Hike or Camp on Mount McGinnis

Rate this Adventure 11 miles 4185 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Adam Ramer

With sweeping views of Mendenhall Glacier, Mount Stroller White, and the sea, this hike offers one of the most striking vistas in the area and is a must do if you plan to visit Juneau, Alaska.

At a shop in Juneau, I saw a photo of from the top of a mountain that blew me away. I began searching and soon found that it was taken atop Mount McGinnis, one of Juneau's Big Five Summits. 

Juneau's Big Five are a list of front range summits that are Walk Up summits. Which, in other terms, means you don't need any technical skills or equipment to conquer them. All you’ll need is your basic hiking or backpacking kit and a positive attitude.

Mount McGinnis though alluring is not for the faint of heart. It will test your strength and endurance (especially if you're carrying an overnight or multi-day pack) in a way that only the steep mountains in Southeast Alaskans know too well. 

You will start this hike from the West Glacier Trailhead and continue on the West Glacier trail for 3.5 miles, gaining about 1400 feet. It will end at a rocky outcrop, offering overhead views of Mendenhall Glacier. Don't hold your breath too long, the view only gets better from here. 

This is where the real work begins. Only two miles are left but the biggest factor is the 2700 feet of elevation to climb. 

You'll turn uphill and soon be threading your way through large willow bushes. It's not a well maintained portion of the trail and you will need to watch for orange or pink tape that is tied to the branches to guide your way. If you're not familiar with Alaska trails, you might ask yourself if this is really at trail. It is. Just make sure to follow the markers. 

From here the trail is more obvious, you'll enter a forest and follow a creek for awhile, as you traverse east and up. Before you climb above tree line, there is a large creek to the left of the trail that you will want to fill up on water if you are running low or if you plan to camp at the summit. It is the last running water source you'll find along the trail. 

There are some tarns further up, depending on the season or recent weather. But running water is always preferred to standing pools. 

Next is the escape into the alpine. Tree line will fall below you and you wont know what to do with your eyes. Mountains, a huge glacier, a glacial lake, and the sea. It's a great place to pause and take it all in or have a snack. 

Finally, you'll ascend to the top of McGinnis and, if you're anything like me, your legs will be screaming grateful sighs of relief. Here you will be rewarded with 360 views and arguably the best in the area. Take it all in, take a few photos, set up camp, and sip whatever you brought as you watch the sun descend over the coastal mountains. You'll soon forget about all the effort it took to get up here, it's worth it. 

Note: Alaska weather and especially Juneau weather, with the ice fields to the east, towering mountains, and the sea to the west, can create some pretty intense weather. Make sure to check your mountain forecast before hiking or camping in a place like this. It is very exposed to the elements and, though manageable in optimal weather, can become treacherous if the weather turns violent. 

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Tags

Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Groups
Scenic

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