Helicopter flightseeing over the Mendenhall Glacier and icefields near Juneau is one of the most exciting shore excursions available to cruise passengers visiting Alaska. Add a glacier landing and a dog sled ride across the ice and snow, and you have an adventure to remember forever!
The "Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier via Helicopter" excursion in Juneau was one of the best cruise ship shore excursions I've ever taken. The helicopter swooped up over the mountains, and the ride from the warm Juneau airport across the green coastal mountains to the icefields and Mendenhall Glacier took only a few minutes. The helicopter floated up and over the mountains, and we marveled at the striking whiteness of the Juneau icefields below. The whole experience was much like an IMAX movie, only we were part of it.
Note that helicopter tours are expensive, and often bad weather can cause cancellations. But, if the weather holds, what a wonderful experience to take home! If the weather is bad either near the heliport or up on the glacier, you'll miss the tour, but safety comes first. Juneau offers many other things to do and see.
Six of us rode a bus from the ship to the TEMSCO Helicopters' office near the airport, where we had a safety briefing and put on our glacier boots. Then, we brave souls and the pilot buckled up, donned our headphones, and lifted off! None of us had ever ridden in a helicopter, but we all agreed the experience greatly exceeded our expectations.
Gunsight Mountain Near Juneau, Alaska
Do you see the narrow "V" in the mountains ahead?
The excellent weather allowed the pilot to zip the helicopter through this "V-shaped" opening, which is appropriately named the "Gunsight." The pilot didn't give us any warning. He headed for the mountain, and the next thing we knew, we were through the gap.
Later, after catching our collective breaths, I asked the pilot how much clearance we had on each side of the rotor. He said the Gunsight was a 300-foot opening, and the helicopter blades are less than 50 feet across. It sure looked a lot closer to me.
Flying to the Juneau Icefields on a Helicopter
The green coastal mountains quickly turn into glaciers and icefields as you fly away from the Juneau airport.
Helicopter on Alaska Icefield near Juneau, Alaska
The helicopters dropped us at the dog camp and returned about an hour later. The tour company runs two helicopters and up to 10 trips per day per helicopter.
Gastineau Channel near Juneau, Alaska
The Gastineau Channel of the Inside Passage of Alaska separates Juneau from Douglas Island. It is gradually filling in due to the glaciers' silt.
Although much of the ice field and glacier area was very smooth, this glacier was rough due to the buckling of the ice as it is pushed down the valley.
Sheep on a Mountaintop
You have to look very closely, but those white dots on the green mountaintop are sheep.