Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. High above the city is the Juneau Icefield, source of the region’s many glaciers, including the roughly 13-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier. The area’s rich wildlife ranges from bears and bald eagles to whales and porpoises. The gold rush helped develop Juneau, and in August and September salmon run in the rivers. Nearly all of Southeast Alaska, stretching 500 miles from Ketchikan to Yakutat, is in the Tongass National Forest. The towns sit in small pockets of private land surrounded by 17 million acres of land – an area nearly as large as the state of Maine, preserving one of the world’s great temperate rainforests in its virgin state as an intact ecosystem full of wildlife, and mostly free of human development. The food is fabulous in Juneau, the shopping too. This is no ordinary itinerary of just ‘seeing’ Alaska. We will be outdoors and in it, with full day adventures. We’ll discover Alaska the way it was meant to be, whale watching, trekking glaciers, viewing bears in their natural habitat, and hiking mountains. Join us on this active adventure and explore the Alaska you’ve dreamt of!
Arrive Juneau by 3pm and be met by your Trip Leader. We’ll explore historic Juneau on a walking tour of the city. A unique and inviting aspect of travel in Southeast Alaska is that no roads connect most of the communities. People are forced to get out of their speeding cars and ride on boats, where they can see what’s passing by – slowly. The islands of the region form a protected waterway called the Inside Passage, along which almost all of the region’s towns are arrayed. We’ll check into our all suite accommodations and enjoy a welcome dinner as we get to know our road sisters. The hotel offers all suites, with full kitchens, living room, bedroom & bath, and washer and dryer in unit too! Overnight Juneau five nights. Unpack once and chill!
After breakfast, we’re off to hike the Mount Roberts Trail. We’ll take the Goldbelt Tram up to the Mountain House. The Mountain House is in the rain forest with its 200 foot high trees. Wildlife viewing platforms, incredible scenery and colorful flora abound. The Nature Center on Mount Roberts invites us to enjoy a cup of cider while we muse around the many interpretive displays or browse through the gift shop for unique gifts, books and maps. They also feature a fascinating 20 minute film on the Tlingit people, their history and culture. We’ll hike up the summit on a trail into the sub-alpine meadow awash in brightly colored flowers. There are many marmots, spruce grouse and other birds on this route. This hike is approximately 4 miles with a rating of moderate. After our hike, we’ll have lunch with a view! Our tummies and cameras full, we’ll take the Tram down to town marveling at the scenery laid before us. We’ll have some time in the Old Historic Downtown to visit the Arts & Culture Center, perhaps a trading post, or anything else we fancy. It’s a relaxing late afternoon in town before we return to our comfortable suite hotel. Tonight is another hand-picked restaurant for dinner.
After breakfast, we’re off on another full day adventure! Just 40 miles from Juneau, Admiralty Island National Monument and Pack Creek is the absolute best place to see brown bears. There are no roads or accommodations, so the only way to get to the area is by floatplane (versus a 3.5-hour boat ride). We’ll fly from Juneau into the wilderness in a classic Alaskan float plane. The 30-minute floatplane ride takes us over turquoise coves, rocky shores and green islands as you look for whales, eagles, and bears. Touching down a float plane is very gentle, as they say, like “landing on liquid glass.” The trip affords the avoidance of crowds and includes flights, permits, lunch, outfitting and an experienced bear guide to make sure that we get the most out of our time in bear country. Our guide will read the bear behavior, tides and weather to give us the best opportunities for outstanding wildlife viewing. This area is also known by the native Tlingít people as “Kootznoowoo,” which translates to “fortress of the bears.” Admiralty Island is home to an estimated 1,600 brown bears. To see these furry giants in action, we’ll head to the island’s Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary, where we may see as many as 25 bears come together to feast on salmon. For optimal viewing, we head to the “viewing spit” at the mouth of Pack Creek. A short quarter-mile along a rocky beach takes us to a low spit overlooking a meadow where we can observe bears fishing in the creek or foraging along the shoreline. There is also the possibility of a one-mile hike through towering, 500-year old spruce forest. After spending a good deal of time with the bears, we hop back on the floatplane and back to Juneau we go. Back at our accommodations, we’ll get cleaned up and enjoy another delicious dinner.
After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll have some time to enjoy the historic downtown area of Juneau. Mid day, we’ll travel through the picturesque landscape of Southeast Alaska, along the Gastineau Channel, past the Mendenhall Tidelands, through the Tongass forest and arrive at Auke Bay Harbor. “All aboard!” and you’re off for the Alaska waters of the Inside Passage and the ultimate whale watching experience. We’ll also be on the lookout for bald eagles, seals, sea lions, black bears and more of Alaska’s wildlife. The star of the tour is the humpback whale, but we are always looking out for the playful orcas. Once we spot a whale the captain will slow down and allow you to go on the spacious viewing decks for a great photo opportunity. Our custom design provides unrestricted viewing from inside the cabin as well. Although the cabin is enclosed and heated, we recommend you dress in layers, after all, it is Alaska! Juneau is one of the best ports for whale watching in Alaska, and this tour will be an unforgettable experience. A light snack and refreshments will be provided. Return to Juneau and we’ll have a pajama pizza party in your Trip Leader’s suite with award winning Island Pub pizza – yum!
After breakfast, we’re off to discover Mendenhall Glacier. No visit to Juneau is complete without a close-up look at the Mendenhall Glacier. The Juneau Icefield’s most visible ambassador, 13-mile long Mendenhall Glacier ends at Mendenhall Lake. (Note: The Mendenhall Glacier is receding on a daily basis and due to this, we are seeing drastic changes to the surface of the glacier. That said, please know this may be our last opportunity to see this natural wonder, and we’ll remember how lucky we are to have seen it.) We’ll stay as long as we choose to explore trails, check out the wildlife, and go inside the visitor center to learn about local ecosystems and conservation in Alaska. With lunch in our backpack, we’ll hike to Nugget Falls, one of the most fabulous sites of nature near Juneau! Back in town, we’ll have time for some last minute shopping then return to our hotel to get cleaned up. Our tasty Farewell dinner rounds out this fabulous and most memorable week.
Transfer to the airport for departure or stay and play on your own.