Mendenhall Glacier

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Mendenhall Glacier with blue sky streaked with clouds above and Mendenhall lake and land in foreground.

What is a glacier?

Do you actually know what a glacier is? I have to admit, I did not until I saw Mendenhall Glacier. I thought it was a huge conglomeration of steep mountains of ice. Mendenhall Glacier was top on our list for our weekend in Juneau, Alaska. There are several choices for getting to Mendenhall Glacier from downtown Juneau, including bus and taxi, and different excursions to choose from as well. We chose the “Bikes, Glacier Views, and Microbrews” tour with Cycle Alaska, as it sounded the most fun and active option.

3 bicyclists with helmets on riding to Mendenhall Glacier, smiling for camera.
picture of cycle alaska logo on their van with yellow mountains flanked by spruce trees on each side with white background
Cycle Alaska brings bikes to fit you. We thought the bikes and the helmets were sturdy and comfortable.

We chose a bicycle tour with Cycle Alaska for our visit to the most popular site in Juneau, Alaska

Cycle Alaska was updating their website when I was making the plans in early spring, but I was able to reach someone by phone. Their customer service is great, and they said that if we booked a tour with six people they would close off that slot and consider us a private group. They also communicated efficiently by email. They confirmed by text the pick up at our hotel that morning (we chose the 9 am to 1 pm tour). We first stopped off at the Cycle Alaska location to pick up the bike trailer, and then our guide Tori drove through Mendenhall Valley. Along the way she shared a variety of interesting details about the culture and lifestyle in Juneau. Driving up Glacier Spur Road, she parked the van and bike trailer in a designated parking lot as close as she was allowed to get to the Visitor Center.

One man on bike and other standing next to him, both wearing bike helmets in parking lot with trees, mountain and sky in background.
Smiling couple with bike helmets standing on bridge crossing Mendenhall Lake with trees, mountains and sky in background.
Left: Starting out in the parking lot. Above: Crossing bridge over Mendenhall Lake.

We hopped clipped on our bike helmets, jumped on our bikes, and headed back down Glacier Spur Road, turning right on Mendenhall Loop Road, crossing the Mendenhall River. Continuing right and following the perimeter of the lake, we rode on a nice, wooded trail for a total of about 4 miles. Tori infused our ride with lots of information and history about the about this local glacier environment. I loved tasting the spruce tips from the spruce trees!

3 couples standing near Mendenhall Glacier Lake with mountains in background wearing hiking clothes and ball caps.
We hopped off our bikes for a photo and the view of Mendenhall Lake and Glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center

When you get to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, make sure to take time to watch the 15 minute movie Landscape of Change. At the very least, walk down the short trail to photo point to see a closer view of the glacier. If we’d had more time, we would have spent more time in the Visitor Center and also gone on one of the longer trail hikes. I want to take the Nugget Falls trail next time so I can visit the base of these water falls.

Brew with a View

This tour concludes with a visit to the  Forbidden Peak Brewery and Red Spruce Eatery. We loved the four sample tasting and having some snacks. We enjoyed the sunny weather on the outside deck and the view of the Auke Bay Marina. I would have actually like to order some lunch there but we were pressed for time. We ended up returning at the end of our Alaska trip. This place is close to the airport in case you have a flight delay like we did…

4 labeled tastes of beer on a tray on golden wooden table.
Group of 7 with beer tasting smiling at camera @ Forbidden Peak Brewery in Auke Bay, Alaska.

When I go back to Juneau, I’d like to return to Mendenhall Glacier and spend some more time there. I would consider renting bikes from Cycle Alaska and doing a self-guided 13 mile ride and using the app. As it turned out, at the end of our time in Alaska, we ended up back at Forbidden Peak Brewery before we left Juneau and were delighted to see our guide Tori there, finishing up with her small group. It made us feel like “It’s A Small World After All”… DEFINITELY consider Cycle Alaska.

If you’re planning a trip to Alaska, check out my Alaska Adventure Travel post, my What to do in Juneau, Alaska post, and the Juneau Virtual Visitor Guide . You can send for a hard-copy too!

Do you know that glaciers are “retreating” (decreasing in size)? Why do you think that is? What can YOU do about it?

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