Juneau - Attractions
Glacier Bay National Park
Sixteen tidewater glaciers spilling out of the mountains and filling the sea with icebergs of all shapes, sizes and shades of blue have made Glacier Bay National Park an icy wilderness renowned throughout the world. It is an area of green forests, steep fjords and icebergs. An added attraction is the variety of marine life, including humpback whales, harbour seals, porpoises, and sea otters, while other wildlife includes brown and black bears, wolves, moose, mountain goats and over 200 species of birds. Glacier Bay offers an excellent opportunity for kayakers to enjoy the protected arms and inlets where the glaciers are. It is a trail-less park, but it still provides enjoyable backpacking. The park is serviced by a small settlement, Gustavus, which can be reached by plane from Juneau.
Juneau-Douglas City Museum
In the old Memorial Library Building, constructed in 1951, this museum displays over 6000 artefacts, including local artwork, a large custom relief map of the area and audiovisual presentations. Among its special changing attractions are interpretive displays covering the gold-mining history of Juneau and Douglas, hands-on exhibits and other exhibits highlighting local history and culture.
Also in the city centre, the Alaska State Museum offers an outstanding showcase into Alaska's past. There are artefacts from all four indigenous groups - Athabascan, Aleut, Inuit and northwest coast people - and displays relating to the Russian period, major gold strikes in the state and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. A bonus for families: the museum has a kids' room, with natural-history exhibits and even dress-up costumes.
Last Chance Mining Museum
Trek a couple miles up Basin Rd from the city centre and - you never know - you might come across the remains of the compressor house for the Alaska-Juneau Mine, which was operated from 1912 to 1944, on the Gastineau Channel. Today the building is the Last Chance Mining Museum, where you can check out the impressive web of railroad lines, ore cars, repair sheds and other industrial artefacts related to gold mining.
Speaking of mines, the Treadwell Mine ruins, across the Gastineau Channel near Douglas, are really worth an exploration. The Treadwell Mining Community closed down in 1922, after a 1917 cave-in led to financial ruin, but in its heyday the mine put Douglas on the map of major players. Across the channel from Treadwell, the Alaska-Juneau Mine also has an interesting history; it closed in 1944 after producing more than $80 million in gold.
On Friday evenings in the summer, musicians and other performers give free shows at this delightful waterfront park, which is good for a stroll and also a logical starting place for a city-centre walk. Start at the park's kiosk, at the southern end of Egan Drive and get kitted up with a walking-tour map. It will lead you first to S Franklin St, a historical district that experienced renovation in 1985, when many of its early-1900s buildings underwent a major makeover into bars, gift shops and eateries. It's now a one-stop mob shop every time a cruise ship docks.
Among other attractions (some covered below), the tour also leads toward the Davis Log Cabin , which houses local relics and historical pieces, and then to the very unassuming state capitol, which may seem at first glance more like a high school than the Alaskan seat of government. Free tours are up for grabs.
You've heard of drive-in movies, drive-in burger stands and drive-in ATMs; there's a drive-in wedding chapel or two in Vegas and a drive-through tree in California. Juneau joins the trend with Mendenhall, its famous drive-in glacier. The ice floe is 21km (13mi) from the city centre, and it dynamically flows 19km (12mi) from its source, the Juneau Ice Field. Whatever the weather, you're sure to be astounded. When the sun's out, it's a beautiful scene, with blue skies and snow-kissed mountains as a backdrop. When the sky clouds and drizzles, the view can be even more intense, as the ice transforms into a deep blue. Near the glacier's face is a visitor's centre with exhibits, maps, and slide and film presentations. There are also several hiking trails in the area.
Mt Roberts Trail
This trail near the international hostel is another hot spot for hikers. With a series of switchbacks and necessary resting stops, it is a 6.4km (4mi) climb to the mountain that looks over the city. At Gastineau Peak, which boasts more than its fair share of good views of Juneau, Douglas and the entire channel area, there is a wooden cross and the new tram station and nature centre. If you trek up, you have the option of riding down on the Mt Roberts tram. Other Juneau-area trails include the Dan Moller Trail, which leads to an alpine bowl at the crest of Douglas Island; the Treadwell Ditch Trail, also on Douglas Island; and the tougher-in-nature Mt Bradley Trail, which requires both rubber boots and sturdy hiking boots.
This is the most popular trail system in Juneau and includes the Perseverance, Mt Juneau and Granite Creek Trails. Hardy hikers can tackle all three, which makes a challenging 10-hour walk; those wanting to breathe a little more civilly can stretch it out to an overnight venture into the mountains. Large sections of the Perseverance Trail were wiped out by a hectic storm and landslide in 1996; though its repair has been underway for a while, the hike requires more effort than it once did. Persevere on, though, because at the end of the trail is the Glory Hole, a caved-in mine shaft that was once connected to the Alaska-Juneau Mine.
From the Perseverance, you can pick up the Granite Creek Trail, which leads to the creek's basin, an excellent spot to sleep under the constellations. From there, climbing the ridge will take you to Mt Juneau, which has a 1090m (3576ft) peak.
St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
This church, named for a saint known as the protector of mariners, probably hears more camera clicks than any other building in Juneau. The octagon-shaped structure was built in 1894 and wins the prize for being the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in the southeastern region. There are exhibits of Russian icons within, as well as original vestments and religious relics. Tours are conducted everyday except Sunday during the summer.