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Hiking In Juneau: Exploring The Trails Of The Last Frontier

If you’re looking for a breathtaking hiking experience, Juneau, Alaska, is the perfect destination. With over 60 scenic trails, Juneau offers diversified hikes for all skill levels. Choose from easy nature walks to challenging mountain climbs.

As avid hikers, we can attest to the beauty and serenity of hiking in Juneau. Having stopped in Alaska’s capital during our cruises, we don’t always want to do group excursions, so hiking provides a tranquil escape from downtown.

One of the most popular hiking trails is the West Glacier Trail, which offers stunning views of Mendenhall Glacier. This 3.4-mile trail is moderately difficult and includes an elevation gain of 1300 feet.

Gold Creek Flume boardwalk

Another great option is the Nugget Falls Trail, an easy family route. It ends at a thunderous waterfall, a lovely reward for minimal effort.

So, if you’re a novice hiker or seeking something more challenging, we feature the top treks. Whether you have one day in Juneau, Alaska, or stay much longer, a journey by foot provides a scenic reward.

Mendenhall Glacier Trails

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is a must-visit in Mendenhall Valley. The area offers canoe, rafting, and hiking adventures. Getting to Mendenhall on your own provides exploration without a set time schedule.

The Mendenhall Glacier Trails offer some of the best hikes in Juneau. Some routes get hikers closer to the glacier, while others provide breathtaking views.

Steep Creek Trail

One of the most popular trails is Steep Creek, a 0.5-mile loop that travels through a lush rainforest and along a creek. Since this trail has no incline, it’s ideal for families and is wheelchair accessible.

This path offers a chance to see some wildlife. It’s an excellent spot for birdwatching or catching a glimpse of a porcupine.

Steep Creek Trail
Steep Creek Trail

In mid-to-late summer, when the salmon run in the creek, they are often accompanied by black bear sightings.

Trail Of Time

Another trail worth exploring is the Trail of Time, a 1.1-mile loop that follows a route from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center into the forest parallel to Glacier Spur Road.

Along the way, signage documents the glacier’s history, its retreat, and the surrounding flora. It’s shocking to see where the glacier was in the 1920s and 30s.

This trail has slight inclines but is still considered an easy trek.

Nugget Falls

The trail to Nugget Falls may attract the most visitors, and for good reason. This 2-mile out-and-back takes under an hour, and it offers an opportunity to see a spectacular waterfall.

Nugget Falls, positioned closer to the Mendenhall Glacier terminus, provides a cooling mist on a hot day. The gravel path is relatively flat and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

At Nugget Falls
At Nugget Falls, near Mendenhall Glacier

East Glacier Trail

For a more challenging trek, consider the East Glacier Trail, considered a moderate hike. It starts behind the visitor center and rises to higher ground for a panoramic view of the mountains.

The 3.1-mile round-trip looping trail includes some steep sections and rocky areas. Due to the tripping hazards, boots with ankle support are recommended.

While the hike’s name might indicate glacier views, we couldn’t see the glacier due to overgrown vegetation. Take the trail counterclockwise to benefit from the stairs on the descent for an easier route.

West Glacier Trail

For the truly ambitious, the 7-mile return hike on the west side of Mendenhall Lake offers stunning views of the glacial ice. This trail starts out relatively easy, but don’t be deceived—it gets more difficult the longer you hike.

This trail is strenuous towards the end, and early-season hiking can result in a muddy route with stream crossings. Those visiting by cruise ship should keep an eye on time, as limited port hours could prevent them from completing the entire hike.

Mount Roberts Hikes

Taking the Goldbelt Tram to Mount Roberts
Taking the Goldbelt Tram

Mount Roberts is the perfect destination when seeking a trail with an aerial view. The Goldbelt Tram is conveniently located on the waterfront next to the Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Dock (CT).

Visitors can hop on the Mount Roberts Tramway and start their adventure from the top, as we did, or hike the long way up instead.

With its numerous trails at the peak, we could pick the routes that suited our skill level and preferences. Here are some of the popular trails on Mount Roberts:

Alpine Loop Trail

Like the Steep Creek Trail at Mendenhall, The Alpine Loop provides an easy option. The ½-mile loop takes 30 minutes, and the path includes some totem carvings and native artwork.

The trailhead is located at the top of the Mount Roberts Tramway. It connects to the main trail, which continues onto Father Brown Cross and Gastineau Peak.

You may run into snow in late May, early June, or September. We hiked in July and found we needed mosquito repellent.

Father Brown Cross

The Father Brown Cross is a historic landmark located on Mount Roberts. We continued onto Father Brown Cross after doing the Alpine Loop Trail. This one has a 300-foot elevation gain and takes about one hour to complete.

In the early 1900s, Father Brown led a group of explorers to blaze out the trail system at Mount Roberts. The large cross with his name was erected in honor of his accomplishments.

View of Gastineau Channel from Father Brown's Cross
View from Father Brown Cross

We enjoyed magnificent views of Juneau and the Gastineau Channel from the cross. The grassy areas around the cross are a popular spot for picnics.

