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Along Stephens Passage

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Natural Wonders, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend

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  • 4.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 5.0Atmosphere

A "fjord" is a Nordic term meaning a narrow waterway surrounded by sharp cliffs. So while Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier steals most of the tourist traffic, the 27-mile-long Tracy Arm Fjord is the bigger, better and more dramatic natural gem. The inlet is very narrow – at times, no more than half a mile wide – with cliffs that rise more than 3,000 feet on either side and waterfalls that cascade down the steep rock walls. During the summer, you can spot eagles, seals, bears and whales here. 

Recent visitors said that if you only have time for one experience in Juneau, this is it. Travelers described the glacial scenery as "incredible" and "breathtaking," and recommended bringing along a quality set of binoculars and a camera to capture the scene. 

The Tracy Arm Fjord is 45 miles south of Juneau, but worth the trek. If your cruise ship doesn't sail through the glaciers, you'll have to take a boat tour, which usually lasts an entire day. Adventure Bound Alaska and Allen Marine Tours operate well-reviewed excursions from May through September, and you should reserve your spot at least a week in advance; space is limited and rates vary. For more information, check out each tour company's website. 

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#2 Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier welcomes more than 400,000 visitors each year, and it's easy to see why: aside from its stunning arctic beauty, the glacier is only 12 miles outside Juneau and it's the only glacier in Southeast Alaska accessible by road (you can easily take a cab here). When you're not gazing at the icebergs, the Coast Mountains will likely grab your attention. Upon arrival, your first stop should be at the visitors center, where you can watch a 15-minute film describing the changing landscape, talk with forest rangers and relax in the warmth of the glacier observation area. You can also pick up a map detailing the various hiking paths around the glacier. 

Many recent visitors saw the glacier while on a cruise port stop and highly recommended sharing a cab with your fellow passengers to the glacier. Travelers also advised stopping at the visitors center to watch the informative film. Of all the trails, reviewers highly recommend the East Glacier Trail for its stunning views of the glacier and the falls.

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