There is no road to Juneau, the capital of Alaska. This small coastal city can only be reached by sea or air, as it is located in the southernmost part of the state on the Panhandle – a narrow spit of land cut by fjord-like inlets. A series of small islands buffer it from the sea. Despite its remote location, tourists and interested explorers often visit Juneau for its wide collection of community and nature attractions. Among the many fun things to do and reasons to visit, the Mendenhall Glacier , just 12 miles northwest of downtown, is an impressive sight and a great introduction to the ice-filled world surrounding this capital city.
Although Juneau is home to state buildings and a busy cruise ship port, it still has the feel of a gold prospecting settlement founded on Gold Creek in the 1880s. The mix of historic and modern attractions also includes a Russian Orthodox church (1894) and abandoned mines converted into museums. Juneau is also a good base to explore glacier-draped fjords such as Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm , the wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, and other scenic beauties of the Panhandle.
1 Mendenhall Glacier
There is a truly scenic panorama just 12 miles from downtown Juneau. The wide outlet of Nugget Falls churns into a lake studded with icebergs, and the tongue of the Mendenhall Glacier plunges to the water’s edge. The glacier is about thirteen miles long and is fed by the much larger Juneau Ice Field, which covers more than 1,500 square kilometers of terrain extending into British Columbia.
The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on the lakeshore is a great place to start your visit, where you can capture 180-degree views of the glacier. Some of the best views are from the hiking trails in the area, with routes running up either side of the glacier and also to Nugget Falls. Kayaking and rafting trips also take place on the very cold lake.
Location: 12 miles northwest of Juneau
Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/tongass/
2 Tracy Arm Fjord
Located southeast of Juneau, this ice-rich glacial fjord cuts through spectacular scenery with waterfalls cascading down vertical rock walls and glaciers calving chunks of ice to create small mountain peaks. The impressive twin Sawyer Glaciers are at the head of the fjord; their easily visible blue ice is considered particularly enchanting. You can learn about Tracy Arm’s natural history, its glaciers and wildlife by taking a boat tour.
The enormous walls of Tracy Arm Fjord rise almost vertically from the water, with trees jutting out at jagged and unusual angles. The fjord is quite long and extends through the Tongass National Forest . Along this stretch, common wildlife sightings include black bears, brown bears, deer and elk. Over the ocean, there’s a good chance of spotting bald eagles, arctic terns and devil’s coots, while whales and seals are common in the blue waters below.
3 Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure is located northwest of downtown, near the Mendenhall Glacier. It is part landscaped botanical center and part excursion into the rainforest environment that is the Tongass National Forest . Tours of this wooded attraction begin with a guided walk through the lower landscaped gardens, including the story behind the unique Flower Tower planters that originated in a massive 1984 landslide.
After covering the lower grounds, guests hop aboard an open shuttle to explore the rest of the 50-acre estate. Thunder Mountain . This is not a garden, but a forest area that has largely remained in its natural state. Guides discuss the different types and workings of the gardens to provide a better understanding of the woodland environment. The tour stops at various locations, boardwalks, and viewpoints with views of the Mendenhall Valley , Chilkat Mountains , Gastineau Channel , and Juneau .
Adres: 7600 Glacier Highway, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://www.glaciergardens.com/
4 Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park covers more than three million acres and is one of the main highlights of Alaska’s famous Inside Passage . Natural attractions and rewarding things to do can be found on land and in the water, and both environments offer breathtaking scenery with immense glaciers, temperate rainforests, remote fjords and a rugged coastline. Glacier Bay itself sits between two promontory ranges, and eight glaciers reach down to meet the refuges. On land, Bartlett Cove is the only area with developed hiking trails and designated campsites, as well as sea kayaks available for rent.
Glacier Bay is an important breeding ground for humpback whales, minke whales and orcas. The region attracts many tourists who want to catch a glimpse of these underwater mammals. Other wildlife viewing opportunities include moose, bears, wolves and mountain goats, as well as seabirds. There are day trips and longer cruises to the bay, as well as fishing trips.
Location: West of Juneau
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/glba/index.htm
5 Mount Roberts Tramway
From a base camp at the cruise ship docks, the Mount Roberts Tramway takes you to an altitude of 1,800 feet. At the mountaintop viewpoint there is a nature center, restaurant, theater, and gift shop. After the six-minute vertical ride, visitors can hike the nature trails and enjoy views of the Gastineau Channel complete with interpretive information along the way. The Mountain House at the top also hosts a live eagle show, a collection of tree carvings and Alaskan art for sale.
Adres: 490 South Franklin Street, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://mountrobertstramway.com/
6 Macaulay Zalmbroedplaats
Located northwest of the city on the way to the Mendenhall Glacier , the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery offers an underwater look with saltwater aquariums and tidal pools. The hatchery raises chum, chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, and because it is a working operation, you can catch different stages in the life cycle of Pacific salmon while touring the facility. Other permanent exhibits at the hatchery include a bear and eagle display; education exhibitions; and an outdoor viewing window, where you can watch salmon swimming from June to early October.
