Juneau, the Inside Passage, and Southeast Alaska Itineraries
The Best of the Inside Passage, 7 days
The Inside Passage is the second-longest and -deepest fjord in the world, and a ride on the ferry up the Passage during summer months offers fantastic views of waterfalls and sharp peaks cascading into the ocean; it can be a great way to spot orcas and humpback whales.
The Inside Passage is also known as the Lynn Canal, but this is a misnomer: a canal is a man-made channel and the Passage is a glacially carved fjord.
Day 1: Juneau
Kick off your journey in Juneau, where you'll have to arrive by plane or boat, as there aren't any roads to it. Stay at Alaska’s Capital Inn, a bed-and-breakfast far away from the cruise-ship traffic. Be sure to book in advance, as this place is popular with returning visitors.
Once you’re settled into your quarters, take a trip to the Shrine of St. Therese. You can spend a good portion of the day on this tiny island, accessible by a pedestrian causeway. Afterward, head into downtown Juneau and peruse the shops and galleries, many of which specialize in original local art.
Finish the day with dinner at the bar in the Westmark Baranof Hotel; it serves the same menu as the hotel’s well-regarded Gold Room Restaurant.
Day 2: Mendenhall Glacier
(Excursion takes approximately 5 hours)
One of Juneau’s most popular attractions, Mendenhall Glacier, is nestled right up against the town. Whether you arrive by boat or plane, you’re sure not to miss it as you approach the capital city. The glacier sits at the back of the icy blue Mendenhall Lake. Alaska Boat & Kayak Shop offers shuttle service from downtown Juneau, as well as kayak rentals. Kayak across the lake and up close to icebergs that have calved off the glacier, or hit the trails and hike up to the waterfalls.
Grab lunch before checking out of the inn. Board an afternoon or early-evening flight to Gustavus on Wings of Alaska (www.wingsofalaska.com).
Days 3 and 4: Glacier Bay National Park
(25 minutes by plane from Juneau; 4½ hours by ferry)
Located at the northern tip of the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay National Park is one of the country's most awe-inspiring national treasures. Stay at the Glacier Bay Lodge, the only accommodation located inside the park. The lodge can arrange a daylong boat excursion that will take you past hundreds of lush green islands and straight up to the calving glaciers. Some excursions allow you to disembark and kayak around the glaciers for a couple of hours.
Or take a kayaking adventure like none you’ve ever had before. Experienced guides can be hired for multiday excursions that paddle all the way to the calving glaciers. Regardless of how far you paddle, the experience is incredibly rewarding. Though the lodge does rent solo kayaks, unless you are a very experienced sea kayaker, we recommend taking a tour.
Whichever way you decide to explore the park, you’ll find great comfort in the hot meals and comfy beds at the end of the day.
If you’re only spending one night at the park, get up early on the day of your departure and set out on any one of a number of great hikes that begin at the lodge. If you have time, consider tacking on a few extra days.
Day 5: Return to Juneau
(4½ hours by ferry from Glacier Bay)
The ferry departs Gustavus at different times depending on the day of the week, but it's usually before 3 pm.
Stay at the Silverbow Inn, right in the heart of downtown. The location offers quick access to nature trails, the beach, and to the Douglas Island walkway. If you get back from Gustavus in time, drive or take the bus to Douglas Island. If you’re visiting between September and May, try to catch a show at Perseverance Theatre, renowned for its great set designs and talented casts.
Day 6: Take a Hike
On your last day in Juneau, get out and see some of the countryside. One of the locals' favorite hikes is Perseverance Trail. To get here, follow Gold Street until it turns into 8th Street. Follow 8th until it dead-ends at Basin Road. Take a left and keep walking until you get to the trail. This 3-mile trail (one-way) takes about three to four hours to hike. In its past life, this was first road.
After your hike, grab lunch at any of the many eateries around downtown Juneau. Then immerse yourself in history at the Alaska State Museum, sample some of the locally brewed beer at Hangar on the Wharf, or take one last stroll along the waterfront.
Day 7: Take Off for Home
Head to the airport for your flight back.
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