The purple lupines sway as the baby moose bounds behind her mother through the wildflower laden grass. With snow-capped mountains tucked in their cloud blankets, Mama moose meanders by our ocean view window at Glacier Bay Lodge. She and baby are totally unaware of our open-mouthed, super size stares.
Our warm breath fogs the glass pane as we gaze at what surely could be a wilderness documentary. Cameras in hand we tiptoe out of our lodge room and onto the wooden boardwalks toward the moose marvel.
“YOU ARE TOO CLOSE!”
Even the lupines seem to startle at the commanding voice echoing through the temperate rainforest. One of the Glacier Bay National Park rangers is keeping an eye on the moose and her calf and especially on curious visitors.
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Glacier Bay Lodge – Wilderness Paradise
“We just saw a baby moose and its mother!” I bellow as if a spaceship has just landed at the front door.
The staff member in the main lodge smiles politely.
“Oh yes they have been wandering here for the past weeks,” comes the casual reply. “They were in the parking lot this morning. Have you seen the sea otters yet?”
Is this place for real?
Fresh from the frantic pace of big city life our wilderness getaway at Glacier Bay Lodge is off to a stunning start. We brace for the tourist throngs that surely will be elbowing for the mountain shrouded ocean view on the outdoor deck.
Sipping our drinks at the patio table, all we hear are is the sing-song of birds and the scurry of a red squirrel coveting its spruce cone.
A landscape released from ice
To visit Glacier Bay is to witness geologic history on fast forward. The product of the Little Ice Age in the mid 1700’s, the entire area was rapidly covered in a 100 mile long ice river thousands of feet deep. Then as if in a glacial mass sprint, breakneck melting began.
By the time explorer John Muir came to the area in 1879, forty-five miles of Glacier Bay lay gouged open by the retreat of the glacier. Today Glacier Bay extends sixty-five miles inland as ninety-five percent of Alaska’s glaciers continue to thin and ebb.
Of the 500,000 visitors per year to this 3.3 million acre protected wildlife haven only five percent ever set foot on land. Most visitors come to Glacier Bay on the two cruise ships allowed per day in Glacier Bay National Park.
Here at the only accommodation within the park, Glacier Bay Lodge, we find one of the most peaceful and shockingly beautiful places on the globe. There will be no need for jostling on this getaway.
Where is Glacier Bay Alaska?
Snuggling near Canada’s northwest corner, this World Heritage Site can only be reached by boat or plane. A mere sixty-five miles from cruise ship jammed Juneau, Alaska, our twenty minute flight lands in Gustavus. Welcoming 737 jet service in peak summer months the town of five hundred is ten miles from Glacier Bay Lodge.
How do I get to this Alaskan wilderness gem?
Remote and accessible are not often compatible in description location, yet that is what we found Glacier Bay Lodge to be. Always on the hunt for out-of-the-way destinations we were pleasantly surprised how easy Glacier Bay was to get to.
It is true that there is no road access to Gustavus. However there are air connections from Skagway, Haines and Juneau. If you prefer a driving holiday in Alaska the Alaska Marine Highway System provides ferry service to Gustavus. Air taxi services are also available.
Free shuttle service is included for all Glacier Bay Lodge guests to and from Gustavus.
Activities at Glacier Bay Lodge
Nestled under spruce trees that line Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay Lodge welcomes visitors from late May to early September. Curling up on an oversized leather couch in front of the cozy fireplace in the main lodge may be just the peaceful experience visitors are looking for. For those who seek to connect with nature there will be no shortage of ways to do so at Glacier Bay.
Glacier Bay Day Tour
This 8 hour pick-your-jaw-off-the floor-and-repeat boat tour is the only daily tour scheduled within the confines of Glacier Bay National Park.
It is a rare day that I am left speechless, just ask my husband of decades. When the bald eagles soar and land among a few dozen of their sea lion friends all I manage to do is gape and point. From puffins to bears to whales to mountain goats to harbor seals floating by on icebergs my silent awe continues.
Moving by boat from the rainforest surrounding Glacier Bay Lodge toward the lichen covered rocks near the massive tide water glaciers, the ecosystems change before one’s eyes.
The thunder of glacier ice calving from as high as 245 feet above the ocean is met with onlookers gasps. As ice thought to be 200 years old crashes to the water, no words can convey the feeling of watching the earth’s passage of time.
Living near the Rocky Mountains we are no strangers to clean air. Yet here where the moss grows on branches like puffy jacket arms, one can’t help imagining all pure air on this planet originates from Glacier Bay.
Beginning at Glacier Bay Lodge there are several easy to moderate hikes to introduce your lungs to pristine, spruce-scented air. A wheelchair accessible boardwalk on the Forest Trail leads to two separate viewing areas of a reflecting pond.
Visit the Huna Tribal House and the Tlingit Trail
The enormity of the humpback whale skeleton along the forested trail makes the traditional Tlingit canoe nearby seem miniature in comparison. Knowing that for countless generations the Huna Tlingit people sustained themselves at Glacier Bay brings deeper meaning to one’s time here. With architecture resembling ancestral clan houses, the Huna Tribal House opened to the public in 2017. Here visitors can learn about Tlinget history and traditions.
Get out on the water
Looking to get up close and personal to an Orca or Humpback? Glacier Bay excursions for kayaking and whale watching can be booked through the front desk.. If hooking a halibut or salmon is more your style, sport fishing tours are also available. Reserving Glacier Bay tours in advance is always suggested.
Stop by the Visitor Center
From the Glacier Bay Lodge lobby climb the stairs to the second floor. The National Park Service provides exhibits, educational materials as well as daily films in the auditorium.
Glacier Bay restaurant
Whether on the deck or in the Fairweather dining room the dress code is relaxed and causal but the food is five-star. You won’t find the words ‘food critics’ on our business card but we know when food is hot, fresh and delicious.
Would it be too much to ask to have the Alaskan Halibut with fingerling potatoes delivered to Canada?
Other options for exploring
Bicycles are available for rent at the gift shop along with helmets. If you have some extra time ride into quaint Gustavus. Have a latte and snack at the coffee shop to fuel up before pedaling back to the lodge.
Prefer a bald eagle’s view? Seaplane tours over Glacier Bay are available each day departing from Gustavus or Juneau.
Tips for Visiting Glacier Bay Lodge
Dress in layers – Receiving more than 75 inches of precipitation a year and with summer highs of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius) you will want to bring your waterproof and warm clothes. However don’t forget the t-shirt and sunscreen. When the sun came out of hiding I was peeling layers like an over ripe banana.
Shopping – The gift shop at Glacier Bay Lodge has an assortment of handcrafted souvenirs by native Alaskan crafts people and a selection of snacks. The free shuttle to Gustavus runs multiple times per day providing additional shopping options.
Plug into wilderness – Glacier Bay Lodge has no cellular service but the staff will help you use their landline if needed. When asking if guests can make long distance calls the answer is yes at no charge as long as the calls are kept short. How many hotels in the world still do that?
WiFi is available the main lodge but not in the rooms. I’ve been known to crawl on my hands and knees under hotel front desks around the world in search of decent internet connection. At Glacier Bay no embarrass-your-husband-while-searching-for-WiFi shenanigans were required.
There are no televisions at Glacier Bay Lodge. We suggest pulling up a seat to your window. Not to worry. The nature documentary playing outside will blow your mind.
Sometimes words and photos just don’t do a place justice. Please click on the video below to see Glacier Bay Lodge and Glacier Bay National Park for yourself.
We were guests of Glacier Bay Lodge. All opinions, jaw drops and squeals of delight are our own.