Hike to Eagle Glacier Cabin

Rate this Adventure 11 miles 300 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Adam Ramer

A vibrant and lush rainforest trail that leads to a beautiful backcountry cabin at the edge of a glacier fed lake. Surrounded by mountains with views of Eagle Glacier, this is a perfect getaway in Juneau, Alaska.

Eagle Glacier cabin is one of twelve different backcountry cabins in the borough of Juneau, Alaska that are cared for by the National Forest Service and DNR. Some are perched near lakes, some have views of glaciers, others near rocky beaches and salt water.

To stay at any of these cabins, you will need a reservation and to navigate anywhere from .3 to 6 miles of trail.

They book up fast so make sure to secure your stay in advance if you are visiting the area.

The Hike

Surrounded by saltwater on one side and backed by mountains capped in sprawling ice fields on the other, Juneau is a wet place. Annual rainfall is 62 inches (often times it's far more), which is a little more than half of Olympic National Park in Washington and almost twice Seattle rainfall.

The Tongass National Forest, which covers most recreational areas in Juneau, is the largest national forest in the United States with 16.7 million acres. Most of that land is temperate rainforest.

The trail to Eagle Glacier Cabin is the Amalga Trail and it follows Eagle River up a densely forested valley for 5.5 miles. With minimal elevation gain, only 300 feet, the most challenging part about the trail is keeping your feet dry.

When we visited it was the third week in August at the height of the salmon spawn which meant that wildlife (Bears, ravens, eagles, crows, etc.) are perched near the river, actively pursuing their next meal.

In many places along the trail, our noses were stung with the rich scent of decomposing fish. There was plenty of evidence of bear activity, such as scat and salmon carcasses, though we only saw one black bear cub in the first half mile of the trail.

However, the trail was a rainforest wonderland.

 Thickly vegetated with devil's club, skunk cabbage, ferns, blueberries, dogwood, horsetail, and five leaf bramble. Spruce, hemlock, and alder trees. And MOSS, so much moss. It made me feel like I was back in Olympic National Park, my happy place.

 We'd spent a lot of time in Washington's Cascade and Olympic Range but nowhere had we seen devil's club as dense or large as we witnessed on the Amalga trail. Many plants were 10 feet or taller. 

The Cabin

After a few hours of slow trekking, only seeing four other people and one bear the whole time, we exited the forest to the shore of Eagle Glacier Lake. Clouds hovered low but not so much as to block the view of the glacier or the surrounding mountains. It was breathtaking, the size and scale, even the murky gray-blue of the lake.

Inside the cabin is enough sleeping space for 10 people, although it would be a tight fit (especially at meal time) but it would comfortably max out at 6.

There were plenty of hooks to hang up gear, a kitchen counter and cabinets, a table with long benches, and plenty of windows. There is a nearby pit toilet and the cabin was stocked with toilet paper (though, I'd bring your own just in case). 

It is heated by propane which is supplied by the NFS and its use is included with your stay. Inside the cabin you will find instruction on how to start and shut down the heater, it was fairly simple and worked great for us. 

All NFS cabins are public use from 10 am - 5 pm. The reservation gives you exclusive use to the cabin around those hours, which means you might have visitors. However, we didn't see a soul and had the place to ourselves the duration of our stay.

Eagle Glacier

There is an option to hike up to Eagle Glacier, an additional 2 miles, if you want to explore the area more. We didn't, due to the weather, but I've heard it is a beautiful hike. 

We also read in the log book of people bringing pack rafts and paddling up to the glacier as well. So, bring your pack raft if you have one!

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