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Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Glacier Bay has more than 50 named glaciers
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Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve contains some of the world's most impressive tidewater glaciers. The bay has experienced at least four major glacial advances and four major retreats and serves as an outdoor research laboratory. Mountains rise right from its tidewater up to three vertical miles. Mount Fairweather is southeastern Alaska's highest peak. The dramatic variety of plant communities ranges from barren terrain just recovering from glacial retreat to lush temperate rain forest. The story of plant succession is nowhere more richly told than at Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay has more than 50 named glaciers, as well as two major arms: East Arm and West Arm. Most people who come to the Park—and there can be 400,000 of them a year—come by way of a cruise ship, and most of those ships head up the West Arm, towards the Margerie Glacier. The reason? It's the most impressive glacier, which is advancing 12 to 14 feet a day and calves frequently. If you want to experience the area more intimately and get closer than the large ships, consider a small ship cruise, like this itinerary from UnCruise which features 2 days in Glacier Bay National Park, or by sailboat with Alaska Adventure Sailing.

You’ll often see seals hauled out on the ice chunks, here; if you’re in front of the Margerie Glacier, you’ll also be within sight of the Grand Pacific Glacier. This glacier once filled the entire bay, reaching Icy Strait in the late 1700s. Receding rapidly, its face is now covered with rocky moraine. Other well-known glaciers in the Park include Johns Hopkins, Reid, Carroll and Lamplugh glaciers.

The park and preserve harbors brown and black bears, mountain goats, moose, whales, seals, plus eagles and more than 200 other species of birds. Together with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in British Columbia, this 24-million-acre wilderness is a World Heritage Site and the world's largest internationally protected area.

Access: By cruise ship or small ship cruise, tour boat, or aircraft or by scheduled air or boat service from Juneau and other southeastern Alaska communities. Approximate Size 3.3 million acres. You can also join a multi-day sea kayaking tour. For more information from the National Park Service, call 907-697-2230 or visit the Glacier Bay National Park website. 

Glacier Bay Lodge

Many visitors pass through Glacier Bay National Park by cruise, but Glacier Bay Lodge is the perfect spot to stay a few days (3 is recommended). Here's a suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Gustavus, and take the complimentary shuttle to Glacier Bay Lodge. Once you've settled in, head to the National Park Visitor Center (located on the second floor of the lodge). View the exhibits, check the schedule for evening presentations and ask for recommendations from the National Park Ranger for a nice afternoon walk. The one-mile Forest Loop Trail is popular to stretch your legs. Head back to the lodge for dinner, which you can enjoy inside or out on the deck.
Day 2: Board the lodge's catamaran to get a close-up look at the bay’s massive, tidewater glaciers, a much more intimate experience than the typical visitor gets from the deck of a large cruise ship. You may also see whales, bears, and mountain goats. This 8-hour tour is the only day tour permitted inside Glacier Bay National Park. Lunch is served on board and the trip is narrated by a National Park Ranger. You'll return to the lodge at 3:30pm, with plenty of time to enjoy another hike near the lodge before dinner. 
Day 3: Day of departure. Depending on the time your flight departs, ask the lodge for recommendations of how to fill your day! The lodge can book other activities including flightseeing and sea kayaking. 

From summit to sea, Glacier Bay offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration

Lofty mountain peaks, ice-sculptured fjords, an abundance of marine wildlife and, most of all, massive tidewater glaciers, have made Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve one of Alaska's most spectacular settings and a must-stop for every cruise ship sailing north through Southeast Alaska. The 3.3 million acre park is indeed an icy wilderness.


In 1794 a survey crew described what is now called Glacier Bay as a five-mile indent in a glacier that stretched “as far as the eye could distinguish.” In 1879 when scientist/naturalist John Muir visited the area, he found the ice had retreated more than 30 miles, creating an actual bay. The glacier has continued to recede at a rapid rate.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was named a national monument in 1925. In 1980, the area became a national park and preserve, and 2.7 million acres received wilderness designation. In 1986, the park became a biosphere reserve, and the area was named a world heritage site in 1992.


Today, glaciers still cover 27 percent of the Park. There are more than 50 named glaciers of which seven are active tidewater glaciers that calve icebergs into the sea. Encircling the park to the west is the Fairweather Range, the highest coastal mountains in the world at 15,000 feet.


As marine waters make up nearly one-fifth of the park, Glacier Bay is rich with marine life, including the endangered humpback whale, orcas, threatened Stellar sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and porpoises. In addition to marine mammals, Glacier Bay is home to a large bear population, both brown and black, as well as the blue glacier bear, a rare color phase of the black. Moose, wolves, Sitka blacktail deer, mountain goats and bald eagle also thrive in the park.


More than 90 percent of the park's visitors arrive on cruise ships, which swing through the vast bay but never stop. The rest pass through either the village of Gustavus or the park headquarters of Bartlett Cove for a variety of adventures. Most of the activities in the park are water-focused with the most popular being boat tours, kayaking, river rafting, fishing, glacier viewing and whale watching. The park's 10 miles of maintained trails is limited to Bartlett Cove but Glacier Bay offers an excellent opportunity for people who have experience on the water but not necessarily as kayakers. Kayakers are often dropped off in the well-protected arms and inlets deep in the bay where they paddle past glaciers and camp along the shoreline on their own or as part of a guided kayaking tour.

Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Glacier Bay has more than 50 named glaciers

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