Juneau Alaska Winter Trails

Winter in Juneau Alaska is a great opportunity to explore the surrounding Tongass National Forest on backcountry skis or snowshoes. From the Juneau road system there are many trails that are ideal for backcountry skiing, some allow access to open meadows, muskegs and alpine ridges that are perfect for a day or overnight outing!

Weather in coastal Alaska can be harsh and unpredictable, it is always important to be prepared for dramatic changes in weather. Juneau sits between the wet worm weather blown in from the Gulf of Alaska and the cold arctic air mass of the interior. Add to that the surrounding high mountains and glaciers and the result can be weather that changes hourly, so having the proper gear and clothing is essential to enjoy, and survive, any outing in Juneau’s backcountry.

There are too many trails in Juneau to show them all, but we thought we would share with you our top five winter favorites. Several of Juneau’s trails have cabins for overnight stays that can be rented from the U.S. Forest Service or Alaska State Parks for a very reasonable fee.

Dredge Lakes Trails and the Mendenhall Glacier
As the massive Mendenhall Glacier receded it left behind a series of lakes and glacial moraines that have become a popular destination for hikers and cross country skiers. The Dredge Lakes Trails can be accessed from a number of locations in the Mendenhall Valley and offer easy skiing under towering mountains. When the ice on Mendenhall Lake has frozen hard it is possible to ski across the lake and peer into the deep blue crevasses at the foot of the glacier.

The jumble of glacial ice and crevasses are very intriguing but I wouldn’t get too close, as they have swallowed up more than one adventurer.

Spalding and Auke Nu Trails to Spalding Meadows
The Spalding Meadows area is a backcountry skier’s paradise with open roiling hills and stunning vistas of the Coastal Range. The Auke Nu Trail climbs gradually from sea level toward the John Muir Cabin which sits on top of a 1550 foot hill. The Spaulding Trail gains elevation more directly to the open meadows, skiing across the meadows to link these two trails together makes for a fine days outing. Another worthwhile objective is the top of Auke Mountain at 1870 feet; this route will take you through open meadows to the top of the ridge to reveal amazing views in all directions.

A more strenuous multi day trip linking the John Muir Cabin to the Windfall Lake Cabin would take you across the length of the Spaulding Meadows area. However it would be a wise idea to bring a map, compass and GPS for navigating such an extended and unmarked route.

Dan Moller Trail and Mt. Troy
This trail is located on Douglas Island across from Juneau, and the official end of the trail is the Dan Moller Cabin, but you can continue on into the upper bowl and then with a little perseverance up to Mt. Troy. The cabin was originally built in the 1930's but was rebuilt this past year. The trail to the cabin is a moderate climb of 1800 feet, but continuing on to the summit of Mt. Troy is a bit more challenging at 3005 feet. Here is the view from the ridge looking north towards Juneau.

Be careful to consider the weather and snow conditions to avoid avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Juneau. By having an early start, being well prepared and considering her route carefully, Brenda is able to safely enjoy the breathtaking view from the top of Douglas Island.

Looking south from the top of the ridge, the midday winter sun rises just above Stephens Passage and Eagle Peak on Admiralty Island. This far north the daylight is short, only about five hours this time of year.

Herbert Glacier Trail
This moderate trail starts at 25 mile on Glacier Highway just beyond the Herbert River. The trail is relatively flat and wide, perfect for XC skiing; tall forests become alder until at the end you break into the vast moraine left behind by the receding Herbert Glacier. It is hard to say what month is best for skiing in Juneau, it really varies, and some years there is lots of snow other years not so much.


The Herbert Glacier, one of three large glaciers that can be accessed via the Juneau road system. There are no cabins on this trail but you will find ample camp sites at the end of the trail that have a fine view of the glacier.

Point Bridget State Park
Located just about as far as you can drive out of the city of Juneau is Point Bridget State Park at mile 39 on the Glacier Highway. In the winter, and some years well into spring, the parks meadows and open forest allow for excellent skiing and snowshoeing opportunities as well as having two tidy little cabins available for overnight stays.

The trails here are easy to moderate and the parks trail system is, for the most part, well maintained to allow access to both cabins. The Cowee Meadows cabin is located on the lower meadows and just a little farther the Blue Mussel Cabin has a stunning view of Berners Bay and Lions Head Mountain.

"You are one with your skis and nature. This is something that develops not only the body but the soul as well, and it has a deeper meaning for people than most of us perceive.” Fridtjof Nansen