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Mendenhall Glacier ice cave hike


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I just came back from a hiking trip near Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska. I heard about the ice cave under Mendenhall Glacier for a while and wanted to visit it before it melts away. Juneau’s summer temperature is like late October in north FL (about 50-60), where I live. Another thing to note is that it rains constantly in Juneau, mostly sprinkles, sometimes pours. So I brought waterproof gears just in case. I began hiking from the West Glacier trail (trail head located on Skater’s Cabin’s road, a hand written board points to the direction of the trail). This trial is well maintained clear marked.


After about 1.2 miles, I got off West Glacier trail and turned to the West Glacier Spur trail. The next 1.3 miles was pretty challenging. This trail was very poorly marked, very muddy. I started following the neon ribbons tied by previous hikers from this point on. There were couples of creeks without bridges and some places were flooded. I tried to go through the creek with bear foot, so my shoes don’t get wet (above-ankle high; flooded area was Knee high. You could go around the flooded area but very muddy). The water came from the Glacier, it was COLD!DSCN3377.thumb.JPG.8d9350342bae6494cc1367240a582b66.JPG

After 2 miles, I encountered another challenge --- I needed to climb over an 5-story-tall rocky hill. The suffice of the hill was very steep (about 80-85 degrees) with loose rocks and was slippery from the rain. Thankfully I brought my crampons!


Once I climbed over the steep hill, I got the first close-up glimpse of the glacier. The glacier was powerful and majestic, lying in the arms of mountains like a silent giant. The next step was to some how get down to the bottom and go find the entrance of the ice cave. It didn’t look as steep as the other side but loose rocks were dangerous.


Finally reached the ice cave. This place is unearthly beautiful! It is cold as a freezer with dripping celling. The glacier appeared to be blue, because the ice filtered all spectrums of light but blue.



I went back the same way I got here. Got lost couple of times because the rocky hill looks similar all the way around. Total distance was 5 miles out and back. Not a long hike but the climbing part can be dangerous. The ice cave worth the effort tho!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks Paul! Glad you enjoyed those pictures. I look forward to hiking on Mt. McGinnis trail next time, where I can see Mendenhall Glacier from the top. 

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The ice cave looks fantastic, Naira!
Thank you for the report, I pretty much like the majestic photo from the steep hill. 

I'm glad you visited the cave before it started to melt.

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Thanks Jeffrey, this is a tough hike but the view was totally worth it! I was completely by my self from the trail head to the ice cave (I ran into visitors inside of the ice cave, who came by boats), I enjoyed the serenity of the hike. I was expecting to see a bear or two but no luck. I attached some more pix from the trip:












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Thanks for the pics, Naira.
I especially like the last one. It's incredibly beautiful.

Maybe it's even better you didn't meet a bear.

Wish you more enjoyable hikes :)

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Your welcome, the ice cave is melting and the glacier has been receding. I am glad to see it when the cave is still there. Even though I did not see bears, I saw bold eagles, whales, and seals. AK trip was great. 

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Stunning photos! Thank you for sharing, Naira.

It's a fabulous place. A great wonder of the United States nature. I would love to visit this place in the nearest future!

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You are welcome, glad you enjoyed them! Hope you get to see it someday, it will be an amazing experience. If you do, feel free to inbox me if you have questions about the trail. The later half the hike was off trail, pretty easy to get lost. One thing I could have done but didn't was hiking on the glacier, cause I didn't bring gears to walk on ice and snow. 

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Many thanks, if I will need some advice, now I know where to turn :)  I want to do glacier hiking, it'll be great experience, I think. 

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