Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
We may be compensated when you click on product links, such as credit cards, from one or more of our advertising partners. Terms apply to the offers below. See our Advertising Policy for more about our partners, how we make money, and our rating methodology. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a marine park located in southeastern Alaska. Majestic snow-capped mountains, stunning glaciers, and lush green forests are all showcased in this remote park. This enchanted place has so much to offer, including world-class fishing, hiking, hunting, and tours by plane. Each year, nearly 100,000 tourists visit this national park to experience the natural beauty and wonder that is held within its boundaries.
How To Get to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Where Is Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve?
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a U.S. national park and preserve located in southeastern Alaska. This park is just west of the state’s capital, Juneau. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve covers 3.3 million acres and is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Most visitors arrive on cruise ships, but there are a couple of other ways to arrive at this national park and preserve.
Nearest Airports to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is so remote that making plans to arrive can be a bit tedious. Visitors fly into the closest major airport and will then have to fly into the smaller airport near the park. Let’s take a look at the 2 airports that are used by visitors flying into the Glacier Bay National Park area.
Gustavus Airport (GST)
Gustavus Airport is a small airport in the closest town to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Visitors who fly into the park will use this airport. Alaska Airlines and Alaska Seaplanes serve Gustavus Airport. From this airport, you are just 10 miles from the park.
Juneau International Airport (JNU)
The closest major airport to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is Juneau International Airport. This airport is just 50 miles from the park, but those 50 miles must be traveled by plane.
Juneau International Airport serves as a regional hub and offers several flights a day to and from many locations, including several Alaskan cities as well as Portland, Salt Lake City, and Seattle. This airport services Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and several smaller airlines that take guests to and from smaller surrounding areas.
From Juneau International Airport, visitors will charter a small, private plane to take them to the remote Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Driving to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
There aren’t any roads leading to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The only road in the entire park leads to Bartlett Cove and the small town of Gustavus, where some people stay during their visit. The best way to access this park is by flying in or taking a ferry from Juneau.
Taking the Ferry to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Another way to arrive at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is by ferry. There are passenger ferries that transport visitors from Juneau to Gustavus from the middle of May to the middle of September. The Alaskan Marine Highway Ferry System serves Juneau and the Glacier Bay area and offers a trip that lasts between 4 and 6 hours.
Getting Around Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Since there are no roads that go through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, the best way to explore this national park is on foot, by boat, or by plane. This park and preserve are very large, so flightseeing tours are popular ways to get a close look at the highlights of the park. There are a few hiking trails and plenty of water that can be explored by raft or kayak.Hot Tip:
The National Park Service offers printable and interactive maps on its website to help you plan your park excursions.
What To See and Do in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
There is no shortage of sights and activities at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Whether you prefer leisure strolls along the coast or exciting opportunities to kayak in the surrounding waters, want to watch for wildlife, or tour the park by airplane, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy. Take a look at the most popular activities at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Bartlett Cove is a wonderful place to explore when visiting Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This area can be accessed by plane or boat from the town of Gustavus.
When visiting the Bartlett Cove area, many guests choose to go on a guided walk with a park ranger. Walk the Forest Trail winds through Bartlett Cove and takes guests through a forest of spruce and hemlock trees with beautiful ponds scattered throughout. The trail ends at the beach, where you may have the chance to hear the blows of a humpback or see a harbor seal.
Sea kayaking and birdwatching are excellent activities to participate in at Bartlett Cove. This area of the park also features The Huna Tribal House. This tribal house offers visitors a chance to see the carved totems and house screen and learn about the cultural history of the park.
There are nearly 300 types of birds that have been documented in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, making this Alaskan park a superb place for birdwatching. A wide variety of seabirds and land birds can be spotted in this national park. Frequently seen birds include common ravens, American 3-toed woodpeckers, northwestern crows, puffins, gulls, and guillemots.
There are many areas to see the birds of Glacier Bay National Park, including at the visitor center, on the islands, and at marine feeding sites at Point Carolus, Point Gustavus, and Sitakaday Narrows. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera for amazing views and photographs of the birds that make their home in the park.
Dry Bay is an area of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve that is 5 miles from the sea. There is a river that runs through this area called the Alsek River. This area of the park is now used for hunting and sport fishing, but it is also an incredible place for sightseeing and photography.
