Juneau – The Most Inaccessible Capital In The US

As we noted in our post about the Alaska Marine Highway, there are a lot of places in Alaska that you can’t just hop in your car and drive to. For some of them, you need a bush plane. For others, you need a boat. Juneau is one of these types of places, accessible only by ferry or by commercial flight.

If you’re like us and decide to head over to Juneau (because, really, when are we going to get back to Alaska?), here are some ideas for fun things to see and do.

Mendenhall Glacier

One of the big things our CouchSurfing hosts told us to do was drive up to see Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is about 10 minutes northwest of downtown Juneau.

There are a few hikes in this area where you can get near the glacier for some incredible views. We opted for the Nugget Falls Trail because it was the only trail that allowed dogs. This is a short (~0.75 mile) trail to a big rocky beach just below Nugget Falls. From here, you get awesome views of the glacier and the falls. You’re close enough to the falls to actually get some of the cool spray coming off.

There are several other trails here too, ranging from the 0.3 mile Photo Point Trail up to the 6.8 mile West Glacier Trail. No matter which way you go, you’re going to see Mendenhall Glacier, a 12-mile long glacier flowing out from the Juneau Icefield, and plenty of small icebergs floating around in Mendenhall Lake.

Salmon Fishing

We mentioned salmon in our post on Alaska’s protein options. Lucky us, we actually got to go salmon fishing. Our hosts took us out in their boat around Auke Bay. Unfortunately, the fish were on the fish finder here and there, but apparently they weren’t hungry. So about 2.5 hours into our 4 hour joyride, we finally got a bite. Scott reeled it in without much of a fight. That was when we learned about Alaskans and salmon.

Our host said, “Oh, it’s a humpy. We can’t keep it.” Wait? What? Why? “Well, you all can keep it, but we don’t eat humpies. Alaskans are picky about salmon.” After spending $40 on our two day licenses though, we were going home with something, so we filleted that little 4-pound Pink Salmon into a couple pounds of fillets. In the end, we paid about $20 per pound for our salmon (more than we’d pay even back home in Kentucky), but it’s always fun to catch your own food.

Shrine of St. Therese

A little further to the northwest of Juneau is the picturesque Shrine of St. Therese. Situated on the rocky coast overlooking Lynn Canal with tons of beautiful old trees, the views are incredible. We stopped by for a walk out to Shrine Island over the causeway and there were a dozen or so people on the banks fishing (and catching).

Our hosts told us to stop by to see the Shrine and the views, so we did. For those that want to get a little more into the place though, there’s the Chapel, Stations of the Cross, and something called the Merciful Love Labyrinth, as well as retreat rentals.

Glacier Highway

If you’re just in the mood for a very scenic drive, take State Highway 7 (aka Glacier Highway) north out of Juneau. If you’re going to the Shrine, you’ll already be going this way, but you can drive another 30 or 40 miles up the coast. There’s not much up there, but there are definitely great views of the bay and surrounding mountains and forests. Along the way, you will come across Eagle Beach State Recreational Area where you can camp, do a little minor hiking, go fishing, or just hang out on the beach.

Alaskan Brewing Co

Beer lovers, rejoice! Alaskan Brewing Company is in Juneau! You can stop by the brewery for a presentation and beer samples, then buy it by the bottle, pack, case, or keg to take home. We didn’t actually make it here, but it was on our list had we had a little more time.

Juneau In Pictures

Everything from above, plus whatever else we deemed worthy of being remembered in photos (such as our hosts’ three little pugs and our visit to the Alaska State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion – yep, Sarah Palin’s old house!).