Roam through lush stands of spruce and hemlock, fish for salmon on the Bartlett River, or experience various aspects of the Tlingit culture on one of these four established day hikes in Glacier Bay NP.
Glacier Bay National Park is a massive and stunning showpiece of the unadulterated southeastern Alaskan wilderness. “Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska's Inside Passage,” and a small portion of one of the world’s largest international protected areas, the park notes. Though its massive size yields an abundance of wilderness expeditions and boating excursions, this guidebook showcases four must-do day hikes on established trails near the visitor center in Bartlett Cove.
Once you arrive by boat or seaplane, the Tlingit Trail begins at the public boat ramp and connects to the park’s main visitor center. Continue even further, and the trail offers opportunities to “see a traditional Tlingit canoe, gaze at a complete whale skeleton, learn about common native plants and experience Tlingit culture and art at the Huna Tribal House,” the park notes. The trail is easy, fully-accessible, and a great option for stretching your legs after the journey there.
Heading slightly south of the visitor center instead, the Forest Trail Loop circles a small pond and offers two spectacular overlooks along a fully-accessible trail. Beyond the pond, the trail narrows as it makes its way to the beach, and it's just a short walk to the Bartlett Cove Campground, before returning to the visitor center.
If you can spare the entire day to experience one of the park’s secret hikes, keep left at the Beach and continue to Point Gustavus, an impressive overlook of the entire bay - and the entrance point for the park. According to a former park ranger, the point “sits just north of one of the most famous humpback whale-watching areas in the world,” and “there is a good chance you would not find this hike” on your own. It’s not a particularly difficult hike, but its length makes it a challenge, even for locals.
If you’re visiting Glacier Bay to fish, the Bartlett River Trail offers one of the best hike-and-fish options from the visitor center. Just over 3 miles round-trip, the trail wanders through lush stands of spruce and hemlock before emerging at the mouth of the Bartlett River as it flows into the bay. A popular option mentioned by the park is to continue hiking upstream along the river after the trail officially ends. "Each summer spawning salmon attract hungry otters, eagles, seals, and bears," which also yields excellent fishing opportunities for anglers. More information on fishing in Glacier Bay National Park can be found here.