Visitors of the park are able to boat down the Alsek River, take in views of the Fairweather Mountains in the distance, ride the ATV trails, and explore the land of the area.
Fishermen are in for a treat at Dry Bay, as there are over 30 commercial fishing camps throughout this part of the preserve. Sport fishing is a top activity in this area, and fishermen often reel in an impressive haul of the fish that live in the rivers. Salmon is the most common fish in the area, and the different types of salmon in this part of the park include pink salmon, coho, chum, and sockeye.Hot Tip:
Camping is also a popular activity in the Dry Bay region of the park. There is 1 public-use cabin and plenty of places for backcountry camping in this area.
Since the park and preserve are surrounded by water, it is a perfect place to cast a line and reel in a catch. There are opportunities for both saltwater and freshwater fishing at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. A variety of fish can be caught in the waters of Glacier Bay, including salmon, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden char. Park visitors can fish from the shore or near a stream or take off in a kayak or larger boat. Spending time fishing at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is an excellent way to make memories with friends and loved ones.
One of the most thrilling ways to experience Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is from above. These tours are not provided by the National Park Service, but there are numerous companies that offer a variety of tour packages to choose from. Touring the park by air gives spectacular views of the majestic mountains, massive glaciers, and sparkling waters of Alaska. There’s no better way to get up close and personal views of the incredible features of Glacier Bay National Park than by booking a flightseeing tour.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a great park for those who love to hike. The Bartlett Cove area is the only developed area of the park, and it is excellent for hiking. There are several trails in the Bartlett Cove area, most of which are considered easy hikes, but there are some moderate to difficult hikes as well. Some of the most popular trails at this park include the Forest Trail, Tlingit Trail, and the Bartlett River Trail. Hiking is one of the best ways to discover and appreciate the natural beauty and wonder of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Hunting is permitted in Glacier Bay National Preserve, which is located near Dry Bay, Alaska. An Alaska state hunting license is required for hunters ages 16 and up. The most common game that is hunted in the national preserve includes waterfowl, coastal brown bear, moose, wolf, black bear, and mountain goat.
Kayaking and Rafting
Kayaking and rafting are popular activities at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, thanks to the multitude of water surrounding it. This national park has freshwater and saltwater bodies that are great for spending a day floating and sightseeing. Most kayak trips start in the Bartlett Cove area, and rafting trips usually start out at Tatshenshini at Shawshe/Dalton Post. Several commercial operators are authorized to operate in Glacier Bay National Park, so visitors shouldn’t have difficulty securing boats and scheduling trips.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is an incredible place for wildlife watching. A wide variety of wildlife lives in this national park and preserve from every animal species. Some of the animals of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve include Stellar sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, harbor porpoises, humpback whales, and moose.
Many visitors are excited at the possibility of whale watching. Humpback whales are often spotted in the lower region near Sitakaday Narrows, South Marble Island, and Whidbey Passage.
Other popular animals that are found in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve are black and brown bears. Black bears are commonly found in the forest regions, near Bartlett Cove, Bartlett River, North and South Sandy Cove, and at the Beardslee Islands. Brown bears can be found north of Tidal Inlet in the west arm and north of Adams Inlet in the east arm.
There are 2 buildings that serve as visitor centers for Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Glacier Bay National Park Visitor Center is located on the second floor of Glacier Bay Lodge. This visitor center is 10 miles from Gustavus, in the Bartlet Cove area. Glacier Bay National Park Visitor Center offers special programs, park films, and natural history exhibits. There is also an information desk, a reading area, and a bookstore on-site.
The Visitor Information Station is located at the public-use dock in Bartlet Cove. This visitor station is where required orientations are held for boaters and campers. Visitors can obtain permits and information at this station, and there is also a small store for purchasing maps, books, and souvenirs.
The visitor centers at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve are excellent places to begin your adventures during your stay. Be sure to check out one or both of these locations when you visit.
