Travel Log: Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

I have visited 30 out of the 50 U.S. states, so clearly I still have some ground to cover to see them all. However, it may surprise you that although I grew up in the Pacific Northwest I had never been to Alaska until this year! It might be the fact that the major cities in Alaska are an easy direct flight from Seattle (Anchorage is 3.5 hours, Fairbanks is 3.5 hours, Juneau is 2.5 hours, etc), and it seems like a place that will always nearby to visit. It also might be that Alaska is not the warmest place on earth, and a desire to seek out warm temperatures and a tan can win out when planning trips. Either way, thanks to a group of dear friends, Memorial Day weekend this year was the year to finally step foot in Alaska! While many tourists see Alaska via a cruise, our group opted to fly in and out of Juneau and spend time in both Glacier Bay National Park and the Juneau area. I recognize that we did not stop in as many towns as we would have if we had done a cruise, but our itinerary was perfect for a long (five day) weekend. I am splitting this Alaska trip into two posts, with today's focus being Glacier Bay National Park. Please read on for more photos and details of our first two days in this beautiful area.


As I mentioned earlier, Juneau is a quick two and a half hour direct flight from Seattle and we arrived around 9:00am Friday morning. One thing we did not realize prior to our arrival was that the restaurants and shops in downtown Juneau revolve around the cruise ship schedule, which means very few places are open before 11am. If you decide to plan a non-cruise adventure like we did, just keep that in mind! We grabbed coffee and walked around a bit while we waited for restaurants to open for lunch, visited a couple of breweries, then worked our way back to the airport for our flight to Gustavus and Glacier Bay National Park.


Our group booked all nine available seats on a small prop plane through a company called Alaska Seaplanes for the quick 25 minute flight between Juneau and Gustavus. Checking in for this flight was easy, as Alaska Seaplanes has a desk right at the Juneau airport. You must weigh absolutely everything going on board, your bags and yourself, and be honest about it to make sure that the plane has the right amount of weight and fuel for the flight. If you are sure about the idea of small planes, you can choose a ferry option with approximately a four to four and a half hour travel time instead. I thought the views from the plane were incredible and really enjoyed the quick flight.



We were fortunate to arrive on a clear day, and the flight over the water and through the mountains was just gorgeous. I can't tell if this is Alaska or Jurassic Park!


Upon arrival in Gustavus, we hopped off the plane and into a into a taxi van headed to Glacier Bay Lodge within Glacier Bay National Park. We saw our first bear en route to the lodge; this black bear was just meandering in and next to the road and I was able to snap a photo on my iPhone as we drove by. Talk about a welcome to Alaska!


Of course, we had to stop and take a photo upon our official arrival into Glacier Bay National Park! I could not get over how sunny and beautiful it was--we got so lucky with the weather during our visit.


We booked a one night stay at Glacier Bay Lodge and a Glacier Bay boat tour through the national park, and although Memorial Day was their opening weekend it felt like the lodge was completely full! The rooms were comfortable, we enjoyed a lovely seated dinner with beautiful views of the water, and they offered a buffet breakfast as well. For national park fans, there is a visitor center where you can pick up pins, stamp your national park passport, etc.


The next morning, we walked from the lodge to the dock (~five minutes) at 7:00am to meet the first Glacier Bay boat tour of the season! I did not take a photo of our actual boat, because I was so caught up in the gorgeous views of the mountains that morning. There were other guests, but everyone had plenty of space to spread out over the upper and lower decks and it did not feel overcrowded. Since our boat tour was operated by the national park, we had a park ranger on board to provide education on the animals and the area we visited--a very informative tour!


I will probably say this a few more times, but we were SO lucky with the weather during our visit! It was clear and sunny, so the first thing that our park ranger pointed out was the far off mountains only visible during clear days. These snow capped mountains are aptly named the Fairweather Range, and we had great views of the mountains all throughout the day.


The Glacier Bay Day Tour travels 65 miles each way up the bay into the national park and preserve during the 8.5 hour journey. Along the way, you can enjoy the natural environment and keep an eye out for plenty of animals both in and out of the water.