Adres: 2697 Channel Drive, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://www.dipac.net/
7 Alaska State Museum
In downtown Juneau, the Alaska State Museum features more than 25,000 historical artifacts spanning Alaska’s multicultural heritage. Gold Rush and mining memorabilia represent American history throughout the region, and various tools, weapons and documents shed light on Alaska’s Russian colonial era. Alaska’s native museum is best represented at the museum, including ancient artifacts and an extensive collection of Eskimo ivory. Contemporary art by Native Alaskans is also on display, as well as other visual art media. Under the umbrella of the Alaska State Museums, this institution also oversees the Sheldon Jackson Museum in the rugged and welcoming city and town of Sitka .
Adres: Whittier Street 395, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://museums.alaska.gov/
8 Last Chance Mining Museum
The Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company operated at this site from 1912 to 1944, and the location truly resembles an old mine with uneven ground, rusting buildings, and old equipment quietly decaying in the trees. The Gastineau Channel Historical Society operates the museum and maintains the displays of mining equipment and railroad cars.
Of particular interest at Last Chance Mining Museum are one of the world’s largest air compressors, built in 1912, and an electric locomotive. The attraction is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wear sturdy footwear and note that the museum is closed during the winter months.
Adres: 1001 Basin Road, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://juneaudouglashistory.weebly.com/last-chance-mining-museum.html
9 State Capitol Building
When Alaska became a state in 1959, this territorial and federal building became the state capitol building. There are historic photos, works of art and rooms to explore throughout. Free 30-minute guided tours are the best way to explore. Of particular interest at the State Capitol, the Art Deco design and decor of the interior lobby are easy to catch the eye, and the replica Liberty Bell outside is a nice place to pose for a photo. After taking the tour, continue down Fourth Street and then Calhoun Avenue to see the exterior of the Governor’s Mansion .
Adres: Fourth and Main Streets, Juneau, Alaska
10 Juneau-Douglas City Museum
The Juneau-Douglas City Museum, which is adjacent to the State Capitol building , features exhibits on Tlingit culture, the early gold mining days, and the history of the Juneau-Douglas area. For more sightseeing, the small, steep streets around the museum are lined with old wooden heritage houses and lush gardens, as well as the pretty blue-and-white St. Nicholas Orthodox Church – which dates back to 1894. Tuesday to Thursday throughout the summer, it hosts museum guided walking tours through these neighborhoods.
Adres: 114 West Fourth Street, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://beta.juneau.org/library/museum
11 Eaglecrest Ski Area
The Eaglecrest Ski Area is on and offers ski slopes overlooking the ocean on Douglas Island , separated from mainland Juneau by the Gastineau Channel. The ski area is owned and operated by the city of Juneau, and residents and visitors can reach the slopes within a twenty-minute drive from downtown. The 36 trails and four chairlifts cater to both beginners and seasoned skiers, and 10 miles of cross-country trails appeal to cross-country skiers in the area. A typical season at Eaglecrest runs from December to April, and in summer the area is a great hiking and downhill mountain biking destination.
Adres: 3000 Fish Creek Road, Juneau, Alaska
Official site: https://skijuneau.com/
- Guided Ice Field Walk: To reach remote Alaskan landscapes that few other people have ever visited, the 2.5-hour helicopter tour and guided ice field walk from Juneau Harbor takes you where cars can no longer go. The adventure begins with a narrated helicopter flight over the ice field, giving you a bird’s-eye view of the breathtaking ice formations and rock formations, before landing on the Herbert Glacier to explore on foot. Immersed in the icy environment, the helicopter guide provides more information about the geological works in the game and you can take your photo while posing on the glacier. On the helicopter flight back to the port, the views are just as amazing.
- Dog Sledding Experience: Few other activities epitomize Alaska better than dog sledding, and to get a firsthand experience of the mushing lifestyle, the Helicopter Tour and Dogsledding Experience let you take the lead with a team of huskies. This tour departs from the Port of Juneau with a helicopter flight over the Juneau Ice Field before hitting Herbert Glacier. Here you’ll spend time at a remote dog camp, meet the mushers and enjoy the unique opportunity to ride a dog sled.
Where to Stay in Juneau for Sightseeing
We recommend these cozy Juneau hotels close to downtown attractions and the cruise port:
- Best Western Grandma’s Feather Bed: mid-range pricing, historic charm, feather beds, made-to-order breakfast, hot tub, shuttle service.
- Four Points by Sheraton Juneau: 3-star modern mid-rise, water views, near cruise port, fitness center.
- Silverbow Inn: affordable boutique hotel, downtown location, well-appointed rooms, free breakfast, hot tub.
- Super 8 Juneau: budget hotel, convenient location, modern decor, free breakfast.