside of Juneau and you can get there by taking a narrated bus tour,a shuttle bus at just $8 each way or you can also go on your own: A taxi to the glacier costs $35 one way.
This 12-mile glacier is part of Tongass National Forest and its visitors' center is just a half mile from the glacier's face and overlooks the lake and glacier, which has a large aerial map of the icefield, an informational video and spotting scopes ($3).
You have six trails' worth of options for getting really close: The almost-7-mile West Glacier Trail will take you right to the glacier's face, while you can also hike to a good viewing platform a quarter mile away. Or, take the more challenging Nugget Falls trail that ends at a five-story-high waterfall neighboring the glacier.
One of the trails is The Trail of Time, a ½-mile paved interpretive walk, with signs marking the glacier’s recession. The East Glacier Trail, meanwhile, is a 3.5 mile loop with 500 feet of elevation gain, which gives you a good bird’s eye view of the ice.
You’ll get good photos from any trail, but none of them will lead you up to the glacier ice, due to the lake and cliffs. You can also take a guided hike of this area.
Related Article: Glaciers are A Window into Human Impact on the Global Carbon Cycle
From downtown Juneau, take Egan Drive and turn right at Mendenhall Loop Road. Mendenhall Loop Road turns into Glacier Spur Road and ends at the visitor center.
12 miles from Juneau
Less than half an hour