The Wonders of Glacier Bay Park

Glacier Bay Park is one of the most stunning national parks in the United States. Views of snow-capped mountain ranges (some towering over 15,000 feet), freshwater lakes and hidden coves, a wealth of plant diversity and wildlife, and the majestic beauty of glaciers, all come together to create one of the most powerful and unforgettable of American landscapes.

Located in southeast Alaska near the town of Gustavus, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides visitors with access to remote coastal beaches and coves, freshwater lakes, stunning views of snow-capped mountain ranges, and of course, the incredible presence of glaciers.  Glacier Bay Park is renown as a living laboratory for the study of glaciers.  The park also supports an incredibly diverse number of plant communities, as well as marine and terrestrial wildlife.

If you plan to visit Glacier Bay Park, be aware that just getting there is half the adventure.  Alaska Airlines provides jet service to Juneau from Seattle.  Once in Juneau, transfers are available to the Gustavus airport.  The Gustavus airport is located roughly 10 miles from the parks main headquarters at Bartlett Cove.  There are no public roads to the park except for the road that runs from Gustavus to the park entrance. Gustavus provides visitors with a small hub where they can lodge and rent a car.  If you would prefer not to drive, a taxi and bus service runs between Gustavus and the park.  Public transportation is also available in the form of a passenger ferry that runs between Juneau and Bartlett Cove.  The ferry runs on a limited schedule, so if you'd like to take the ferry, be prepared to plan your trip accordingly. 

The best way to explore Glacier Bay Park is by boat.  The Glacier Bay Park lodge operates a tour each day that takes visitors to the tidewater glacier, which are roughly 50-60 miles from the park entrance.  A Glacier Bay National Park accompanies tour boat passengers, providing commentary on park's features, plant and animal life. The trip lasts about eight hours round-trip. 

Commercial cruise lines that depart from major west coast cities also provide access to the park, but visitor's interested in a more in-depth examination of the park's biodiversity and history may prefer tours operated by smaller companies.  These tour boats usually depart from southeastern Alaskan cities and provide visitors with an opportunity to incorporate more travel into their itinerary.

Another form of transportation within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is by kayak.  While the park provides few hiking trails, visitors can rent kayaks within the park.  Many visitors favor kayaking because it provides them with incomparable views of the bay, and a rugged, intimate encounter with the park's natural wonders.  Visitors can kayak on their own, or as part of an organized kayaking expedition.

Glacier Bay Park is open during the summer months.  The park's season generally runs from May 27 and extends until September 11. Be prepared for cool temperatures and rain.  During the summer, expect temperatures between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  April, May and June are the driest months, but be prepared for rain just the same.  Lodging is available in Gustavus. 

Campers must apply for a free permit and attend a mandatory camper orientation that is conducted on demand at the Bartlett Cove station. The Glacier Bay National Park does not charge fees for non-commercial visitors.

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