A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Anchorage: 47°/68°/Partly sunny
Fairbanks: 45°/76°/Partly sunny
Juneau: 48°/59°/Partly sunny
Kayaking, glaciers and mystic scenery in the coastal mountains
Glacier Bay National Park is a refugee from the ice ages: tidewater glaciers calving into frigid seas, cliff-flanked fjords and plants creeping up scoured valleys where glaciers retreated.
Click on a link to receive a directory of businesses that can help you make the most of your stay in and around Gustavus, the closest town to Glacier Bay National Park.
Charters and tours
The park is part of 24-million-acre block (37,500 square miles) of protected land, a World Heritage Site, that includes Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (the nation's largest) and Canada's Tatsenshini-Alsek Park and Canada's Kluane National Park.
Glacier Bay National Park, Wilderness and Preserve sits at the northern end of the Alaska Panhandle, stretching from Gustavus west of Juneau north through one of the narrowest parts of the "pinch," where the state is narrowed down to about 20 miles from Mount Fairweather to the Gulf of Alaska, on to the Alsek River, one of the state's 26 national wild and scenic rivers and a favorite of rafters.
The park has a long bay, which has several smaller arms, and a share of the Gulf of Alaska coastline.
The park is a wildlife lover's dream. Humpback and killer whales patrol the waters, and the five species of Pacific salmon swim through. The shoreline is busy with migrating birds. Inland, watch for bears, both brown and black -- and "glacier" bears, which are black bears in a bluish color phase. There are also moose, Sitka deer, wolves and wolverines.
The location of Glacier Bay was created by retreating glaciers. During the Little Ice Age a couple of hundred years ago, glaciers swept across the land and shoved human life southward to Chichagof, where refugees settled at Hoonah.
Glaciers, orcas, bears, Alsek River rafting and rugged mountains.
Bears, eagles, sea lions, seals, sea otters, millions of birds.
Kayaking is a favorite activity in the park. Water taxis ferry kayakers and hikers from Gustavus and Bartlett Cove to deeper recesses in the park.
It's probably going to rain. The weather will be cool, with midsummer highs in the low 60s. If it's sunny and warm, celebrate in one of the world's most beautiful places. On the longest day, the summer solstice, the sun will be above the horizon for 18 hours and 18 minutes.
Thousands of the park's visitors pass through on cruise ships. But if you're planning to stay awhile, you can head over on a water taxi or small plane from Juneau, 50 miles to the east. In early June 2004, Alaska Airlines will start its seasonal 737 jet service to Gustavus, putting the park just a hop, skip and puddlejump from Seattle, Juneau or Anchorage. There is no service from the Alaska Marine Highway ferry.
Restaurants and lodging are available in Gustavus, on the fringe of the park. Camping is available in the park.
Kayakers and hikers are dropped off by charter boats and the park concessionaire's boat, which runs daily between Bartlett Cove and Muir Inlet.
Guided day and overnight kayak trips are available, or kayakers may explore on their own. Rental kayaks are available from several outlets; a reservation far in advance is recommended. Adventurers may fly to Gustavus with a foldable kayak or have a hardshell kayak delivered. (The Federal Aviation Administration won't let pilots carry passengers and a strapped-on boat at the same time.)
Camping is allowed in the backcountry, but a free bear-safety lesson and bear-resistant food canister are required. The Bartlett Cove campground is free with a 14-day limit, but a permit is required from the visitors center. Hiking is good on the beaches, alpine meadows and in valleys where glaciers retreated, but there are no backcountry trails.