Glacier Bay National Park is our final Alaskan park. It is located in the Southeast of Alaska so we began heading down to warmer latitudes just as the frost began to set in the northern parts of the state. Denali freezing over every morning as we packed our trusty Outback and drove the nearly fifteen hours to Skagway. Since Glacier Bay is not reachable by car; Air-Taxi or ferry are the only ways to get there. By this point in our Alaskan adventure, we were ready to give the ferry a chance after taking bush planes to more than half the parks we had already visited.
You can learn more about our Denali adventure here
The ferry departs from Skagway and connects in Juneau, then goes from Juneau to Gustavus. The tickets from Skagway to Juneau were $118 for two adults and $88 from Juneau to Gustavus. These are one way so the ferry to Glacier Bay and back to Skagway ended up costing $412 total. We parked our car at the ferry terminal and boarded with our gigantic backpacks filled with plenty of warm clothing and camping supplies. It was already early September, very late in the season for camping so we made sure to pack plenty of waterproof gear and jackets.
To check the ferry schedule or book a ride you can click through here
The trek between Skagway and Juneau was six hours. We didn’t land at the Juneau terminal until late at night and the ferry to Gustavus wasn’t departing until 7:00 A.M. The terminal is far from the actual town of Juneau, and a taxi and hotel room would have cost upwards of $200. Since the terminal is open 24 hours, the staff at the terminal allow people to sleep on the floor. We had all of our camping gear and with only 7 hours to wait, we decided to roll out our camping mats and sleep there. In the morning our ferry from Juneau to Gustavus departed, another six hour ride. Gustavus is the only town close to the park, it is only a few miles from the National Park. There is a taxi service in town, and for $15 goes from the terminal to the park.
You can reach the taxi service here
We camped at Bartlett Cove, the free campground maintained by the Parks Service. It is the only campground in the developed part of the park, a walk-in only grounds located near the Ranger Station. There are bear lockers and a covered area with a wood stove that the rangers stock with wood regularly. It rained for our entire trip so we spent a lot of time around the stove warming up. For more information about Bartlett Cove Campground visit the National Park Website .
The campground is primitive and has only outhouses, however there is potable water, WiFi, restrooms and outlets available at the Ranger Station. We were able to get a little work done and charge our camera battery.
From late May to early September there is a lodge open near the campground. It was closed while we were there after the first week of September, but we were told campers are able to purchase showers here while the lodge is open. You can check availability and reserve rooms here.
Bartlett Cove is the only developed area in the park and there are only a few maintained hiking trails. The Forest Loop Trail is only one mile, while the Bartlett River Trail and Bartlett Lake Trail are four and eight miles respectively. The area has a rainforest climate and the trails are used a lot by locals for mushroom foraging. The National Park has more information about the campsite here.
Since the area is not very developed and has a more temperate climate, a lot of animals take refuge in the thick foliage. Especially in an area with limited visibility like this one, we are always very careful to pack our bear spray on every hike, no matter how short, and make plenty of noise while we walk to be sure we don’t sneak up on anything that might be close to the trail. Glacier Bay has a fairly large wolf and bear population.
The shore is a great place to hike as well. It is easily accessible from the Bartlett Cove Campground and is teeming with marine-life. Days with low tide uncover a whole world of creatures dwelling in tidepools and seals, otters, and even whales often play close to shore.
Tour boats are the best way to view the glaciers and whales. A boat departs every morning from the Bartlett Cove Dock during the summer months. The tours are $224.27 per adult.
For more about the schedule and ticket prices click through here
We spent a week in Glacier Bay hiking, drawing, and taking refuge from the rain around our fire. From our tent, we were able to hear a pack of wolves calling in the distance. The isolation and rawness of the Alaskan parks really reaches it’s peak in this beautiful place.
We had now visited and explored all nine National Parks in Alaska and after another twelve hours on the ferry, we made it back to our car, maybe just a little sad that we would be leaving Alaska now. Nothing can compare to the great Alaskan wilderness and it will be very bittersweet to go back to the Mainland.
We will be sharing a summary of our experience including the overall pricing, must-see destinations, and tips on how to get the most of your Alaskan adventure next time! Thank you so much for joining our Epic Alaskan Quest and sharing this incredible experience with us.