Best Times To Visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Visiting Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a chance of a lifetime, no matter when you visit. However, there are better times than others to plan a trip if you want to experience a specific event or activity. Take a look below at some of the best times to visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Best Time To Visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve for Ideal Weather
It’s never fun when the weather interferes with your vacation plans, so planning ahead can be a lifesaver when scheduling your trip. If you want to visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve for ideal weather, you should plan to visit during the month of June. The weather ranges from the upper 40s to the low 60s, and June is one of the driest months throughout the year. There’s always a chance of rain in this part of Alaska, so don’t forget your rain gear. The best way to experience this park is with ideal weather. A June trip is your best option for comfortable temperatures and a low chance of rain ruining your plans.
Best Time To Visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve To Avoid the Crowds
A solitary vacation is a wonderful way to enjoy time at a national park. The least busy time to visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is in the month of September. Once schools have returned to session from the summer holiday and once Labor Day has passed, the park sees fewer guests, making it an excellent time for a visit.
Best Time To Visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve for Wildlife Watching
The best month to visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve to observe wildlife is in June. During the month of June, harbor seal pups can be seen on icebergs and on the tidewater glaciers. Many visitors spot humpback and killer whales during this month as well. Sitka black-tailed deer are found moving to alpine areas, and dozens of bird species can be found in alpine areas or near the coastal water. Catching a glimpse and capturing photographs of the amazing animals that live in this area is one of the highlights of a visit to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Cheapest Time To Visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Saving money while traveling seems impossible, but with smart planning, it is completely possible. The cheapest time to visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is from mid to late August. The flight rates and lodging rates are at their lowest in the nearby town of Gustavus. To go easy on your budget, plan an August trip to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Events in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve hosts a variety of events on a regular schedule. These events are typically led by park rangers and offer fantastic opportunities to learn about the culture, history, and plant and animal life in the park.
Many of these programs are offered in the month of June, which is one of the busiest months at the park. Some of the popular events at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve include Navigating Narratives, Swimming Through Glacier Bay, and Ice Ice Baby.
Where To Stay in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
The first order of business when planning a vacation is determining where you will stay during the course of your trip. When visiting this national park, there are several options for lodging both in and near the park. Let’s take a look at the options in and near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Inside the Park
There are a couple of options for staying within the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Whether you prefer sleeping under a brilliant sky in the great outdoors or a traditional facility, there’s a lodging solution that will work for you in this national park. Take a look at the options for staying in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Bartlett Cove Campground
The Bartlett Cove Campground is a walk-in campground for tent campers. This is the only designated campground in the park. This campground is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Campers are required to attend an orientation prior to setting up camp. This orientation outlines the regulations for camping.
Amenities at Bartlett Cove Campground include bear-proof food lockers, compost toilets, a small warming shelter, a fire pit located on the beach, and free firewood.
Sleeping under the stars at Bartlett Cove Campground is the ultimate way to experience Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Glacier Bay Lodge
Glacier Bay Lodge is the only option for lodging within the park boundaries that offers traditional lodging accommodations. This lodge is open from the middle of May through early September.
Located in the forest on the shore of Bartlett Cove, it has comfortable rooms, an on-site restaurant, amazing views of the wilderness, and opportunities for kayaking, fishing, hiking, and boat tours. There’s also a shuttle bus provided by this lodge to transport visitors from Gustavus Airport to the lodge.
For visitors who want to stay within the park’s boundaries, Glacier Bay Lodge has everything for a memorable stay at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Towns Near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
There aren’t many gateway towns to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, but there are a couple of options for visitors who want to stay nearby. One of the towns is just a 7-minute drive from the park, while the other is a short plane ride away. Let’s explore the different options for setting up a home base near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Gustavus is just over 3 miles from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This small community of less than 500 residents has several options for lodging, dining, and recreation. This would be a wonderful place to set up a home away from home during your Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve vacation.
There are a few selections for lodging, including locally-owned inns, lodges, and charming bed and breakfasts. For dining, the lodges in the area have wonderful dining rooms on-site, and there are also several local cafes and restaurants in the town.
Adventure abounds in Gustavus. This city is in a perfect location for whale watching, kayaking, hiking, biking, and fishing.
With its close proximity to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Gustavus is an excellent choice for visitors who want to stay near the park.
Juneau is 50 miles from Glacier Bay National Park. While this seems relatively close, it is essential to keep in mind that if you plan to stay in Juneau, you will need to fly into a town near the park in order to enter. The capital city of Alaska and offers an abundance of accommodations, restaurants, and activities.