Our first animal sightings within the first fifteen minutes of the trip were adorable sea otters playing right near our boat (I completely forgot to take photos of them), then shortly afterward we spotted our first humpback whale! The national park boats will not chase after the whales, as this is a protected area, but the tour provides binoculars so that you can view them from a distance (hence the fuzzy cell phone photos). We saw a total of nine whales over the day--so cool!



My best packing tips for Alaska are to take lots of layers. Over Memorial Day weekend, mornings were chilly with temperatures in the upper 40's (F), warming up to low 70's (F) in the afternoons. It was especially chilly out on the boat, and I was so glad that I had my insulated coat, vest, hat, and gloves. I definitely felt like my faux fur hood fit right in with Alaska style!


As we continued on our tour, we saw sea lions sunbathing on rocks and plenty of native Alaskan birds like puffins and gulls. It was great to see so many types of animals living peacefully in this protected area.



If you look carefully at the center of the above photo, you will see a mountain goat on the rocks just above the water line. This was the only photo in which you can actually see one of the goats, although we saw plenty way up high in the rocks.


Keeping an eye out for creatures in the water using the handy dandy binoculars on board.



Halfway into the day tour, we reached the highlight of the tour: Margerie Glacier and the Grand Pacific Glacier. The boat stopped for about an hour in this spot so that we could take in the views and take plenty of photos. We also witnessed some calving of the Margerie Glacier, which was pretty surreal to both see and hear. These glaciers are a result of a little Ice Age that reached its peak in 1750, then retreated in only about 200 years with these pockets of glaciers remaining.






On our way back, we also stopped to see the John Hopkins and Lamplugh Glaciers. It was incredible to see so many glaciers in one area, knowing that the entire 65 mile area we sailed through was solid ice only a little over 200 years ago.



On our way back, we also dropped off a group of college students working at the park for the summer at a rocky beach for an overnight kayaking/camping trip. What do you think the odds were that we would also see a brown bear on that beach? Well, we did...crazy, right? The national park team did not seem to mind, but you could not have paid me to get off that boat with a bear anywhere in the vicinity.



We had such a great adventure during our day in Glacier Bay National Park, and I absolutely recommend the national park boat tour if you are interested in seeing the area in a way that is thoughtful and respectful of all creatures living in the park.



After our boat tour, we gathered our things back at the lodge and then headed to dinner at the Glacier Bay Country Inn. This inn was not yet officially open for the season, but one of our friends had read about their world class cuisine featured in multiple food publications and called to see if they would consider opening a little bit early for us. They were extremely kind, and agreed to open the restaurant early as a practice run for this year's staff! They picked us up from the Glacier Bay National Park Lodge, served us a fabulous surf & turf dinner where they kept bringing out more and more delicious crab, and then took us back to the Gustavus airstrip for our flight back to Juneau.



The days felt endless in Juneau, and even though we had an 8:00pm flight back to Juneau the bright sunshine and long hours of daylight made it feel much earlier. We returned to Juneau Friday evening to continue our weekend, so I will end today's post with a promise to continue in another post next week. Thank you for visiting my blog today and following along with our Alaskan adventure! I hope you have a wonderful week!

Linking up with Nancy's Fashion Style, Not Dead Yet Style, Not Dressed as a Lamb, On the Daily Express, Pink Sole, Shopping My Closet, Straight A Style, The Fashion Canvas, Walking in Memphis in High Heels

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. I am sure that you will love it if you are able to visit! Thank you for visiting my blog today!

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  2. Alaska is SO gorgeous- one of my good friends did a cruise up there last summer and loved it!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that it is gorgeous, Ashley! Thank you for visiting my blog today!

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  3. Replies
    1. We very much enjoyed our visit! I hope you are having a great week so far!

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  4. Alaska is on my bucket list and it looks like such an amazing place to visit! Your photos are beautiful!

    Jill - Doused in Pink

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    Replies
    1. I am sure you will love it when you have a chance to visit, Jill! We sure did!

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