Glacier Bay National Park is a great place for curious cats. Being an exceptionally curious feline myself, I found the wide variety of plants and animals to be particularly satisfying. While Glacier Bay is the 6th largest national park in the US, the areas for hiking and exploration by boat and relatively contained. This means you can get a great experience of Glacier Bay’s forest and shoreline in a short visit. Read our Glacier Bay review to learn how you and your human can make the most of your visit.
The Boat Tour
If you only do one thing at Glacier Bay, make sure it’s the Glacier Bay Day Tour. This tour consists of an 8-hour boat ride, traversing the entire length of the bay. Tickets cost approximately $230 per adult. This is the only public-facing tour of the area and it’s owned and operated by the National Park Service.
To clarify, if you want to explore the park by boat, you need to book this tour – the park limits outside boat traffic to preserve wildlife.
I took my boat tour in late July. In addition to an abundance of sea otters, we saw multiple humpback whales, stellar sea lions, a family of long-haired mountain goats, bald eagles, puffins, and a brown bear swimming with her cub.
To avoid disturbing the wildlife, the boat stays a healthy distance away from the shoreline. If you want good pictures to show off later, I’d recommend either buying or renting a telephoto lens before your trip.
While spotting the local wildlife is certainly fun and exciting, it should come as no surprise that the real stars of the tour are the glaciers. When all was said and done, my tour ended up seeing 7 tidewater glaciers. We even spent nearly 30 minutes in front of Margerie, which is arguably the most majestic glacier in the park. While parked in front of Margerie, the crew patiently took everyone’s picture and handed out cups of hot cocoa.
An advantage of starting at the early hour of 7:30 am is that the tour ends at 3:30 pm. This leaves plenty of time to make it to the airport or to enjoy an evening at the lodge.
Hiking in Glacier Bay
While this area is not known for hiking, I’d recommend taking an extra day to explore on foot. At the very least, you’ll get away from the crowds, and at best you’ll fall in love with the peace and quiet of the dense rainforest that surrounds the bay.
I’d recommend starting with Forest Loop trail. The trailhead is located just outside of the front door of Glacier Bay Lodge. This is a quiet, mile-long walk, which mostly takes place on a flat boardwalk. You’ll be treated to an abundance of greenery, as well as a beautiful lagoon with tons of birds and endless photo opportunities.
For an extended hike, I’d recommend doing the Bartlett River Trail. It starts on the gravel road that runs behind the lodge. Before reaching the official trailhead, you’ll pass by the Huna Tribal House, which is a great, 15-minute stop. Here you’ll learn about the history of the land.
The trail starts out in a dense, temperate rainforest, meandering through old-growth trees with a ton of interesting mushrooms to look at. You’ll pass by several lagoons before emerging into an open field featuring a pristine river and views of snow-covered mountains. The trial continues next to the river indefinitely. I walked next to the river for about 20 minutes before turning back. The entire hike lasted approximately 3.5 hours.
Glacier Bay Lodge
No Glacier Bay review is complete without a mention of the famous Glacier Bay Lodge. Sitting on the edge of Bartlett Cove, this charming hotel provides rooms with truly spectacular views.
The main lobby features a large, wraparound deck overlooking the calm water, framed by snow-covered mountains. You can even buy a bottle of wine in the hotel gift shop, an experience guaranteed to make an indulgent trip even more amazing.
As a hotel guest, you can also get a dinner reservation, which I would highly recommend. I personally enjoyed a 3-course meal consisting of a piping hot bowl of seafood chowder, a gourmet burger, and creme brulee for dessert.
An overnight stay at the Glacier Bay Lodge is the perfect way to end a day in the park.