The city features the widest array of accommodations in Southeast Alaska, so you should be able to find exactly what you are looking for. From gorgeous luxury hotels and rustic lodges to charming bed and breakfasts and riverfront retreats, there’s a perfect lodging option for every visitor in Juneau.
The culinary scene is fantastic, with amazing seafood restaurants, downtown diners, pubs, breweries, and distilleries scattered throughout the town. Whether you are craving a juicy burger or a spread of Alaskan seafood, you’ll find many options to treat your tastebuds to some of the best cuisine in the state.
Juneau is the perfect place to stay if you are seeking adventure during your trip to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. On top of spending time exploring the park, there are endless opportunities for recreation and entertainment. Visitors enjoy fishing, wildlife viewing, whale watching, and exploring glaciers, as well as visiting the local shops, museums, galleries, and the historic district of the town.
Where To Eat In and Near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
There aren’t many options for dining in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, but you can rest assured that you won’t go hungry when visiting. With 1 restaurant on the park’s property and a few scattered in the nearby town, you are sure to find sustenance during your park adventures. Take a look at some of the dining options in and near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Fairweather Dining Room
The Fairweather Dining Room is located in Glacier Bay Lodge. It is the only option for dining within the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This restaurant is open daily for breakfast and dinner. Visitors can eat inside the gorgeous dining room or outside on the deck, surrounded by the stunning landscapes and wildlife of the park.
The menu at Fairweather Dining Room includes local seafood specialties, top-quality steaks, hearty soups, and fresh salads. The breakfast at this restaurant is a loaded breakfast buffet featuring seasonal fruits, breakfast pastries, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, and more.
For a tasty meal with unbeatable views, be sure to stop in at Fairweather Dining Room during your Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve vacation.
Excursion Restaurant at the Bear Track Inn
Excursion Restaurant at the Bear Track Inn is located in the town of Gustavus, just 10 miles from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
This gourmet restaurant offers an entertaining experience and a delicious meal. Guests are able to watch the chefs cook incredible meals in a show kitchen as they dine. The menu features homemade bread, soups, salads, and nightly specials made with chicken, salmon, steak, caribou, and buffalo. There’s also an impressive wine and dessert menu with selections to accompany your meal.
Plan to dine at Excursion Restaurant during your trip to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve for an unforgettable meal with a relaxing atmosphere.
Fireweed Gallery Coffee and Tea House
Fireweed Gallery Coffee and Tea House is a local art gallery and restaurant located in Gustavus, about 10 miles from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This restaurant is open 6 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch, and early dinners.
Everything on the menu is made with organic, local, and fair-trade ingredients. There are also many options for guests with gluten-free diets. The menu features made-to-order crepes, breakfast biscuits, stacked deli sandwiches, and fresh seafood dishes. Customers recommend turkey, bacon, and artichoke sandwiches, Nutella crepes, and breakfast burritos.
Fireweed Gallery Coffee and Tea House also has an impressive drink menu. The coffee drinks are made with locally-roasted, organic, and fair-trade coffee beans. No matter what you order to quench your thirst, your tastebuds will be pleased with kombucha, hot teas, matcha, milkshakes, and espresso creations.
When visiting Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, stop by Fireweed Gallery Coffee and Tea House for a delicious drink, a tasty meal, and the opportunity to admire creations by local artists.
Glacier Bay Country Inn Restaurant
Glacier Bay Country Inn Restaurant is located in Gustavus, just 3 miles from Glacier Bay National Park. This restaurant serves world-class cuisine, fine wines, and delectable desserts.
The menu offers delightful specialties made with Alaskan seafood and wild game, and locally-sourced ingredients and produce. Customers rave about the Dungeness crab, mushroom bisque, maple donuts, and chocolate mousse.
Glacier Bay Country Inn Restaurant is a convenient option for dining near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. It’s a great place to enjoy a meal with a view as the restaurant looks out into the Alaskan wilderness.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Facts
1. A Newly Established National Park
In February 1925, the Glacier Bay area was declared a national monument. Over 5 decades later, in 1980, this area was designated a national park and preserve. The Alaska Interest Lands Conservation Act was signed by President Jimmy Carter, which established Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
2. Glaciers Galore
Over 1,000 glaciers are in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Glaciers cover over 27 percent of the park, and more than 50 of the glaciers in this park are named. The longest glacier is Grand Pacific Glacier, which is over 40 miles long. The fastest glacier is the Johns Hopkins Glacier, which moves up to 15 miles a day.
