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Truly Wild: Explore Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

You've never seen wild like this.

By: Sara Sheehy + Save to a List

There's something special about the 3.3 million-acre Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska. It's remote, to be sure, and beautiful. But what draws people in, again and again, is how genuinely wild the park is. 

Here, more than many other places, you can feel your own insignificance in the face of such extensive wilderness. That might scare some people, but we know you. You aren't worried...you're dying to go.

Here's how to explore this sanctuary of nature on Alaska's southeast coast.

Where to Stay

Photo courtesy of Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours

Glacier Bay Lodge is the only hotel accommodation in the park, and it's open from late May through early September each year. The Lodge is tucked into Alaska's northern rainforest, nestled in between stands of Sitka spruce. It's ideally situated to see the late summer sunset over the Fairweather Mountains, too.

Glacier Bay Lodge offers standard and deluxe rooms, each with their own bathroom, and an on-site dining room that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

Don't miss the Huna Tribal House, located steps from the Glacier Bay Lodge. Plan ahead and get there in time to catch an educational presentation provided by members of the Huna tribe.

For those who are more into roughing it, check out the nearby Bartlett Cove Campground, which requires a free permit to camp from May through September. This is bear country, so be prepared!

How to Get There

Photo courtesy of Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours

There are no roads into Gustavus, the small town that is the launching off point for Glacier Bay adventures. You can get to Gustavus in one of two ways, by air or by sea.

Commuter air taxi service is available from Juneau, Skagway, and Haines. If boating is more your style, there is year-round ferry service on Mondays and Wednesdays from Juneau as part of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Alaska Airlines also offers jet service via Juneau during the summer months.

Once you arrive in Gustavus, hop on the shuttle to for the 10-mile drive to Glacier Bay Lodge. The service is free for those who are staying at the Lodge; there is a fee for others.

What to Do

Photo courtesy of Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours

See the best of the park on a Glacier Bay Day Tour. This eight-hour tour is aboard a high-speed catamaran, which will whisk you through the bay to see tidewater glaciers, snowy mountains, whales, sea lions, coastal bears, seals, and birds like puffins and eagles. If you want an intimate connection with the bay by exploring via kayak, you can get dropped off and picked up via the Glacier Bay Day Tour. Advanced reservations are highly recommended. 

Another way to explore the park is on foot. You'll cover less terrain, of course, but you'll see it in much greater detail. Casual hikers can take one of the shorter trails that leave right from the Lodge. More intense experiences can be found in the backcountry, hiking along rivers, beaches, and through the alpine. Backcountry hiking isn't for the faint of heart when you're this remote, so only experienced hikers and navigators should attempt it.

Photo courtesy of Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours

Other experiences in the park include whale watching for orcas and minke whales, guided and unguided kayaking, flightseeing from Gustavus, and attending National Park Service programs, which are offered daily.

To visit Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is to visit true wildness. Are you ready for the journey?

Make your reservations for the Glacier Bay Lodge at Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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Kayak Camping the Pristine Backcountry of Glacier Bay's West Arm

Sonja Saxe