How remote is Alaska’s state capital, Juneau? Hemmed in by water and soaring mountains, this town of 30,000 residents doesn’t even have a road linking it with the outside world—airplanes and boats are the only ways to get here and away.
Still, hundreds of thousands of travelers make their way here every summer, and for good reason; this gorgeous city is a centerpiece of an Inside Passage cruise and a great jumping-off point for traveling within Southeast Alaska.
Like many Alaskan towns, Juneau was born because of gold. When Joe Juneau and Richard Harris found a treasure trove of gold here in 1880 (helped by the Tlingit chief Kowee, who told them where to look), it caused a predictable rush. The ensuing town became the state capital in 1900, though not everyone was—or is—happy with that decision; it seems there’s constant legislation to move the capital closer to Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage.
Juneau makes for a great jumping-off point for outdoor activities all over the northern Panhandle, as well as an excellent home base to explore Southeast Alaska.
- Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts: They attest to the untamed wilderness that lies just beyond the souvenir shops. Climb the six-mile, 3,819-foot ascent of Mount Roberts on foot, or do it the easy way by taking the Goldbelt Tram, leaving right from town and ending with a fantastic view at 1,760 feet.
- Flightsee or Trek on the Juneau Icefield: This massive accumulation of ice and snow that stretches 85 miles north to south, and 45 miles east to west—an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. You can explore it though a trekking trips or flightseeing.
- Visit the Mendenhall Glacier: The Mendenhall is one of Alaska’s most easily accessible glaciers, and it is so close—and so impressive—it would be a shame to miss. You can see it by rafting, kayaking, trekking, or flightseeing.
- Pan for Gold: You can learn more about the capital's history through fun tours that often include costumed characters and often dinner.
- Local History at the Museum: The Juneau-Douglas City Museum sits on the site where Alaska officially became a state. View the exhibits and watch an award-winning documentary about the city. Plus, the City Museum doesn’t end at the building’s walls. From May to September, you can take walking tours of historic downtown Juneau and the Alaska State Capitol. The Alaska State Museum has more than 23,000 artifacts, works of fine art, and natural history exhibits.
- Winter Skiing: Head to Eaglecrest Ski Area, just a short drive from Downtown Juneau and hit the ski slopes (or, nordic ski on the groomed trails). Juneau is just a short flight from Seattle or Anchorage, making it an easy winter getaway.
- Cruising? See our full list of recommended shore excursions in Juneau, Alaska