After the bear-y exciting time at Katmai, it was finally time for our last park in Alaska; Glacier Bay National Park! We had attempted to make this our first park when we got to Alaska, but once we drove into Skagway, we had learned that the ferry tends to sell out a week or so in advance which is why we continued on and decided to hit it up later. And it turns out, it was even easier for us to just fly into the park, rather than the ferry. It was about the same price, but it was way easier and much quicker. The ferry would have also taken over 24 hours to get there and it still didn’t have the exact days we wanted to go.
After we had flown into Anchorage from Katmai, we may or may not have slept in the truck in the airport parking lot (but we definitely did) since our flight was less than 10 hours later and we didnt feel like paying double in parking fees. The park is on an island and in a town called Gustavus, so you have to fly into Juneau first and then fly from there. Because we had a long layover in Juneau, I figured we could spend the day sightseeing around the park. However, it’s definitely not a town you can just walk around, and especially not from the airport. We weren’t feeling the best either (combination of beers and lack of nutrient filled foods for a week or so) so we experienced the best Juneau has to offer; a pizza buffet so we could eat the salad bar to get some vegetables in us.
From Juneau, it’s a short 15 minute flight to Gustavus. We grabbed a taxi with the chatty driver named “Strawberry.” She told us all about the island, while she peer pressured us into buying drinks from the liquor store (she was super forceful about it… she asked “do you want me to stop at the store so you can grab drinks? They’re more expensive at the park!” What an enabler, amirite??) A random guy also gave us a can of fuel for our stove (you can’t fly with them so you are forced to buy them at the parks). Basically, this little island has the wonderful small town community.
She dropped us off at the Park and we got our campsite at the Bartlett Cove Campground. It. Was. Beautiful! It’s technically a rainforest and it had almost no people. It felt like our own land. We set up camp that night, put our food away in the cache and had dinner on the beach; you have to cook and eat there at this camp. We had a nice chill evening, and we drank some wine (thanks, Strawberry) and listened to some beach tunes. We even saw otters and a seal! We also saw the stars for the first time in a month because it was finally dark enough in Alaska.
The next morning, we hiked the Forest Trail, the Tlinglit trail and listened to a native at the Tribal hut about their history and the connection to Glacier Bay. Just 300 years ago, there was NO glacier, and in that time, it came, created the bay and receded. It’s pretty crazy how quickly some things like that happen. We also saw Snow, the most complete whale skeleton in the world. It was hit by a cruise ship in 2001 and killed. It floated up on the beach and it was left there to decay naturally. Fun fact; the layers in a whale’s waxy earplug tell the age of a whale! After that, we enjoyed the Nat Geo displays in the Glacier Bay Lodge.
We had a fancy dinner to celebrate our last night in an Alaska park with a little wine. Also, at this point in our lives, a “fancy” dinner is instant potatoes, with cooked peas and carrots, and salamis. Don’t be too jealous. That night we woke up around 1am to try and see the Northern Lights, but no such luck.
The next day, we hiked the Bartlett River trail and chilled out on the beach until it was time to go. Most people at this park spend their time on the water for a marine wildlife and glacier tour. However, it’s a very similar park to Kenai Fjords and we didn’t feel the need (i.e. our bank accounts said no no) to spend another few hundred dollars to see the same-ish things. We still had a great experience at Glacier Bay, despite not doing the typical tourist adventure here. Below is my cheesy poem that I wrote for about our time here for my Junior Ranger booklet.
Snowflake after snowflake,
wave after wave,
Glacier Bay is constant
Each moment, each visit
will be different
For you, for the whales
the bears, birds, and otters
Never the same,
But always home.
- There are a variety of lodging options; the lodge, campsites, and even airbnbs! We talked to a couple that got an airbnb that even had bikes that makes it super easy to get all around the island. If we go back, I might look into that. However, the campground might have been one of the coolest ones we have ever stayed at.
- If you’re staying somewhere that does not provide an airport shuttle, you should DEFINITELY be that person on the flight and talk to everyone you can to find people that are staying at the same place and get a taxi together. It was $35 one way for a 9 mile drive. When we got the taxi, we asked if she wanted to see if there were any others looking for a ride and she was like “nah, I’ll come back if needed.”
- If you have not visited Kenai Fjords, you MUST do a boat tour!