Glacier Bay National Park
How Long to Spend
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve contains some of the world's most impressive tidewater glaciers. The bay has experienced at least four major glacial advances and four major retreats and serves as an outdoor research laboratory. Mountains rise right from its tidewater up to three vertical miles. Mount Fairweather is southeastern Alaska's highest peak. The dramatic variety of plant communities ranges from barren terrain just recovering from glacial retreat to lush temperate rain forest. The story of plant succession is nowhere more richly told than at Glacier Bay.
Glacier Bay has more than 50 named glaciers, as well as two major arms: East Arm and West Arm. Most people who come to the Park—and there can be 400,000 of them a year—come by way of a cruise ship, and most of those ships head up the West Arm, towards the Margerie Glacier. The reason? It's the most impressive glacier, which is advancing 12 to 14 feet a day and calves frequently. If you want to experience the area more intimately and get closer than the large ships, consider a small ship cruise, like this itinerary from UnCruise which features 2 days in Glacier Bay National Park, or by sailboat with Alaska Adventure Sailing. You can also join a multi-day sea kayaking tour.
You’ll often see seals hauled out on the ice chunks, here; if you’re in front of the Margerie Glacier, you’ll also be within sight of the Grand Pacific Glacier. This glacier once filled the entire bay, reaching Icy Strait in the late 1700s. Receding rapidly, its face is now covered with rocky moraine. Other well-known glaciers in the Park include Johns Hopkins, Reid, Carroll and Lamplugh glaciers.
The park and preserve harbors brown and black bears, mountain goats, moose, whales, seals, plus eagles and more than 200 other species of birds. Together with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in British Columbia, this 24-million-acre wilderness is a World Heritage Site and the world's largest internationally protected area.
Where to Stay
Many visitors pass through Glacier Bay National Park by cruise, but there are some great accommodations so you can stay and experience the park. Both can assist with arranging excursions like a day cruise into the national park, kayaking, flightseeing, fishing, and more We recommend at least 2 nights:
Glacier Bay Lodge with its massive timbers, huge stone fireplace, network of boardwalks and rooms tucked into the trees, is the only lodging available within park boundaries. The National Park Visitor Center is located on the second floor of the lodge. View the exhibits and check the schedule for evening presentations.
Bear Track Inn is an intimate, family-owned and operated, 14-room inn that sits serenely on the shimmering waters of Icy Strait in Gustavus, next door to Glacier Bay National Park. All meals are included in the full-service restaurant. They provide transportation to the national park where you can explore the beautiful trails or visit a museum.
By cruise ship, small ship cruise, or by scheduled air or boat service from Juneau and other southeastern Alaska communities. For more information from the National Park Service, call 907-697-2230 or visit the Glacier Bay National Park website.