The short floatplane ride from Alaska’s capital, Juneau, to Gustavus, the gateway for Glacier Bay National Park, offers an aerial view of the vastness of the mountains and ice that dominate this part of Southeast Alaska. With more than 1,000 active glaciers, the park is aptly named. On arrival in Gustavus, you are met at the dock and transferred to Glacier Bay Lodge, the only accommodation within the national park. Set among majestic Sitka spruce trees on Bartlett Cove, the lodge provides an inviting base from which to explore the surrounding rain forest on a hiking trail looping through the woods and to the shore. Or relax on the deck, watching the tide flow in and out—a difference of up to 25 feet during full or new moons! Meals at the lodge include freshly caught seafood, where the local haul might include Dungeness crab, halibut or salmon.
Day 2: Exploring Glacier Bay by Catamaran
After breakfast, embark on a catamaran excursion accompanied by a park naturalist. As you navigate the fjord complex, take in the dramatic sight of towering peaks and tidewater glaciers that wind to the sea while learning how the forest reclaims the landscape that the rivers of ice have scraped bare. Watch for humpback and orca whales, Steller sea lions, black and brown bears, moose, mountain goats, puffins and other seabirds. Have lunch onboard, then return to Bartlett Cove to spend the rest of the day exploring on your own. There are plenty of options: Take a hike in the lush forest, spend hours examining abundant marine life in the intertidal zone if the tide is low, tour the visitor’s center or visit the Huna Tribal House, with its carved eagle and raven totem poles, and learn about the history of the Huna Tlingit people, for whom Glacier Bay is their ancestral homeland.
Day 3: Kayaking in Bartlett Cove / Juneau / Depart
After breakfast, meet your kayaking guide for a quiet paddle in Bartlett Cove—no previous kayaking experience is necessary in these protected waters. Your guide will share the fascinating natural and cultural history of the area as you explore the coastline from an intimate, water-level vantage point. Keep an eye and ear out for signs of wildlife—whether the blow of a humpback whale or the splash of a curious harbor seal—as you soak up views of Glacier Bay. Then transfer to the airport in Gustavus for your return flight to Juneau.
Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate