Hike the Mendenhall Glacier

4.8
8 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by William Woodward

This is Alaska in all it's beauty. Multiple trails varying in length and degrees of difficulty. Picturesque blue ice & surrounding mountains. Experience the magnitude of the forces that shaped many of our mountains and valleys. Duration: Winter, 3-4 hours. Summer, 5-8 hours. Includes time for exploring.

The Mendenhall Glacier, formerly known as Sitaantaagu ("the Glacier Behind the Town"), is a 12 mile long glacier about 12 miles outside Alaska’s capital Juneau. A quick drive from downtown Juneau to the ‘trailhead’ parking lot finds you overlooking the nearly half a mile wide face of the glacier. I say ‘trailhead’, as the trail across the lake only exists in the winter months when the lake is frozen enough to cross on foot or ski.

The past two years the caves have mainly been found along the far west side of the glacier, where it meets the base of Mt. McGunnis. As glaciers are constantly shifting, the caves can never be completely mapped, but that leads to the adventure.

A popular day hike for the locals, expect to see others out enjoying the frozen lake in snowshoes, cross country and nordic skis, as well as on foot. Glacier travel should always be done with care, even when following a well defined trail. Slick conditions on the ice may call for crampons, and it’s always best to travel with a partner. Use caution, and have fun exploring the land of the bluest ice.

Frozen Trails:

  • 3 mile out and back hike/cross country ski/snowshoe across the frozen Mendenhall Lake, culminating at extensive ice caves for some mild spelunking
  • Duration: Winter, 3-4 hours.

West Glacier Trail:

  • 8 miles and 2000 vertical feet cumulative elevation change offers a challenging yet rewarding approach to the glacier
  • Duration: Summer, 5-8 hours. Includes time for exploring.
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Photography
Skiing
Snowshoeing
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife

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Reviews

Rate this Adventure

🥇Top Contributor

7 months ago

Nice Hike

This hike gets very, very crowded, but the views of the glacier are worth it. The trail also has some nice spots for reflective lake photos.

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

over 2 years ago

Alaska in All its Beauty

This glacier is Alaska in all its beauty. I took a trail just to see the glacier. Picturesque white ice & surrounding mountains. I experienced the magnitude of the forces that shaped many of the hills and valleys in the area.

🥇Top Contributor

about 3 years ago

Caves are a must visit

This is a really nice hike around the enchanting Mendenhall. To take in the power of glaciers is something that everyone who has the chance to experience should. The caves under the Mendenhall are getting smaller and smaller with increased heat, so make visits like these a priority (and then get out there and spread word on how to protect places like these!)

My Backyard

I currently live in the Valley and whenever it's a sunny day you can expect many to be here. Even better in the winter.

🥉Contributor

over 5 years ago

Ice Cave Collapse

These caves were a sight to see. Unfortunately however they are much less extensive now due to a cave collapse in July of 2014.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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