By Radu Marculescu
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska. Laid on the upper Alaska 's Inside Passage in the Panhandle of Southeast Alaska, Juneau is approximately 600 miles southeast of Anchorage and 900 miles northwest of Seattle, Washington.
With 31,000 year round residents, Juneau is the third largest city in Alaska. By area, Juneau is the largest city in the USA. The city and borough of Juneau covers 3,100 square miles. Juneau is accessible only by sea or air.
Surrounded by Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest temperate rain forest, Juneau is situated in the mildest climate zone in Alaska. With an average annual precipitation of 92 inches, it has a relatively wet climate. Winter temperatures range from 25°F to 35°F. Summer average temperatures vary between 55°F and 65°F. This climate supports Juneau’s verdant vegetation and beautiful wildflowers.
Located in the most southernly part of the state, Juneau is excluded from the part of the Mid-Night Sun region of Alaska. The longest summer day, around 21 June, is approximately 18 hours day light time.
With a million travelers arriving by cruise ship each season and another 100,000 arriving by air or ferry, Juneau is a top tourist destination and also a starting point to some of the wonderful places to visit in Alaska. With a picturesque setting between Mount Juneau and the Gastineau Channel, Juneau is described by many travel writers as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nicknamed "Little San Francisco", because of its hilly and narrow streets, Juneau is home to a wide variety of activities and attractions including the favorites such as a ride up boarding the Mount Roberts Tramway, a float trip to the world famous Mendenhall Glacier, a guided hike on Juneau Icefield, a bear viewing trip on Admiralty Island or a whale watching tour in Lynn Canal.
Juneau is famed for its rich gold rush history. Once a fishing camp for Tlingit Indians, Juneau was founded in 1880 when gold was discovered in nearby Gold Creek by two prospectors, Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau, guided by Chief Kowee of the Auk Tlingit Tribe. For a short period of time the mining town, a 160 acre incorporated city, was known as Harrisburgh or Harrisburg, Pilsbury, Fliptown and Rockwell. The name of Juneau City was selected by vote in 1881 but officially shorten to Juneau in 1882. In 1906, the capital of Alaska was moved from “Russian capital” Sitka to Juneau , a very busy and prosperous gold town. From a frontier gold mining town, Juneau has developed continuously to become one of America's most beautiful capital cities and a favorite port for cruise ships. Based on government, tourism, mining and commercial fishing activities, Juneau ’s economy continues to be strong. In 2005, Juneau, Alaska ranked #11 on the list of Best Places to Live in America.
With so many things to see and do in Juneau here are some of the most practical tips for the independent visitor:
- Make Juneau the starting point for your vacation in Southeast Alaska. Juneau is well connected to other inside passage communities and other Alaska ’s destinations. The ships of Alaska Marine Highway System provide daily services between Haines, Skagway, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan
- Dress appropriately. Rain gear is a requirement
- Rent a car. Juneau has only 40 miles of paved road, and Douglas Island 22 miles
- Visit Juneau’s Convention & Visitors Bureau located at 101 Egan Dr., 907- 586-2201
- Buy a fishing license and start a fishing adventure from land or a boat in Juneau. Juneau is paradise for fly fisherman. For information and prices, ask at email@example.com. Like everywhere in Alaska, the waters of the Inside Passage, including Juneau ’s shore, are remarkable for its world-class fishing. They are abundant in all Alaskan fish species including Pacific salmon, halibut, ling cod, rockfish and red snapper. Contact Captain Todd Wicks, 9111 Miner Court , Juneau , Alaska 99801 , 800-586-6945, 907-789-2562, or http://www.experiencealaska.com/fishing.htm
- Make a Juneau orientation drive to locate the most important visitor’s attractions. Drive the scenic shoreline of Douglas Island to Outer Point Trail
- Get to the wilderness in six minutes! Board the Mount Roberts Tramway, Juneau ’s top tourist attraction located at the cruise ship docks. The tram is used by approximately 200,000 visitors each season. This is one the most vertical aerial trams in the world. The ride from 27 to 2000 feet is smooth and takes only six minutes. At the top, visit a multi-million dollar Mountain Complex. From Mount Roberts look down into Juneau and the majestic scenery surrounding the city. Once at the top, enjoy the Mount Roberts extensive hiking trail system. Be aware! This is bear country.
