Are you planning a trip to Juneau to see the Mendenhall Glacier? Great! It’s beautiful and I’m sure you’ll have a great time.
Once your cruise ship arrives in port, you’ll have to decide how you’re going to get there. It’s 12.5 miles from the cruise ship docks, so you won’t have time to walk. Nor would you want to, I imagine.
Let’s look at the different ways to get out there using public transportation and you can decide which works best.
(also be sure to check out our full Juneau itinerary to make the most of your time in port)
4 Ways To Get To Mendenhall Glacier From The Cruise Port
1. As Part Of A Cruise Excursion
The easiest way possible is to simply have it booked as an excursion through your cruise ship company.
I’m not positive about the other companies, but I know that Princess Cruises offers it. It’s around $50 per person, they take you to the Glacier, show you the videos in the Visitor’s Center, then give you an hour to roam before driving you back to the docks.
The drawbacks of this method are that you might not be interested in the Visitor’s Center activities (watching videos, talking to a park ranger, etc) and the roundtrip journey is about three hours.
If you only have five or six hours in town, you might not want to spend half of that time or more just at the glacier.
2. Through A Private Tour Company
Another convenient option is to book a spot on a tour bus that leaves downtown from a parking lot right next to the docks.
There are multiple, but the one I’m familiar with (because a friend worked there a few years ago) is the Blue Bus Glacier Express.
For $45, they’ll pick you up from the Mount Roberts Tram parking lot, give you a narrated tour about Juneau and its history en route, drop you off at the glacier and then pick you up whenever you’re ready to come back.
If you want to be at the glacier for 30 minutes or five hours, you can choose. Buses depart half-hourly from both points, provided you have a reservation.
The only potential drawback is accidentally spending too much time at the glacier, which is very possible given all of the trails and walking routes nearby.
3. Via Capital Transit
For our most cost-effective method, Capital Transit (the city bus) will give you a ride most of the way for only $2 per person each way.
The downtown transit center is only a few blocks from where your ship will be anchored, but the nearest bus stop (at Dredge Lake) is a mile and a half from the glacier.
This is a great choice if you’re on a budget, have the time, and don’t mind a walk. There is a $5 fee to visit the Glacier if you aren’t part of a tour group that includes it, meaning it would cost $11.
The drawbacks are the walk, of course, and the fact that the bus ride is nearly an hour each way. Add the three-mile walk and it’ll be about three hours of your time, which doesn’t even include seeing the actual glacier.
It also makes it difficult to eat (meaning you miss out on Juneau’s amazing restaurants), unless you bring a snack with you on the bus and eat it on the walk.
4. A Helicopter Tour
If you have the time and the money, you can take a helicopter tour that will land on the glacier and allow you to walk around.
They’re usually about $350 to $500 per person, but since you’re paying that much, they will send someone to pick you up from the docks and take you to the helipad.
The only drawback is that they only fly at certain times. I checked Temsco’s website and it looks like they’re only doing three flights a week.
The other perk of chartering a helicopter tour is that you’ll be able to get an aerial view of the glacier. Most people on the ground cannot actually fathom the vast expanse of ice as they only see the front side of it.
If someone I knew was coming into town and I couldn’t take them myself, I would recommend the Blue Bus or a similar company. That said, you should go with whichever option makes sense for you.
The only thing you should not do is call a taxi or a rideshare service. They’re more expensive, they aren’t always reliable, and you could get stuck out at the glacier if there aren’t any available when you want to leave.
However you choose to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, I guarantee you’ll have fun at one of the most beautiful places in a beautiful state. We can’t wait to see you soon!