Glacier Bay National Park

Fact Box

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Established in 1980
3,283,246 acres
Visitation (2006) 413,382

Along the coast of southeast Alaska lie a park and preserve filled with snow- and ice-covered mountain peaks, narrow fjords, bays, harbors, scattered islands, a temperate rainforest of spruces and hemlocks, and numerous glaciers. 

According to Tlingit oral history and investigation, Glacier Bay had been home to the Huna people between periods of glacial advances over thousands of years. A little over 200 years ago, what is now Glacier Bay was then a glacier more than 4,000 feet thick and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias Mountain Range. Less than 100 years later, the glacier had retreated 48 miles. Early in the 20th century, it had drawn back 65 miles from the bay's mouth. Such rapid retreat is known nowhere else. Today, icebergs continue to calve (break off) into the bay.

Glacier Bay's varied terrain offers an array of activities for both the more and less adventurous. If you plan to get around on foot, bring boots. There are three maintained trails in the park: a short walk through the forest, a five-mile river trail, and a lake trail that passes through a rainforest.

Kayaks are a popular way to explore the coast and backcountry. Rent a kayak and paddle along the extensive shoreline to view wildlife. Inland, if you can navigate the swift, glacial Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers, you'll be rewarded with marvelous scenery, environmental diversity, and bear, moose, and sheep sightings. Guided day and overnight kayak trips offer structure and supervision. If you prefer a smoother ride, many tour operators conduct day-long cruises around the bay. Several whale-watching excursions promise sightings of humpback, gray, minke, and orca whales.