- Hike the Perseverance National Recreation Trail to view the historic mine ruins, and spectacular beauty of the Silverbow basin, the site of early mining activity in the Juneau area. This is one of the most scenic trails in Juneau . At its origin, the trail was the first road built in Alaska called “The Johnson Road ” that was used to access all major gold mining operations in the Gold Creek Valley.
- Enjoy the beautiful view of historic downtown. The Juneau downtown business district is found in the National Register of Historic Places and contains forty-two buildings with specific architectural characteristics from various phases of its development, representing the first half of the 20-th century commercial architecture in small Pacific coast communities. Historical buildings constructed between 1883 and 1911 were built in a Late Victorian Style
- Visit Alaska State Museums with its unique collections of gold rush memorabilia, mining equipment, and more than 15,000 artifacts from Alaska ’s native cultures. Museums location is on 395 Whittier Street
- Visit the beautiful St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, the oldest original Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska , located on Fifth Street between Gold Street and North Franklin Street
- Drive outside of the city and visit the Gastineau Salmon Hatchery, the scenic Mendenhall Glacier with its recently renovated visitor's center, and the Green Angel Gardens. Be alert! Bear bells and bear repellent are required
- Pan for gold in Gold Creek near the ruins of Alaska - Juneau gold mine, once one of the world's largest hard rock mining operations
- Take a three and a half hours Mendenhall Glacier rafting trip. The trip is floating down the scenic Mendenhall River. For reservation contact: Alaska Travel Adventures, 9085 Glacier Highway, Suite 301, Juneau, Alaska 99801, 907-789-0052. Dress appropriately! It is extremely cold. Alaska Travel Adventures also provides the opportunity to get a closer view of the Mendenhall Glacier, paddling in a two person kayak
- Take a Tracy Arm Fjord tour. This place is one of the most breathtaking sites in the world. For reservations, contact the Goldbelt Tour Center at 800- 820-2628 or 907 586-8687
- Enjoy a helicopter flightseeing, a glacier landing, and a dog sled ride. Contact Era Helicopters, Juneau , 6910 N. Douglas Hwy , 907-586-2030
- See humpback whales, orca, dolphins, sea lions, seals, eagles, otters, and glaciers on a Whale Watching Tour aboard the 42 feet the Beartrack. Contact Captain Todd Wicks, 9111 Miner Court, Juneau, Alaska 99801 , 800-586-6945, 907-789-2562
- Experience a glacier landing and a guided hiking on the Juneau Icefield. NorthStar Trekking offers three levels of glacier trekking experiences on the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield for small groups of clients with no mountaineering experience. Contact NorthStar Trekking at P.O. Box 32540 Juneau, AK 99803 , 866-590-4530,907-790-4530, or www.northstartrekking.com
- See Alaskan brown bears and be back in Juneau in time for dinner! This is a full day trip to one of the world's best bear viewing places on Admiralty Island. It includes a 25-minute scenic floatplane flight to Windfall Island in the Admiralty Island National Monument and from there, a sea kayak trip to the edge of the world-famous Stan Price Brown Bear Sanctuary at Pack Creek. Bears can be best viewed at the mouth of Pack Creek but in addition to this, you may take a 1.5 mile hike through the beautiful coastal rainforest to an observation tower on upper Pack Creek. Be prepared for a place with no facilities of any kind. For early reservations, contact the Goldbelt Tour Center at 800- 820-2628 or 907 586-8687
- Travel by ferry Southeast Alaska Routes! A visit to Juneau is not complete without a trip on the Alaska Marine Highway. A fast ferry service (40 miles per hour) is provided between Juneau and Sitka, and between Juneau, Skagway and Haines. For information, visit www.ferryalaska.com
- Visit Sitka, considered by many Alaska ’s most beautiful seaside town or visit Ketchikan , the gateway to Misty Fjords and the salmon fishing capital of the world
- Do not miss Skagway and learn about the gold rush history of Alaska and the Klondike. Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and White Pass and Chilkoot Trails.
Juneau and its breathtaking surroundings is one of the best ways to get to know Alaska. Enjoy the best of Juneau !
Top Alaska Vacation Destinations