3. Early Explorers
Captain George Vancouver first discovered and surveyed the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve area in 1794. Later, environmental advocate John Muir came to study and research this area. He relied on the tribe who lived in the area and then brought the world’s attention to this Alaskan land.
4. Biosphere Reserve
In 1986, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was declared a World Biosphere Reserve. This honor means that the park and preserve is a place for learning for sustainable development.
5. Glacial Movement
The glaciers at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve don’t just stay stationary. These massive ice structures flow forward 3 to 6 feet per day. This movement is caused by numerous reasons, including gravity and climate change.
6. World Heritage Site
Glacier Bay National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. There are 18 areas in the National Park Service that are World Heritage Sites. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve proudly holds this honor and title.
7. Largest Glacial Retreat on the Planet
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is the most dramatic documented large-scale glacial retreat on the planet. This incredible place provides amazing opportunities for scientists to study tidewater glaciers and the ecosystems that have developed around them.
8. Covered in Ice
About 27 percent of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is covered in ice in the form of glaciers. Until the beginning of the 1700s, this area was a single sheet of solid glacier ice.
9. Original People of the Park
The original inhabitants of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve area were the Huna Tlingit. In ancient times, this group relied on the water for food and transportation. In 1750, the Huna Tlingit had to flee the area due to a glacial surge, but they returned once the ice retreated. Today, the Glacier Bay area is considered their spiritual homeland. Visitors can tour different meaningful areas of the Tlingit tribe, such as Xunaa Shuká Hít and the Huna Tribal House in the Bartlett Cove area of the park. There are cultural interpretive programs and displays that teach visitors about the stories of these people. One exciting highlight of this area is the carved totem poles.
10. An Abundance of Animals
A great number of animals make their home in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. 329 fish species, 247 types of birds, 12 marine mammals, 34 land mammals, 1 type of reptile, and 1 type of amphibian can be found in this Alaskan park. Some of the prominent animals of Glacier Bay National Park include humpback whales, harbor seals, orcas, sea otters, sea lions, black bears, moose, wolves, and bald eagles. When visiting Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, you will want to bring along your camera and binoculars for the best views and photographs of the variety of animals that call this park home.
11. A Massive Park
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve covers 3,223,384 acres of land. This large number is only 1 percent of Alaska, but don’t let the small percent fool you. This national park is the sixth-largest national park in the U.S. National Park Service.
12. Highs and Lows
The highest point of elevation at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is on Mount Fairweather. This mountain measures 15,320 feet. The lowest point of elevation is at the Pacific Ocean, which measures 0 feet in elevation.
13. Threatened Species
There are several endangered or threatened species that live in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The humpback whale and peregrine falcon are both federally listed as endangered. The Stellar sea lion and the spectacled eider are on the threatened species list. This park offers these animals a safe place to call home.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a magical land filled with beauty and wonder. There’s so much to experience in this national park — from kayaking and watching the spectacular wildlife to camping in the great outdoors and hiking, every visitor can find something to enjoy. Book your trip to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and discover what brings in so many visitors from around the world.
Featured Image Credit: Robert Linder via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve does not require an entrance pass. This is a free-entry park for you to enjoy. Additional fees for flying into the park or taking the ferry to the park should be expected.
It is recommended to spend 3 to 4 days at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This allows plenty of time to see the highlights of the park and participate in a tour or guided program.
The weather varies throughout the year at Glacier Bay National Park. Summer temperatures range from the 50s to 60s, and winter temperatures are typically in the 20s and 30s. This national park receives 70 to 80 inches of precipitation throughout the year, 14 feet of that falling as snow.
Pets are welcomed in many areas at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve if they are always leashed and cleaned up after.
Was this page helpful?
INSIDERS ONLY: UP PULSE™
Travel is changing fast... Stay on top of all the points strategies, exclusive offers & pivotal news - and lock in huge savings along the way.
Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.
UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.