Juneau Alaska Summer Trails

Juneau Alaska is Alaska’s Capital City and is located in one of the most scenic and beautiful areas in the state. It is a hiker’s paradise with trails that range from easy forest strolls to challenging mountain summits. Here then are some of our photos and a description of our top five favorite trails that will offer the experienced hiker the most challenging routes and world class views of Juneau’s majestic mountains and fjords. There are over twenty trails available from the Juneau road system that will offer a full day’s hike or overnight excursions into the surrounding Tongass National Forest. If you would like more information on the trails available in the Juneau area please visit Juneau’s Trail Mix website.

West Glacier Trail to Mount McGinnis
If I had time to hike only one trail while I was in Juneau, without question, it would be the West Glacier Trail and if the skies were clear and I had a full day I would want to continue on to the summit of Mount McGinnis. The stunning views of the Mendenhall Glacier and the surrounding mountains bring us back here year after year to, in our opinion, the finest day hike Southeast Alaska has to offer.

Starting at the end of the Skaters Cabin Road the West Glacier trail begins as an easy walk through a lush rainforest till gradually views of the glacier and mountains start to peek through the vegetation. Eventually the trail steepens and there are several good outlooks along the way allowing you to peer down into the crevasses of glacier below.

The trail continues along the side of the glacier’s moraine till it reaches a rock outcropping, seen on the left hand side of this photo at the 1430 foot level. Spectacular views of the glacier’s icefall tumbling down below and the lofty peaks soaring overhead will impress even the most well traveled mountaineer. Be sure and bring your camera on this one, rain or shine. Round trip for the West Glacier Trail is 7 Miles, allow 4 to 5 hours.

If the skies are clear or if the clouds are well above the mountain tops and you have an early start you may want to continue on to the summit of Mount McGinnis at 4,228 Feet. The view from the summit will allow you to see a portion of the vast Juneau Icefield behind the Coast Mountains and to the southwest the fjords and islands that surround the city of Juneau.  There is a trail all the way to the summit however snow and ice may linger well into July so an ice axe may be necessary. Plan for a long day, bring two lunches and at least two liters of water, it is a long climb and the upper trail is steep and exposed. It is 11 miles round trip including the West Glacier Trail portion and on average it takes 8 to 10 hours to complete.

Perseverance Trail and Mount Olds
The Perseverance Trail starts from downtown Juneau’s backyard at the end of Basin Road. There are several other trails that connect along this route, the Mount Roberts Trail leaves Basin Road on the right and the Mount Juneau Trail branches off after a mile or so to the left but continue on a couple more miles and take a left when the trail branches off onto Granite Basin. Be sure and take the time to stop and enjoy the beautiful waterfalls along the way.

It status as the most widely used trial in Alaska comes from its location and history, before being a trail it was the first road ever built in the new territory of Alaska leading up from the boomtown of Juneau to the Perseverance Mine near start of Gold Creek. Today the mine is gone but remains of the bygone mining era can still be found enveloped by the resilient rainforest. At the end of the valley Mount Olds rises abruptly at 4,242 feet there is no trail to the summit however the scramble on the ridge along the left hand side does not require any heroics to accomplish.

On a clear day the summit is worth the extra push for the outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Keep a sharp eye out for the mountain goats that live in these rocky cliffs and ridges. For extra credit you can reach the summit using the Mount Juneau Trail and ridge traverse and returning out through Granite Basin. Round trip 12 miles, allow 7 to 9 hours.

Thunder Mountain Trail
There are two trails and trailheads that will join up and lead you to the top of Thunder Mountain at 2,812 feet. The first trail starts at the end of Jennifer Drive by the Glacier Valley School. It is a steep and direct trail that will intersect with the other trail half way up. Make sure to note the intersection for you return as it is not well marked. The trail stays in the forest till it reaches the summit area that has a large treeless basin of alpine tundra and wildflowers. Round Trip 6 miles.

The other trail to the top of Thunder Mountain starts at the back end of the State Highway Dept. parking lot on Glacier Highway. This more gradual assent can often be a bit muddier that the other trail but has a nice meadow with a view half way up. Either way the view from the summit has a sweeping panorama of Juneau, the Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island, Auke Bay and the Mendenhall Glacier. Round Trip 6.5 miles, allow 6 to 8 hours.

Eagle Glacier Trail
One of the longest trails in the Juneau area the Eagle Glacier Trail slowly winds its way up a forested river valley to the base of the Eagle Glacier. Although this trail can be completed in a day there is a Forest Service Cabin at the edge of the glacier’s lake. From the cabin the trail continues up to a rocky scramble to the toe of the glacier.

The front window of the cabin looks out on the lake, glacier and mountains and is a great spot to spend an evening camping with friends. Making this a multiday trip also allows you the time to explore more of the areas unique beauty, like these twin falls located about mile down river from the lake. Round trip to the Eagle Glacier is 15 miles, allow 8 to 10 hours, round trip to the cabin 11 miles, allow 6 to 8 hours.

Mount Jumbo Trail
Prominent along the skyline from the downtown area Mount Jumbo (aka Mount Bradley) at 3,087 feet can appear, during certain snow conditions, to have a large rocky pachyderm lumbering up the mountain below its summit. Indeed Mount Jumbo’s vertical crags make it stand out from all the other mountains on Douglas Island and this is why it has always been a favorite of local hikers and climbers.

The trail begins on 5th Street near house number 319 and crosses the Treadwell Ditch Trail before entering an open muskeg on a planked trail. The trail then starts to climb steeply and continues upwards through the forest till it breaks out into the open again just below the cliffs. The final section follows the ridge through rocks and boulders to the summit. Views from the top include the mountains and fjords surrounding Douglas Island, Admiralty Island and the City of Juneau nestled below the Coast Mountains. There are some good campsites below the summit but be cautious of the weather, as descending the trail in a whiteout can be extremely dangerous. Round trip 5.5 miles, allow 6 to 8 hours.

The above mentioned trails are all over rugged terrain and require good physical conditioning. Sturdy footwear, raingear and warm layers of clothing are a must even in the summer; you may want to view our post on Hiking Gear for a check list of all necessary items. You will be traveling in bear country so please use bear awareness and take appropriate protection, check out our post on Best Defense Against Bears. Stay alert use your good judgment at all times and go prepared.