Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

Where is Glacier Bay National Park

Located in the northern portion of the southeastern portion of Alaska that butts up against Canada, Glacier Bay US National Park is a large park that encompasses several islands and multiple peninsulas that are common for the terrain of the area. Because the park is so vast and remote, the nearest town with drivable roads to the park is the town of Gustaves, which is only accessible by plane otherwise. Effin Cove is a town that sits just south from the park and those that would have access to a boat would be able to approach the park quickly from there.

How Big is Glacier Bay National Park

The park is enormous, especially when compared to most of the smaller parks that are found in the lower 48 states. Glacier Bay National Park spans across around 3.3 million acres which cover several large mountains, giant and ever-changing glaciers, healthy temperate forests, many sprawling coastlines, and multiple majestic fjords. On top of the 3.3 million acres the park is also part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site, making it one of the world’s largest international protected areas.

Sunny Beautiful Day Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park Weather

The weather that is found in southeast Alaska is as rugged and ever changing as the park itself. Visitors to the park can expect the weather to change dramatically even within a matter of hours no matter the time of year or day. The weather in the park can be split up into two seasons which will help you when planning your next visit to Glacier Bay National Park, those seasons are the warm season and cold season. The warm season typically lasts 3.3 months of the year, within that time the weather is typically cloudy and cool with the temperatures rarely reaching over 67 degrees. The cold season will typically last 4.3 months, temperatures will go as low as 21 degrees and spike up to 31 degrees on average. The peak time of year for rain is in the month of September and while there is often snow for 6 months of the year December tends to have the most snow.

When did Glacier Bay National Become a National Park

Glacier Bay National Park has been home to the Tlingit people for thousands of years and lived there unbothered until the 1700’s when multiple explorers came across it and began to explore the area. The area has been a popular tourist attraction ever since, even bringing the interest of John Muir who spent a lot of time exploring the glaciers. The park was first established as a monument in 1925, until in 1980 it was then established as a National Park.

Things to do in Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park offers a vast number of activities for visitors to participate in, our National Park Visitors Guide created the following list which will go over some information for you to consider when planning your next trip to the area.

Glacier Viewing

Ever since the western world encountered the area that has become Glacier Bay National Park, there has been an enormous interest in the giant glaciers. One of the most popular ways to visit the glaciers is by boat, whether it be a private vessel or cruise ship, which allows you to get as close as is safely possible and still be able to get the full viewing experience.


There are areas that visitors of Glacier Bay National Park are allowed to camp in, the main regulation being that each visitor must fill and submit to the park service before they are allowed to camp. There is backcountry camping available but there are also more developed campgrounds in the Bartlett Cove campgrounds which also require a free permit, the campsites are on a first come first serve basis and are only accessible by foot.


While visitors can explore the massive amounts of coastline, there are several hiking trails that can be found in the Bartlett Cove area of Glacier Bay National Park. There are four main trails open for exploration, the shortest trail is Tlingit Trail which is .5 miles and focuses on the native history of the area. The longest trail is the Bartlett Lake Trail which is 8 miles long and ends near the mouth of the river where the summer spawns of salmon, and the plethora of wildlife they bring, can be seen.

Aerial View of Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

Ranger Guided Activities

Because of the large Native American history that is found in Glacier Bay National Park and the surrounding areas much of the ranger led activities in Bartlett Cove are centered around the several tribes that have called the area home. Rangers are also aboard the cruise ships and tour vessels to help educate the visitors of the many ecological and historical significance that can be found in the park.


There are many cruise ships that bring large amounts of visitors to the area as well as providing other activities, but for visitors that would like a more in-depth tour of the park there are smaller touring vessels and boats to rent that allow visitors to get the experience they desire when visiting Glacier Bay National Park.


Most of the park is open to visitors that would like to canoe or kayak across the many waters of Glacier Bay National Park. There are several prohibited areas as well as many potential dangers that visitors should consider both while they plan their trip but also keep an eye out during their visit to ensure a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.


The abundance of fish and other sea life is one of the many reasons that people have lived in the area of Glacier Bay National Park for thousands of years. The main sportfish that can be pursued in the park are the five main species of salmon that run up the rivers to spawn. Be sure to check the regulations and season dates before planning a fishing trip to the park.

