Seward may have a “drive up glacier,” but I’m wagering Juneau is one of the few places on earth with a glacier served by public transportation. And that was great news for us, having just returned our rental car in Anchorage.
Like everything in Alaska, it’s possible to pay more getting to Mendenhall. Our first attempt arranging transportation took us to a private shuttle service that charged $16 per person, which isn’t terrible by Alaskan tourist standards. However, that shuttle didn’t depart until the first cruise ship arrived, guaranteeing we’d share our excursion with hundreds of other people. No thanks.
Trying to beat the cruise-ship crowd and save a buck in the process we made our way instead to the city bus terminal. For $2 per person, Juneau’s Capital Transit bus system takes you from downtown into the Mendenhall Valley but leaves you about a mile short of the glacier. We made up the difference on foot (which is a pretty typical trade-off with this kind of budget travel – you end up paying one way or another).
The glacier itself is pretty spectacular and easily visible from dry land. A number of hiking trails lead to different vantage points. It’s also possible to kayak across Mendenhall Lake for a closer look.
As a bonus, we were treated to a magnificently powerful waterfall crashing just a few meters from shore. None of which you typically get to see near a city bus stop.