The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for adventure, a living laboratory for observing the ebb and flow of glaciers, and a chance to study life as it returns in the wake of retreating ice. Amidst majestic scenery, Glacier Bay offers us now, and for all time, a connection to a powerful and wild landscape.
The park has snow-capped mountain ranges rising to over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, and freshwater lakes. These diverse land and seascapes host a mosaic of plant communities ranging from pioneer species in areas recently exposed by receding glaciers, to climax communities in older coastal and alpine ecosystems. Diverse habitats support a variety of life including seabirds, marine and terrestrial mammals that provide ideal conditions for wildlife viewing and for research as we endeavor to learn more about the world around us.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides an outstanding natural environment. The Glacier Bay region can be subdivided into four geographic provinces. Within the park's environs are found five major land ecosystems: wet tundra (muskeg), coastal western hemlock/Sitka spruce forest, alpine tundra, glaciers and ice fields and early post-glacial meadows and thickets. Three major marine ecosystems have been identified in and around the park and preserve: continental shelf, wave beaten coasts and fjord estuaries.
The park is characterized by snow-capped mountain ranges rising to over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, 10 tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, fresh water lakes, and a mosaic of plant communities ranging from pioneer species in areas recently exposed by receding glaciers to climax communities in older coastal and alpine ecosystems. These resources support habitats for a diversity of species. Significant populations of seabirds, marine and terrestrial mammals provide ideal conditions for research as we endeavor to learn more about other life forms for the benefit of the species and for mankind.
Glacier Bay is the largest water area park in our nation in addition to being part of a 24 million acre World Heritage Site, the largest internationally protected area in the world. Thank you for your interest in Glacier Bay and the National Park system. We look forward to your visit.
Basic Information on Glacier Bay National
Operating Hours, Seasons
The park is open year round. The Glacier Bay National Park Visitor Center is open from mid-May to mid-September.
PLANE - There are no roads to Glacier Bay and no Alaska
state ferry service. The only road in the park runs 10 miles between Bartlett
Cove and Gustavus. Seven miles of trails wind along the beaches and through
the rainforest in the Bartlett Cove area.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION - Passenger ferries offer transportation between Juneau and Gustavus mid-May through mid-September. Limited tour boat, cruise ship and charter boat services are available. Private pleasure boats are welcome. A ten-mile road by taxi or bus connects Gustavus to Bartlett Cove.
CAR - NOTE: Vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8
feet (including mirrors) are prohibited on the steepest sections of the
Weather & Climate
Glacier Bay is a rainy place. Bartlett Cove averages 75 inches of rain per year, most of that in September and October. The rain, wind, topography and tides all play a role in creating our exciting weather. Long periods of rainy, cool, and overcast weather are common in southeast Alaska. Summer daytime temperatures range from 45- 65F. A hat, gloves, raingear and sturdy, waterproof footgear are recommended.
The Glacier Bay Visitor Center located on the second level of the Glacier Bay Lodge and the first portion of the Forest Loop Trail is accessible to wheelchairs. There are no paved roads.
Camping at Glacier Bay National Park
Open Summers Only
All campers are required to attend a free camper orientation which is given on demand at the Visitor Information Station near the dock. Campers may obtain their backcountry permit and check out a bear-resistant food canister at this time (both are required for backcountry camping and are free of charge). A free campground (14-day limit) with bear-resistant food caches, firewood, and a warming hut, is located at Bartlett Cove. No reservations are accepted, but a permit is required. Campground permits are issued at the Visitor Information Station on a first-come, first-served basis. If desired, campers may be dropped off in the backcountry by the Parks concession-operated tour boat.
Activities and Things to Do at Glacier
Bay National Park
Tour Boats & Cruise Ships
Cruises up the Inside Passage often include a day in Glacier Bay. Cruise ships and tour boats travel up the bay to see the tidewater glaciers, cruise along the shoreline searching for wildlife and enjoy the scenery. A tour boat leaves Bartlett Cove daily for a nine-hour cruise.
For a boater a variety of adventures can be found in the fjords of Glacier Bay. Permits are required from June 1 through August 31 for motorized private boats, for a maximum visit of seven days.
Sea kayaking is a popular way to experience the backcountry wilderness of Glacier Bay. Kayak trips can originate from Bartlett Cove, or the daily tour boat can drop off kayaks up bay. Rental kayaks and one day or overnight guided kayak trips are available. If you are trying to transport a hard-shell kayak to the park, it will have to be transported by boat.
There are more than a million trail-less acres awaiting the backcountry traveler in this immense wilderness area. The backcountry terrain is rugged by any standard. Dense alder thickets and steep rocky cliffs can make foot travel very challenging and often impossible. Be prepared to hike over rough and rocky ground. Shoreline and gravel streambeds usually offer the best routes. In the Bartlett Cove area, there are three maintained trails of varying length. Since conditions tend to be muddy and wet, boots are advisable.
The Alsek River and its major tributary, the Tatshenshini River, are large volume, swift glacial rivers that run through a portion of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Beginning in the interior, these two rivers breach the coast range, offering rafters uncommon environmental and cultural diversity, impressive scenery, and an outstanding wilderness experience. A permit is required.
The coastal mountains in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, topped by the 15,320-foot Mt. Fairweather, are some of the least visited mountains of their elevation in North America. The mountaineering challenges include remote access, harsh conditions, limited information on climbing routes and limited availability of rescue. Climbing parties must be experienced and totally self-reliant. A permit is required.
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