Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska

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).

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Alaska

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.

Mendenhall Glacier Waterfall

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13 Comments on “Mendenhall Glacier”

  1. Laura Hilger December 27, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    LOVE it there!


  2. TinLizzie72 December 27, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Love that you went there on the bus! As a public transportation advocate, it’s nice to hear about people utilizing other ways of getting around while traveling. Thanks!


    • Brian December 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      As long-time city dwellers, we’re big fans of public transportation. We usually take it whenever it’s available.


  3. James Langston December 27, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    what an amazing trip. i love reading about it


    • Brian December 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      We love sharing it. Thanks for following along.


  4. alphathread December 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    We used the public bus instead of the ship’s tour in 2002. Its an easy walk from the bus to the glacier. Got there earlier, had more time in the area and then caught a fast inexpensive shuttle from the glacier back to the town. Good post – brought back fond memories of our visit. Chris G (NZ)


    • Brian December 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      That’s something I forgot to mention. If you take the bus up early, you can always grab the shuttle back and just pay the one-way fare. It is far faster than the city bus.


  5. Geeky Explorers (@GeekyExplorers) December 28, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    We also took the bus to Mendenhall instead of a shuttle. Of course, it was pouring rain & I quickly discovered my REI jacket was NOT waterproof! Just a tidbit, it’s also very easy to get to Alaskan Brewery via bus after visiting the glacier. 🙂


    • Brian December 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      We planned on taking the bus to Alaskan Brewery too, but for some reason we never made it.


  6. mazza18467 December 29, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    love the pic’s.
    we explore nature in our own country and who knows maybe we get to travel .


  7. project4thdraft January 3, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    That waterfall is called Nugget Falls, such a great little walk. If you ever go back, you should take the hike out to the ice caves. You won’t regret it.



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    […] of all, Alaska is huge. Two and one-half times larger than the “Big” state of Texas. And public transportation is rare. Saying that it’s hard to explore all of those miles on foot is an understatement. It’s […]


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