Glacier Bay is part of a collection of parks in Canada and the USA, including Wrangell-St Elias and Kulane, that make up one of the largest UNESCO-protected areas in the world. Most park visitors come via cruise ship as this is a popular stop on Alaska cruises. We wanted to see the park up close, so we did more planning and took a few flights to reach Gustavus, where the National Park visitor center is.
How to access the Glacier Bay
If you are going via cruise ship, you simply need to select a cruise that includes the Glacier Bay portion. They only allow a couple of cruise ships daily, so not all visit this part of Alaska. We flew to Gustavus from Anchorage, which required us to fly to Juneau first and then a 14-minute flight to Gustavus. We were picked up from the tiny airport by the hotel shuttle and taken to Glacier Bay Lodge, where we stayed in the park. Once we made it to Glacier Bay Lodge, there were hiking trails we could go out on, and this is also where the scenic boat tour left from for the cruise through Glacier Bay.
What can you see in Glacier Bay National Park
On our 8-hour cruise, we saw many wildlife, including breaching whales, different bird species, otters, and stellar sea lions. We also saw goats on shore and even a bear. The ranger on the boat with us said this was a typical day on the water for wildlife.
Depending on your tour, you may see 1-3 different glaciers on the cruise. We only saw one because it was actively calving, and we spent a lot of time sitting and watching it. Seeing a glacier calf was a life highlight for me and well worth the entire trip to the park.
Porcupines and sea stars
Believe it or not, many porcupines live in the Gustaves area, and you will often see them while on hikes in the park. I saw two while I was there. The tide pooling is also great in the park, and we saw dozens of sea stars when walking along the shore. Plus, the park has a beautiful one-mile forest hike where you can also see wildlife.
2 Day Itinerary for Glacier Bay National Park
- Fly into Gustavus
- Shuttle to Glacier Bay Lodge
- Hike the Tlingit Trail and visit the house and tidepools
- Dinner watching the sunset at Glacier Bay Lodge
- Take the boat tour into the park
- Hike the Forest Trail
- Head back to the airport or spend the night one more night
- Hike the Bartlett River Trail
- Take the shuttle to airport for flight back
Where to stay in Glacier Bay
We stayed at the Glacier Bay Lodge, and I highly recommend it. It is a relaxing and beautiful lodge right near the water. It has a restaurant, so you don’t have to bring food, and a visitor center for the park with rangers if you want to ask questions. You can also camp here at the campground, about a 7-minute walk from the lodge. I talked to a few people who were camping here and loved it.
Cost to visit Glacier Bay
- Boat Tour – $262 per person
- Hotel Cost – $600 for 2 Nights
- Dinner – $20 – $30 for dinner per person
Let me know what other questions you have in the comments, and watch my Glacier Bay videos in the description.