About 22 miles north of downtown Juneau off of the Glacier Highway, the Shrine of St. Thérèse sits in one of the most beautiful spots in the Tongass National Forest. The Shrine is dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of Alaska, missionaries, and the Diocese of Juneau. Its home is on a gorgeous island with crashing surf, mountain views, and a rugged coastline, where visitors can sometimes spot humpback whales and sea lions. A trial leads from the parking lot back to a caretaker’s headquarters, a small stone labyrinth, and a church built out of rounded river rocks out on a small spit of land that juts about 100 years into Lynn Canal. Visitors can take a walk around the church, admire the statues and gardens, and enter the ‘labyrinth,’ a series of concentric circles built for prayer walks. There is also a log church that was built in the 1930s, with stunning flower gardens, towering spruce trees, and wildflowers along the beach. Whether or not you’re religious, you will easily feel peaceful and relaxed in this sacred place.
Shrine of St. Thérèse, 21425 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 586 2227 ex. 24
Just eight tenths of a mile past the Shrine of St. Thérèse, the Jensen-Olson Arboretum is unique among public gardens due to its location on the water with a mature forest as a backdrop. In her will, Caroline Jensen-Olson left her house and all its flowers to the city of Juneau. In her garden, visitors can find a number of native and cultivated plants, especially primrose, Caroline’s passion. In 1902, the Peterson family homesteaded the property and developed the land, turning the vegetable garden into a source of produce for local Juneau growers and food banks, and today, there are over 950 species of plants in the garden. It is also a wonderful place to have a picnic while taking in the views of quiet primrose and the surrounding majestic sea and mountains. Many local artists and photographers have been inspired by the natural beauty of the facility and sometimes hold shows to display their work. The arboretum is truly a jewel in Juneau.
Jensen-Olson Arboretum, 23035 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 789 0139
Perhaps the most popular attraction in Juneau, Mount Roberts Tramway allows visitors to get an unparalleled view of one of Alaska’s most beautiful cities. Since 1996, Mount Roberts Tramway has taken guests from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau through the rain forest to the Mountain House at the 1,800-foot level of Mount Roberts, all on an enclosed tramway gondola. At the top, people are treated to one of the most expansive views in Southeast Alaska, with the Chilkat Mountains to the north, the Gastineau Channel to the south, Douglas Island to the west, and Silverbow Basin, where gold was discovered in 1880, on the east. It is the only aerial tramway in southwest Alaska, and one of the most vertical tramways in the world. If you are in Juneau and looking for an incredible view and an experience unlike any other, this is the place to go.
Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway, 490 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 888 461 8726
No visit to Alaska would be complete without seeing its beautiful glaciers, and the most visible ambassador of the Juneau Icefield is Mendenhall Glacier. About 13.6 miles long and located in the Mendenhall Valley, Mendenhall Glacier is one sight you definitely do not want to miss, whether you view it from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, hike to it, fly by on a helicopter, or take a rafting trip there. If you don’t want to leave the comforts of the Visitor Center, you still get a great view of the magnificent glacier thanks to its enormous size, and if you want a closer look, they also have free telescopes. If you are up for a hiking trip, you can explore the icy blue caves of the glacier, walk along the beautiful bay, see the natural Alaskan wildlife, and admire the stunning Nugget Falls nearby. Helicopter rides can also take you along the length of the glacier, and rafting or kayaking trips will give you a unique experience floating among the icebergs.
Mendenhall Glacier, End of Glacier Spur Road, Juneau, AK, +1 907 789 0097
After Joe Juneau and Richard Harris found gold in the Silverbow Basin in the 1880s, the need for access to the major gold mining operations in the Gold Creek Valley led to the creation of Alaska’s first road, known today as the Perseverance Trail, after the famous Perseverance mine. Every summer, thousands of travelers love to head up the Perseverance Trail to experience the history and beauty of the Silverbow Basin. The trail has a wide, firm base that doesn’t get muddy and is accessible to less able users, so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the many splendors it has to offer. Hikers are treated to the breathtaking beauty of the Gold Creek valley, with its gorgeous streams cascading down the lush green 3,000-foot shoulders of Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, and waterfalls of over one hundred feet that can be seen near the beginning and end of the trail. There is also a lovely picnic area near the end of the trail at the gorgeous Perseverance Lake, giving visitors a chance to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Perseverance Trail, Gold Creek Valley, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 269 8400