Every Southeast Alaskan local has their own favorite outdoor activity. Fishing, hunting, ice skating, climbing, trekking.. you name it. My all-time favorite way to spend time in Southeast Alaska is by hiking. Kids start hiking in Juneau from the time when they’re still in carriers, and many of us grow up to be basically mountain goats. I want to chat about just a small number of my favorite trails in Juneau, some gear that I always bring, and the best time to go to Southeast Alaska!
HOW I GOT INTO HIKING
I didn’t grow up like many Alaskan local kids. We moved from Europe to the United States when I was 7 years old and pretty soon after that moved to Juneau, Alaska. Growing up, we were always out walking, my dog was one spoiled pup. But, I never had a love for hiking new trails or getting to a new summit until I was a teenager. Plus, I had never spent a summer in Juneau until the summer after I graduated high school. If you miss the summer in Juneau, you miss a lot of hiking opportunities! I know the same is with all hiking in Southeast Alaska.
After I graduated high school, I got a job working for TEMSCO Helicopters (more on this amazing company and the Alaskan tourism vibe here), and I was surrounded by a group of people who were my age, lots of them have moved to Alaska specifically to spend time outdoors and we all explored together! I started hiking more and more and developed a real love for being able to summit a mountain in Juneau on my own two feet, then having the joy of jogging back down and having a great meal to end the day.
TYPE OF HIKING IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA
The beauty of growing up in Juneau is that a big chunk of the trails in the valley and the mountains are not technically difficult. Really, anybody can do them! My favorite part of coming back home when I haven’t been in hiking shape for a while is that I can always start easier, and the views are just as amazing on easier trails as they are on summits.
Growing up, we did a ton of amazing walks and more flat trails in the backcountry. The five major summits of Juneau are all roughly 2,500 feet in elevation, starting at sea level. The backcountry hiking is incredible and connects many major trails together. Those who really want a challenge find a way to do multiple day hikes in and near Juneau.
GEAR NEEDED TO HIKE IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA
Pretty basic gear would be fine to be comfortable while hiking. Really, in Juneau all you need is:
Good shoes (waterproof is preferred): I just bought these Merrells here.
Rain coat, rain pants, baseball cap: Gore-tex is your friend.
Layers: minimal hoods, make sure there’s a fleece somewhere in there!
If you’re hiking in the winter, Kahtoola Microspikes would be a great addition.
Living in Boston, people here always talk about the White Mountains and Presidential Traverse, and the way they describe this hike doesn’t seem too fun. All I hear are stories on how you can get all four seasons in a day, how you’re brutally cold at the top, how it’s rare to have a view from the summit, etc.
Luckily, Juneau is blessed to have the most amazing (in my opinion) mild climate perfect to be outside. It rains/snows 300 days out of the year, which is a lot, but some good rain gear and good shoes and you’re good to go!
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE HIKES FOR EVERY SEASON
- Dan Moller Cabin
- Boy Scout Beach
- Salmon Creek Dam
- Windfall Lake Trail
- West Glacier Trail
- John Muir Cabin
- All meadows!
- Any lake trail! Dredge Lake, Mendenhall Lake etc…
- Perseverance Trail
Juneau comes alive in the summer. One million tourists, more sunshine, blooming fireweed, 20 hours of sunlight, all the works! Some of my favorite hikes are: Mt, Juneau, Mt. McGinnis, Thunder Mtn, Boy Scout Beach and Dan Moller Cabin!
I’m looking forward to posting more hikes in Juneau, and help you with planning your next trip to the best state in the U.S.