June 1, 2023


Just Do Travel

Alaska travel ideas: Anchorage and Juneau without a cruise

If you have your heart set on exploring Alaska’s southeast and the Inside Passage, set your sights on Juneau, population 32,000. No roads connect Alaska’s capital to the rest of the state (let alone the Lower 48), so don’t plan on driving to it, but the city is easily reached by frequent 2½-hour flights from Seattle. Once there, you’ll find a compact, walkable downtown with ample lodging, restaurants and shopping.

One way to familiarize yourself is to book a walking tour with Juneau Food Tours , which includes eight tastes and locally brewed beer for $129 per person. Owner and guide Midgi Moore provides context for the history and culture of this outpost, bordered on one side by the Inside Passage and on the other by an icefield 1½ times the size of Rhode Island.

In Juneau, you’ll find most of the excursions offered on a typical Alaska cruise — whale-watching, fishing trips, glacier trekking and flightseeing by helicopter or floatplane.

A person climbs on a glacier

An ice climber scales the Mendenhall Glacier, a popular destination for day trips from Juneau.

(David Swanson)

You’ll also encounter plenty of hiking trails, and bike rentals and guided tours are available from Cycle Alaska. M&M Tours will shuttle you to the visitor center for the Mendenhall Glacier for $37per person round trip, departing hourly starting at 10 a.m.

On cruise ships en route to Juneau, a popular side trip visits Tracy Arm, a narrow, mile-high gorge that ends at a tidewater glacier. Adventure Bound does full-day Tracy Arm cruises from Juneau for $165 per person.

Adventure seekers will find plenty of stimulation in Juneau. This year, Above and Beyond Alaska combines three of its most popular activities into a Weekend Adventure Package: Hike or canoe to the toe of the Mendenhall Glacier the first day; then take a floatplane to Admiralty Island to kayak amid the world’s largest concentration of brown bears; and on the third day travel in a six-passenger motorboat for whale watching and other wildlife. The three-day package is priced from $1,207 (not including accommodations).

Canoers paddling to the foot of Mendenhall Glacier.

Canoers paddle to the foot of Mendenhall Glacier.

(David Swanson)

Juneau is also the jumping-off point for Glacier Bay National Park. Take the daily, late-afternoon Alaska Airlines flight to Gustavus, the tiny settlement near the mouth of the bay, where hiking, biking and kayak tours are available, or spring for the 70-minute flightseeing tour around the park offered by Alaska Seaplane Adventures for $499 per person.

Plan on spending at least one night in Gustavus at one of the B&Bs or just inside the park at 56-room Glacier Bay Lodge, which offers eight-hour cruises through the bay, narrated by a park ranger. Doubles at the lodge start at $250; the cruise costs $227 per person. For those who don’t want to overnight in Gustavus, Allen Marine Tours for the first time will offer 12-hour day cruises to the park from Juneau, priced at $299.