Forty miles north of Juneau lies Point Bridget State Park, a gorgeous 2,850 acres filled with meadows, cliffs, salmon spawning streams, rocky beaches, and many more incredible views. In the winter, snow covers the meadows and open forest, turning the park into an excellent place for skiing and snowshoeing. The park was created by the Alaska State Legislature in 1988 as a result of the efforts of conservationists and the Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board, who wanted the state capitol to have a state park. Today, the park is a popular place for beach combing, birding, boating, wildlife viewing, and hiking. Point Bridget has five hiking trails, excellent salmon fishing, and great views of black bears feeding on sedges in the meadow, and during salmon run, sea lions and harbor seals frolicking along the shore, as well as humpbacks feeding and breaching in the area.
Point Bridget State Park, Mile 39 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 465 4563
Located at the saltwater confluence of the Eagle and Herbert Rivers, Eagle Beach State Recreation Area is a scenic and sandy haven with spectacular views of the Chilkat Mountains and the Inside Passage. The white sandy beach has an expansive intertidal area, making for fantastic bird and sea life watching. Its tidal flats hold a great deal of food that numerous wildlife love to eat, especially the bald eagles for which the beach was named. At low tide, about a quarter-mile out to the waters edge opens up, and it becomes a great place on which to walk around. You’ll have to be careful on your way back, though, because the tide can creep in very quickly and quietly. Eagle Beach is a popular place to have a picnic under the covered campground, go beach combing, painting, kayaking, and on a sunny day, it is one of the best places to whale watch. There is even an extensive trail system with great views for the hikers out there.
Eagle Beach State Recreation Area, 28955 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 465 4563
Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening’s rustic summer home near Dotson’s Landing and Amalga Harbor is the site of the Ernest Gruening State Historical Park. The beautiful setting shows off both Alaska’s political and natural history. This is where, in 1953, Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening wrote a great deal of the manifesto for Alaska’s statehood, entitled ‘The State of Alaska.’ There, he and his family entertained national and foreign leaders like Governor Earl Warren, Adlai Stevenson, many U.S. Senators, and numerous others. Today, the site is a wonderful location to go fishing, sightseeing, and wildlife viewing, especially for the waterfowl. Visitors are treated to incredible views across the Lynn Canal, and the Peterson Creek ‘Salt Chuck’ houses lots of local wildlife.
Ernest Gruening State Historical Park, Amalga Harbor Road, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 465 4563
Home to spectacular views of the thirteen-mile-long river of ice terminating on the far side of Mendenhall Lake, blue icebergs floating in the water amidst reflections of Southeast Alaska’s magnificent Coast Mountains, the vast Juneau Ice Field, and of course, the amazing Mendenhall Glacier, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is an incredible experience for all. There, U.S. Forest Service Rangers will tell you the story of Mendenhall, with its changing climate, retreating glacier, forest, and wildlife. You can also enjoy the state-of-the-art exhibits and the 15-minute film about the Tongass National Forest and its many glaciers, and there are also several great hiking trails that bring you close to cascading waterfalls or salmon streams. You’ll likely see wildlife like black bears, porcupines, beavers, bald eagles, arctic terns, waterfowl, and sockeye and coho salmon. You can also stroll through the rainforest, walk along the shore of Mendenhall Lake to Nugget Falls, and explore the ever-changing landscape of Mendenhall Glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, 6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 789 0097
At Glacier Gardens, what began as a stream restoration project soon became a unique botanical garden within the Tongass National Forest. The special challenges and opportunities that come with gardening a temperate garden in Southeast Alaska has led to many creative and unusual, though beautiful, displays. On the tour, visitors have the opportunity to explore the exquisite landscapes, the famous upside down trees, as well as the bubbling waterfalls, ponds, and streams that were restored from a hillside damaged by storm. There is also a tram cart that takes people through the Tongass National Forest and up to the top of the 580-foot Thunder Mountain. There, visitors are treated to the 200-degree viewpoint that stretches from Taku Inlet and Downtown Juneau on the south, past the Gastineau Channel, Mendenhall State Game Refuge and Douglas Island in front, and north to the Mendenhall Valley and the Chilkat Mountains on the horizon. Upon returning to the Visitor’s Center, visitors will find a beautiful indoor botanical setting with unique floral displays and cascading hanging gardens.
Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure, 7600 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK, USA, +1 907 790 337