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 Mount Roberts Tramway, leaving right from town and ending with a fantastic view at 1,760 feet.
- 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.
- Mendenhall Glacier: It’s 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 a glacier cruise dogsledding tour or flightseeing.
- Gold history tours: You can learn more about the capital's history through fun tours that often include costumed characters and often dinner.
- The Alaska State Museum: Home to more than 23,000 artifacts, works of fine art, and natural history exhibits, the Alaska State Museum has housed Alaska’s history since 1900. Among its most popular exhibits are clothing, weapons, tools and ceremonial objects from the distinct Alaska Native populations, as well as icons and other memorabilia from Russian-American days.
- Winter Fun: 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.