Wildlife Viewing

There is a large amount of biodiversity in Glacier Bay National Park, which allows visitors to see animals and birds that they would not normally get the opportunity to see. Some of the most popular animals that can be seen are moose, whales, both black and brown bears, and orcas. There are also seals, otters, sea lions, and smaller land mammals like red squirrels and porcupines.

When to go to Glacier Bay National Park

Whenever you plan on visiting Glacier Bay National Park and the surrounding areas you will most likely be subjected to no matter the time of year. You will also find that there aren’t as many creature comforts like you might find in other parks around the country mainly because of the remoteness and wild nature of the landscape. This will force you to take the time to properly take the extra precautions necessary to have a safe trip. Because of the relatively mild weather compared to the rest of the year, visitors will find that the summer months will be the most enjoyable and easily accessible for visitors that would like to explore the park, whether they want to kayak, camp, or fish the park.

Woman Kayaking on Muir Inlet at Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

Must-Have Things to Bring to Glacier Bay National Park

It can be quite intimidating when considering what to bring on a trip to Glacier Bay National Park.  List of Parks highlights the following items that will be a good jumping off point for you to consider.


Apart from the fishing and potential foraging you could do during your stay at Glacier Bay National Park there are no ways of acquiring food so you will be responsible to bring your own. Be sure to plan not only for the duration of your stay but enough to subsist on for a short while in the event of an emergency.

Proper Clothing

Because of the harsh conditions and unpredictable weather that you will experience in Glacier Bay National Park, it is imperative that you pack the proper types and amounts of clothing. Tough and durable clothing that will keep you warm and dry are the most important to bring.Since the rain is so intense and common it can be hard to stay dry so be sure to pack extra clothing in the event you get wet.

Camping Supplies

If you plan to camp anywhere within Glacier Bay National Park, even in the more developed Bartlett Cove campsites, you will need to bring supplies and equipment that will withstand anything that the intense weather can throw at it. Invest in high quality gear that will keep the elements off of you and your other gear.

Survival Supplies

Because of how remote and intense the terrain and conditions are in Glacier Bay National Park, if there are any emergencies you will most likely be on your own for a period of time until you can signal help and for emergency professionals to reach you. Survival kits and proper knowledge of how to use them will help keep you safe and ensure a safe return home.

First Aid Kit

On top of a survival kit, a first aid kit will be a crucial thing to bring with you to Glacier Bay National Park. Invest in one that can handle the most intense medical emergencies since professional help could be far away depending on the situation.

Fishing Gear

For those visitors that want to pursue the fertile waters that surround Glacier Bay National Park you should consider the intense conditions and potentially large fish that can be found there. Do proper research ahead of time for any permits and licenses necessary to avoid any legal trouble as well.


Glacier Bay National Park has some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes available to those that wish to paddle across the waters. Bring not only a safe and durable canoe or kayak that will handle the conditions, but also the proper safety gear that will help keep you safe in an emergency. Also research how to safely navigate the sometimes-intense water conditions.

Huge Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

Where to Stay in Glacier Bay National Park

The easiest way to spend several days within Glacier Bay National Park would be to invest in the time, effort, and supplies necessary to camp or spend the money for a stay on a comfortable cruise ship. But for those that want to stay somewhere that’s not in a tent but is nearby there is a place to stay in the nearby town of Gustaves, it will be a good idea to reach out ahead of time to check for availability of rooms.

Food Nearby Glacier Bay National Park

For those that want to spend most of their time within the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park camping and exploring the areas on their own, bringing your own food and ways to prepare it is the simplest way to eat during your stay. But during the seasons that it is open there is the Glacier Bay Lodge that serves food to visitors.

Airports Near Glacier Bay National Park

Because of how remote Glacier Bay National Park is and how little road travel is available in the area, there is only one nearby airport that will get you close enough to the park which is the Gustaves Airport, which will most likely be open to flights from other airports such as the Juneau International Airport. Be sure to research all the available flights and companies that provide them for a reliable plane to transport you and your supplies.

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