If the likes of the Gates of The Arctic is a little too far in to the wild for your liking , Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Gustavus, Alaska is considerably more tourist friendly and accessible. There is an airport located in Gustavus for ease of access to the park. While most visitors arrive by boat to the park on major cruise liners, it’s a short drive from Gustavus by car.
For the average tourist you can enjoy the raw wilderness and beauty of this breath taking landscape while not straying too far from civilization and in relative comfort. There’s everything from large cruises ships, to medium and smaller sized vessels that provide tours around the bay area.
Bartlett cove will most likely be your initial destination, where you will find a visitor center, camping grounds, small trails to explore along with lodging facilities. The area around Bartlett cove is generally wheel chair accessible with the exception of some trails. Dogs are welcome but as with all parks they must remain under control and on a leash.
You have the option of trekking deep in to the vast expansive area of the park that spans over 3.3 million acres around the bay, you can venture in to the wilderness to spend prolonged periods without any human contact if secluded hiking and camping is your goal. If you lack wilderness experience doing so without a local guide could potentially be a fatal error. Hiring a guide from the areas is a smart option, not only will you have their experience at your service, there are many guide services in the area and they will also provide all the necessary equipment required on your journey.
Even with a guide, you will require an education of the landscape, the wildlife and no go zones in the back country. There is a basic level of visitor etiquette that is expected of all visitors.
What you can expect to see at Glacier Bay is one the most unique places on earth. The name says it all really, colossal sized glaciers, surrounded by towering jagged snow capped mountainous terrain that’s teeming with wildlife, in the relative calm of a bay (the calm can change without notice!).
The preserve hosts a thriving natural ecosystem and if you are lucky enough you may catch glimpse of any number of land or sea mammals from hump back whales, to porpoise and on land, anything fr
om porcupines to mountain goats and grizzly bears. Please remember to always keep your distance and the park has strict rules and guidelines surrounding animal interaction.
It’s a popular spot for whale watching, kayaking, rafting, moutaineering, boating and general wilderness adventure.
A trip to glacier bay is an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience that I can’t recommend enough. Whether it’s for sight seeing or adventure. It will leave a smile on your face from ear to ear as you absorb the majestic beauty of this poetic Alaskan landscape.
There is no charge to access the park, however extra activities, lodging and boating etc will incur costs.
You can enter the park throughout the year, however, off season services are very limited. The season begins in May and ends in September. During the season normal business hours apply for most services.