Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska
The icy sea meets the mountains at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. Dave Bartruff/Getty Images

Scientists have called Glacier Bay a living laboratory due to its glacial retreat, plant succession, and animal behavior. Ice has shrunk back 65 miles, unveiling a new bay, returning to life. Alder and willows are growing and vegetation has attracted wolves, moose, mountain goats, brown bears, black bears, and more. The sea also supports harbor seals, humpback whales, birds, and killer whales. It’s an area that deserves a visit, especially if you are a lover of nature and wildlife.

History

Proclaimed Glacier Bay National Monument on February 25, 1925 and established as a national park and preserve on December 2, 1980. The area was also given wilderness designation on December 2, 1980 and designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1986.

 

When to Visit

Late May to mid-September is the best time to visit. Summer days are longer and temperatures tend to be cooler. While May and June have the most sunshine, the upper inlets can still be thick with icebergs. September is often rainy and windy.

The Visitor Center is open daily from late May to early September. Exhibits are open 24-hours while the information desk and Alaska Geographic bookstore are open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Getting There

The park is only accessible by boat or plane. From Juneau, take a flight to Gustavus, then take the bus to Glacier Bay Lodge and Bartlett Cove Campground. Alaska Airlines provides daily jet service from Juneau to Gustavus (about 30 minutes) in the summer season. Year-round scheduled air service to Gustavus is also provided by a variety of small air taxis and charters. Several air taxis also fly a network of routes that link Juneau and Gustavus to Haines, Skagway, and other southeast Alaska towns.They can also assist in getting you into Glacier Bay's wilderness.

Flying time from Juneau to Gustavus is about 30 minutes.

During the summer months, the Ferry LeConte stops in Gustavus twice weekly from Juneau. The ferry dock is located 9 miles from Glacier Bay park headquarters in Bartlett Cove. Check the AMHS website for schedules, times, and rates. Visitors may also take a tour vessel or cruise ship to the park. A daily boat tour based in the park conducts trips from Bartlett Cove to the tidewater glaciers. If you have a private boat, you may obtain a permit and reservation to bring it intoto Glacier Bay.

 

Fees/Permits

There is no entrance fee to enter Glacier Bay. Reservations are required for private boating, camping, rafting, and for many other visitor services. Visitors bringing their own boat into Glacier Bay from June 1 through August 31 must have a permit and reservation. If you are planning on camping in the backcountry, you will need to obtain a free permit. Fees, permits, and reservations are needed to raft the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers.

 

Things to Do

Activities at Glacier Bay are as diverse as the area. Outdoor enthusiasts can choose from hiking, camping, mountaineering, kayaking, rafting, fishing, hunting, wildreness adventures, and bird watching. It is possible for wilderness lovers to spend days in the park's more remote places without seeing another person.

Sea Kayaking is the easiest and most popular way to travel into Glacier Bay's wilderness. Kayaks can be brought to the park by ferry, rented locally, or provided on guided trips. Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers from Canada to Dry Bay in the park is a world-class float trip on glacial rivers through one of the world's highest coastal mountain ranges. Whether you bring your own raft, rent from an outfitter, or join a guided trip, you will have a blast!

Backpacking and mountaineering are the most strenuous ways to explore the park, but perhaps the most rewarding.

 

Major Attractions

Bartlett Cove: You may wish to explore the area on your own, with a small group, or as part of a Ranger Naturalist guided hike. Whatever method you choose, the beauty of Bartlett Cove is worth discovering.

West Arm: The bay’s west arm contains the park’s highest mountains and most active tidewater glaciers.

Muir Inlet: Consider this the mecca for kayakers. Camping and hiking are amazing here.

White Thunder Ridge: A strenuous hike up this trail will reward you with amazing views of Muir Inlet.

Wolf Creek: Take this hike to view where running water has exposed a forest buried by a glacier almost 7,000 years ago.

Marble Islands: A great place for bird watchers. The islands support the breeding colonies of gulls, cormorants, puffins, and murres.

 

Accommodations

There are a number of options for accommodations while visiting Glacier Bay National Park. Glacier Bay Lodge is the only lodging within the park. It is open from mid-May through early September.

Camping is available in the park at Bartlett Cove. Maximum stay is 14 days but those looking for wilderness camping and kayaking, there are virtually unlimited camping opportunities.

If you are looking for more accommodations, visit nearby Gustavus, for inns, lodges, and B&B's.

Pets

As Glacier Bay preserves a lot of wildlife, it may not be the best place to bring pets. Pets are allowed on land in a few select areas, and may never be left unattended. Your pet must be leashed or physically restrained at all times. They are not allowed on trails, beaches, or anywhere in the backcountry, with the exception of pets that remain on board private vessels on the water.

 

Things to Do

Activities at Glacier Bay are as diverse as the area. Outdoor enthusiasts can choose from hiking, camping, mountaineering, kayaking, rafting, fishing, hunting, wildreness adventures, and bird watching. It is possible for wilderness lovers to spend days in the park's more remote places without seeing another person.

Sea Kayaking is the easiest and most popular way to travel into Glacier Bay's wilderness. Kayaks can be brought to the park by ferry, rented locally, or provided on guided trips. Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers from Canada to Dry Bay in the park is a world-class float trip on glacial rivers through one of the world's highest coastal mountain ranges. Whether you bring your own raft, rent from an outfitter, or join a guided trip, you will have a blast!

Backpacking and mountaineering are the most strenuous ways to explore the park, but perhaps the most rewarding.

 

Contact Info

Glacier Bay National Park
PO Box 140
Gustavus, AK 99826-0140