Gold Ridge Trail

For those who have the time and energy, Gold Ridge and Gastineau Peak provide a great workout. By venturing up the mountain, the views get better and better. The enticing, more scenic viewpoints offer an incentive to keep hiking.

With a 1500-foot elevation gain, this trail is reserved for the more experienced hikers. Expect the 3-mile roundtrip trail to take up to three hours, depending on your ability.

Gastineau Peak

The Gastineau Peak trail is a 4-mile roundtrip hike for the most proficient trekkers. This difficult trail may be another mile, but it climbs an additional 400 feet.

Even during summer peak, expect snow on the mountain top. This hike travels through rocky terrain, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Gastineau Channel.

Hiking on the Gastineau Peak Trail in Juneau, Alaska
On the Gastineau Peak Trail

The Gastineau Peak trail is an excellent option for experienced hikers who prefer a challenging hike with breathtaking views. Expect to complete this challenging route in three to four hours.

While visitors can tackle the first two routes on Mount Roberts in running shoes, supportive hiking boots are recommended on the Gastineau Peak Trail.

Gold Creek Trails

When seeking a beautiful hike in Juneau, head to the Gold Creek area away from downtown. The Gold Creek region offers a variety of trails for hikers of all levels, including the Gold Creek Flume, Perseverance Trail, and Mount Roberts Trail.

Depending on the routes chosen, hiking more than one trail is possible when spending a day in Juneau. Cruise guests can either take a bus or taxi to Gold Creek or walk, as we did.

We were docked at AF Dock, which meant we had the longest walk to the area. The 2.2-mile walk to the start of the trails took an hour, and there was a steep climb up to Basin Road.

Gold Creek trail map
Gold Creek trail map

Gold Creek Flume

Near Gold Creek, a gravel area provides parking for those who drive. Hikers can access the Gold Creek Flume and Mount Roberts Trails from here. Head right to reach the latter or cross the street to reach the Gold Creek Flume trailhead.

There is no signage for the Gold Creek Flume, but we crossed the creek and turned left to start our hike. The Gold Creek Flume is a 1.4-mile out-and-back trail, perfect for beginners.

Expect to spend 35 minutes on this easy-to-follow trail, which offers stunning views of treetops, waterfalls, and mountains. The trail is also historically significant, as it follows an old wooden flume installed in the 1890s as part of Juneau’s first hydroelectric power plant.

Most of the trail is on wooden boardwalks, which is easy on the feet and the surrounding forest offers some shade on a hot day. We encountered many locals walking dogs and passed an area of the boardwalk covered by a rockslide.

Hiking the Gold Creek Flume Trail
Hiking the Gold Creek Flume Trail

Perseverance Trail

For a slightly more challenging hike, we recommend the Perseverance Trail. This 5-mile trail begins in the forest and climbs steeply before descending into Sheep Creek Valley.

The trailhead for this one is a 15-minute walk up the road from the Gold Creek Flume. As such, many hikers do both on the same day.

Along the way, the path passes by old mining structures and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The trail is rated moderately strenuous and takes about 3-4 hours to complete.

Mount Roberts Trail

The trail to the summit of Mount Roberts provides a more strenuous workout and a longer commitment of time. This difficult route starts across the street from the Gold Flume Trail.

The first few miles ascend 1700 feet with uneven terrain. Hiking poles and supportive boots are advisable, especially early in the season (May and June) when the route is often muddy with snow at the top.

Hiking the Mount Roberts Trail in Juneau
On the Mount Roberts Trail

It takes hikers an average of two hours to climb, but they can opt for the ride down (USD 20) on the tram. Ensure cruise ships are in port, as the tram doesn’t run when there are no ships. At the start of the trail, a calendar shows the tram’s schedule.

With no cruise ships, the route down can be dangerous on steep and muddy sections.

After The Hike

After a long trek, we know that finding a good place to relax and eat is essential. Luckily, Juneau has plenty of options to satisfy your hunger.

For a quick bite, head to 139 S Franklin Street, where food trucks offer Alaskan beer, crepes, and the best fish tacos. Deckhand Dave’s is a local favorite, and I was thrilled to learn they offered gluten-free options.

Don’t be put off by the long lines. The queue moves quickly, and the service is fast. We tried the Blackened Rockfish Tacos, which were delicious and a treat after a day of hiking.

Salt or The Rookery Café are great options for a sit-down meal. Both restaurants offer a cozy atmosphere and a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients.

Salt is known for its seafood dishes, while The Rookery Cafe offers a variety of options, including vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

While Tracy’s King Crab Shack is a tourist favorite, head to the Twisted Fish instead. Here, we enjoyed a quieter atmosphere, and their crab legs were just as good. They satisfied our hunger and were the entrée to our fish taco appetizers.

Gold Creek Flume, Nugget Falls, and Father Brown Cross, all hiking trails in Juneau, Alaska