Juneau is located on the Inside Passage in southeastern Alaska, surrounded by tall mountains on the narrow Gastineau Channel. The former gold settlement is the only state capital in the United States without road access—visitors arrive exclusively by boat or plane. Given the location and natural beauty, Juneau gets its fair share of summer cruise traffic but is full of character and charm nevertheless. The town serves as the jumping off point for the Mendenhall Glacier, the Tongass National Forest, and Glacier Bay National Park.
Juneau Quick Facts
Location: Alaska’s Inside Passage, sharing an eastern border with British Columbia, Canada
Access: Boat or plane only; Juneau has no road access
Geography: Juneau sits at sea level on the narrow Gastineau Channel, surrounded by mountains and the Tongass National Forest
Climate: Mild, coastal climate similar to the Pacific Northwest
Things to Do: Hiking, kayaking, Mendenhall Glacier, State Capitol
Things to Do in Juneau
The Mendenhall Glacier, located just 12 miles outside of Juneau in the scenic Mendenhall Valley, is Juneau’s most popular attraction. In addition to viewing platforms, there are hiking trails of varying lengths and kayak rentals are available on Lake Mendenhall. Stop by the visitor center for maps and more information.
The Juneau area has a number of excellent hiking trails. Perseverance Trail is a local favorite, and you can get the same panoramic views as those who take the Mt. Roberts tram by walking up for free. For more information, see our the three hikes below.
1. East Glacier Trail Loop (3.5 miles round trip; easy to moderate)
On a ridge adjacent to the Mendenhall Glacier, the East Glacier Trail Loop passes through old growth forest and by waterfalls with excellent views. From the back of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, the East Glacier Trail branches off from the Trail of Time. The majority of the hike has a gentle rise with a few steeper sections near the top. Nugget Falls (.8 miles) is an easy hike from the visitor center with great photo opportunities.
2. Mount Roberts Trail (4.5 miles one way; challenging)
From downtown Juneau, follow the stairs at the end of 6th Street to the Mount Roberts trailhead. The summit is a tough 3,800 vertical feet and 3–4 hours up, but the views of Juneau and the Gastineau Channel are worth the burn. For a shorter walk, the top of the Mount Roberts tram is at 1,760 feet (the tram ride down is discounted for those who hike up), or you can take the tram up and hike the remaining distance to the summit of Mt. Roberts and back.
3. Perseverance Trail (6.5 miles round trip; moderate)
Perseverance Trail is one of Juneau’s most popular hikes hike and starts just 1.5 miles from downtown. From the end of Basin Road, the trail cuts up a river valley beneath 3,500-foot Mt. Juneau and past lush forests, streams, and Ebner Falls. In addition to classic Alaska scenery, the trail has historical significance as a former mining access road considered to be the first road in Alaska. Perseverance Trail also is great for running and mountain biking. Opposite the Ebner Falls cutoff is the highly challenging trail up Mount Juneau (3,576 feet; 6-8 hours round trip).
Juneau, located on Alaska’s inside passage, is an extraordinarily beautiful place to kayak—one of the best in the state. In addition to the coastal scenery, the Inside Passage is a hotbed for wildlife including humpback whales, killer whales, bears, eagles and more.
Kayaking options in Juneau range from short trips to full-day and overnight excursions. A popular option is Mendenhall Lake—fed by the famous Mendenhall Glacier—which is offered as a self-guided trip with a full safety briefing. For a big-time adventure, try the combination kayaking and bear watching trips to brown bear sanctuary Admiralty Island, accessible via a 25-minute scenic flight on a floatplane.
Two kayaking outfitters—Above and Beyond Alaska and Alaska Boat and Kayak Shop (same ownership)—offer a range of guided trips and independent rentals in and around Juneau. Kayaking is a great way to experience Alaska but it’s important to take safety and the conditions seriously; water temperatures are cold and the weather changes quickly.
Juneau is the state capital of Alaska and houses the legislature, courts, and numerous federal agencies. The Capitol building, located on the corner of East 4th Street and Main Street, is modest but perhaps the most accessible of any state. Complimentary 30-minute tours are offered daily starting at 8:30 am during the week and at 9:30 am on weekends.
Juneau Climate/When to Go
Juneau has a rainy, coastal climate moderated by the Pacific Ocean (similar to the Pacific Northwest, but colder). Temperatures stay mild throughout the year—the summer starts in May and runs through September with average high temperatures in the low 60’s. Winters in Juneau are wet with low temperatures averaging around 20°F. June is the best month to visit Juneau; July is warmer but buggier and August is the rainiest summer month.