If you’re coming up to Juneau, Alaska, either on a cruise or flying in for a few days, it’s important to be prepared for the weather conditions.
Before I get into specifics, I’ll give the standard disclaimer that I give tourists, friends from out of town, and my own nieces when they come to visit.
“Be prepared for anything. The weather here tends to change and can be unpredictable. It’s better to bring a jacket and not need one than to need a jacket and not have one.”
We’ll start by looking at average temperatures by month and then get into the different types of weather you’re likely to encounter.
How Hot or Cold is Juneau?
I’ll preface this by saying that the numbers I’m using here are approximate because the reported temperature changes depending on where the measurement is taken.
Juneau is actually the third-largest city by area in the United States at a little over 2,716 square miles. Temperatures can change a few degrees either way between downtown and the Mendenhall Valley.
The coldest months are December and January, with an average high temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest months are July and August, with an average high temperature of 65 degrees.
With temperatures like these, you may be wondering if you should wear a jacket during your summer cruise. For locals, it’s roughly a 50-50 split.
In my experience, it depends on the person and what temperature they prefer. I have friends who prefer a little cold and don’t leave the house with a jacket if it’s over 50 degrees.
As for me, I never leave home without a jacket, no matter what. I have seven jackets in my closet right now with varying degrees of thickness.
Every year I was in school, there was a kid who would wear a hooded sweatshirt and basketball shorts in winter. Even more surprisingly, I’m pretty sure it was a different kid every year. I didn’t understand it back then and I still don’t.
If you’re going from downtown to the Mendenhall Glacier, you’ll definitely want a jacket. Since the glacier is a giant block of ice, it’s definitely several colder out there than it will be in other parts of town.
The cold isn’t the only thing you’ll have to deal with, however, as we do get a fair amount of precipitation.
How Much Rain Does Juneau Get?
Part of the reason why I always wear a jacket no matter what is that it’s liable to start raining at any moment.
On average, Juneau gets 235 days of rain every year, due to the fact that we’re right in the middle of the Tongass National Forest, the largest rainforest in North America.
That’s a 64% chance of rain on any given day, but it’s actually a little higher than that if you take out the parts of winter when it’s snowing.
Juneau gets about 72 inches of rain every year, which is significantly higher than the national average of 38 inches.
A common joke among locals is that the summer weather is 60 degrees and rain, while the winter weather is 40 degrees and rain. They’ll also often joke that we only have two seasons here: rain and snow.
How Much Snow Does Juneau Get Every Year?
Speaking of snow, we do get a lot of it. The amount, at least as far as I can tell, can wildly fluctuate between years. Some years it feels like a lot and others seem a lot lighter.
Juneau gets an average of 80 inches of snow every year, with the national average being 28.
There were several news stories here this past winter about roofs collapsing under the weight of snow that hadn’t been removed.
I realize that most of our visitors come in the summer on cruise ships, but I wanted to discuss the snow anyway because I believe everyone should see Alaska in both winter and summer.
The analogy I always make is that Alaska is like a friend who acts one way when you’re out in public (summer) but behaves quite differently when it’s just the two of you sitting on the couch at home watching a bad movie (winter).
You Do Have The Sun in Alaska, Right?
You may have noticed that I haven’t really talked about the sun yet. That would be because Juneau doesn’t get a lot of sunshine as it’s often rainy or at least partly cloudy.
Surprisingly, the biggest difference between Juneau and the national average isn’t the snow – it’s the sun.
In Juneau, we get an average of 86 sunny days per year, while the national average is 205. These can happen in any season, as we sometimes get sunny days without a cloud in the sky in the middle of December.
Last winter, a friend of mine wanted me to take my picture for a project we were working on together. She specifically wanted a sunny day with a blue sky and no clouds.
It wasn’t until five days later that the weather finally cooperated and we were able to take the picture.
Summary and Conclusion
Now that we’ve explored the typical weather in Juneau, let’s discuss how this affects you on your travel.
First, as I’ve noted, you should bring a jacket unless you’re on a cruise ship in port for only a few hours and there are no clouds. Even then, you might consider bringing one just in case.
Second, you might consider an umbrella. Some locals hate umbrellas and think they’re only for tourists because “real Alaskans” don’t need them. I get made fun of for carrying an umbrella on occasion. If it is raining, there are always a bunch of indoor activities that you can do to pass the time as well.
That’s fine, they’re entitled to their opinion, but you know what I like? Having a dry head. I also enjoy being able to look at my cell phone without it getting drenched by heavy rain.
Finally, I know I’ve said it before and I’m repeating myself, but it’s the most important point, so I’m going to do it anyway: always be prepared for anything. If you need to carry your jacket or tie it around your waist, go right ahead.
If you’re properly prepared, you can have an amazing time visiting us no matter what the weather is like that day. We can’t wait to see you on your next visit!