The small capital of Alaska, with just over 30 thousand inhabitants, is one of the most interesting places to visit in the great northern state. As I will explain later, it is not well connected to the rest of the state and it is natural to wonder why it was built in this area, which at first glance seems almost not to be part of the geographic territory of Alaska. The reason is very simple: gold. In the nineteenth century the gold digger Joe Juneau discovered a gold-bearing vein in this area and as a result a mining village was born. A popular vote led, in 1881, to give the town the name of the discoverer.
Today, Juneau is an almost obligatory stop on cruises along theInside Passage, but it is above all an excellent home base for excursions in search of whales, glaciers and other wonders that this rugged territory has to offer.
- How to reach us
- Climate and temperatures
- Attractions in the city
- Juneau's museums
- Attractions in the region around Juneau
- Trekking sul Mount Roberts
- Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
- Sanctuary of Santa Teresa
- Mendenhall Glacier
- Whale Watching da Juneau
- Where to sleep in Juneau
How to reach us
How many other state capitals do they have not even a road to connect them to the outside world? Excluding those found on some islands, there are very few similar cases in Juneau. To get to Juneau, therefore, it is not enough to jump in the car and set up the satellite navigator. Let's see what the possibilities are.
- By plane: the fastest way to get to Juneau is by plane. This applies both if you choose the Alaskan capital as a destination from Spain (there are no direct flights, you will necessarily have to make a stopover or two), and if you are already in Alaska and decide to arrive here perhaps from Anchorage or from Fairbanks.
- On boat: in an area where the sea is predominant, the ship is certainly the most appropriate means to use. The capital can be reached by cruise ships or the public ferry service, operated by the Alaska Marine Highway. You can then arrive by ship from both Washington State, Canada, and other parts of Alaska. I refer you to the article on how to organize a trip to Alaska for additional details.
- By car: it's true, I said that no road leads to Juneau, but no one prevents you from taking your car on a ferry, especially if this is an intermediate stop on a longer road trip. The ports of Skagway and Haines are connected by land with the main road network in western Canada and, from there, eastern Alaska. Ferries between Juneau and both of these ports are daily (the crossing is 4h30m between Juneau and Haines and 30m between Haines and Skagway).
Climate and temperatures
As I already mentioned in the article on when to go to Alaska, the southern coast, and in particular the area of the Inside Passage where Juneau is located, is the mildest area of the state. Here there are no excessive temperature changes that characterize the internal area, so the differences between summer and winter are limited. The hottest months are June, July and August, which report on average maximums of 17-18 ° and minimums of 8-10 °. The months of May and September are slightly colder, when there are 2-3 degrees lower than in full summer.
April and October are the months between summer and winter: the minimum night temperatures are close to zero, but usually slightly higher, while the maximums are almost always below 10 °. The whole period between November and March sees minimums below zero and maximums just above zero. Don't worry though: also a January, the coldest month, on average they occur during the day 1 ° and at night -3 °. As you can see, compared to other areas of Alaska the climate is less rigid: thanks to the sea in winter you will not freeze too much, but in summer you will not encounter very high heat peaks.
Juneau is one of the wettest cities in Alaska. If its location is favored in terms of temperatures, if you go here you will have a high probability of having to bring out your umbrella. Between October and April, over 2m of snow falls, but the bulk of the precipitation is due to summer and autumn rain. August, September and October have 20 to 24 days of rain, and the rest of the year it hardly ever drops below 17.
Attractions in the city
From the architectural point of view, Alaska is a very young state: the oldest buildings that can be found are just over a century old. At the same time, those masterpieces of modern and contemporary architecture are missing, those skyscrapers with record heights and unmistakable characters that distinguish the great cities of North America. On the other hand, those who go to Alaska do so above all to discover its unspoiled nature. That doesn't mean, however, that the state is lacking fascinating cities, if you look at it right.
This is the case of Juneau, where the indigenous culture merges with that of the American settlers: walking through the historic center, you will find numerous totems (one very high, 13,7m, is placed in front of the government building in 4th Main Street) e 143 buildings that can be defined as historic, i.e. prior to 1904. The liveliest neighborhood is South Franklin. As with any seaside town, the port area is the crucial one and today the docks are bustling with shops, bars and restaurants thanks to the growing number of cruise ships that dock here every year.
It is from South Franklin that the Mount Roberts Tramway: the cable car that rises from the sea shore to an altitude of 548m, offering a spectacular view of the city and the portion of the Inside Passage in which it is located. At the top, as the cable car is operated by the Alaska Native Corporation, there is a workshop where native artisans create traditional artifacts and a room where a film about Tlingit culture is shown.
- Alaska State Museum. It is the most important museum in the city. It contains 32.000 indigenous artifacts, works of art and various kinds of artifacts. For those who go to Alaska for the first time, it is the ideal starting point to discover the past of this place (there are preserved baskets that are thousands of years old), but also to be amazed by unthinkable objects: some examples are a belt made of 200 caribou jaws, hunting headdress with ivory carvings and a seal mustache fringe, and a Kaagwaantaan dancers headdress, considered among the finest spruce headdresses in the world. There is also a section dedicated to the Russian period and the more recent history under the United States. (Address: 395, Whittier Street. Ticket: $ 12, free for under 18s. Timetables and prices updated on the official website).
- Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Here we tell the story of the two men who started the gold rush in this area in 1880. It was one of the largest and most intense gold rushes in American history, which started with ships full of hopeful prospectors only a month after the discovery of the vein. (Address: 155, S. Seward Street. Ticket: $ 6, free up to 12 years. Timetables and prices updated on the official website).
- Wickersham State Historic Site. This historic site consists of a house from 1898, purchased in 1928 by Judge James Wickersham: a person who played a fundamental role in the transformation of Alaska into a Territory, a preliminary step for the birth of the current State of Alaska. (Address: 213, 7th Street).
- Last Chance Mining Museum. As you can guess from the name, this museum is about a gold mine and is in fact located outside the city, where the air compressor (among the largest in the world) of the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company was located, which operated here since 1912 to 1944. Today you can see old locomotives and railway carriages here, but it is especially worthwhile for the setting. (Address: 1001, Basin Road. Ticket: $ 5. Timetables and prices updated on the official website).
Attractions in the region around Juneau
Juneau is small and can be visited in a short time, but one of the main reasons to stop here is its surroundings, full of things to see and experiences to live. In addition to the many naturalistic attractions offered by the Inside Passage region, there are also a few interesting activities in the immediate vicinity of the city.
Trekking sul Mount Roberts
The mountain that shelters Juneau's back is famous for funivia which climbs the slopes for almost half of its altitude, offering visitors one of the best views of the city. The terminus of the cable car is also the starting point of many paths, through which trekking lovers can explore the entire mountain. It is possible to walk for hours along these paths that cross the woods and skirt waterfalls, with a high chance of encountering marmots, snow goats and larger animals such as bears. The most famous path is the Mount Roberts Trail, 7,2km long, which starts from the city, at the end of 6th Street.
Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
The Juneau Veteran's Memorial Highway (called Glacier Highway in the first stretch), despite being one of the main roads in the city, is a dead end street, but it's worth walking back and forth. From the center it heads north along the Gastineau and the Favorite Channel, crossing the Mendenhall Valley and touching some interesting places such as the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure: a botanical garden where you can walk a 3,2km loop path inside the suggestive rainforest, interspersed with flower gardens.
Glacier Garden Rainforest Tower
Sanctuary of Santa Teresa
Continuing on the road to the north, you also meet the National Shrine of Saint Therese, an interesting one spiritual place Catholic dedicated to St. Therese of Lisieux, who is also the patroness of Alaska. Built not far from the city, it is a complex of houses surrounded by lush gardens, among which a stone chapel stands out. If you are looking for a particular place to stop while traveling the long coastal road, this is certainly a great option.
This glacier is a major attraction not only in the Juneau neighborhood, but in all of Alaska. The visitor center it can always be reached by following the road to the north and offers illustrative films and panoramic windows on the glacier, about 19km long and 1,6km wide.
Unfortunately, due to climate change, the glacier is retreating by 150m per year (in the 40s it was retreating by only 3m per year). A small path of 500m leads to a very good one panoramic point from which to take unforgettable photos. Other longer trails such as the Trail of Time (800m) and the East Glacier Loop (5,6km) run through the rainforest and bring you closer to other areas of the glacier.
They can also be done excursions on the lake in kayako with traditional Tlingit canoes. For those who can afford it, there are helicopter tours that land on the glacier itself. Here are some of the main excursions that can be undertaken.
- Mendenhall Glacier Rafting Tour from Juneau
- Half day tour to the glacier
- Canoe and trek to Mendenhall Glacier
Discover all excursions to Mendenhall Glacier
Whale Watching da Juneau
Juneau is one of the best home bases for venturing out to sea in search of whales, which especially in summer come in large numbers to feed in the Inside Passage. Here are some of the best tours for spotting these magnificent cetaceans.
- Whale watching and visit to the Mendenhall Glacier
- Excursion off the coast of Juenau with whale watching
All whale watching activities
Where to sleep in Juneau
Juneau is small, it is still the capital of the state and it is a city very visited by tourists, so the hotel offer is not lacking. Below I give you some suggestions for sleeping in particular places.
- Alaska’s Capital Inn: built in 1906, this B&B already has over a century of history and retains period furnishings. But fear not, it was renovated in the early 2000s and offers all comforts, starting with a heated outdoor swimming pool. More than the building, however, the position counts: being in the hilly area of the historic center, you have a truly suggestive view of the sea.
- Pearson’s Pond Luxury Inn & Adventure Spa: if you prefer to be just a few minutes from Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier rather than staying overnight in the center, this hotel is ideal. You will sleep in a log house by a pond, warming up in front of the fireplace or in the whirlpools. You will have access to canoe or mountain bike excursions and, upon return, relax with a massage.
- The Driftwood Hotel: it is the ideal accommodation for those who want to stay in the center, preferring savings to luxury. If you are making a short stop in Juneau, perhaps traveling by ferry and sleeping in the city for just a night or two, and you want a simple but comfortable environment, within walking distance of the port, this is the hotel for you.
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