Explore Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.
Glacier Bay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many glaciers to see; past visitors rave about its scenery, which includes tidewater glaciers, glassy water, mountains and wildlife such as whales, harbor seals, otters and brown bears. One bonus of sailing a national park is that cruise lines are required to have a park ranger onboard while in the confines of the park; this means cruisers get access to the knowledge park rangers carry with them. The local park rangers narrate the sights and ecology of Glacier Bay over the loudspeaker as you sail and offer shorter lectures and informal chats.
Lofty mountain peaks, ice-sculptured fjords, an abundance of marine wildlife and, most of all, massive tidewater glaciers, have made Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve one of Alaska’s most spectacular settings and a must-stop for every cruise ship sailing north through Southeast Alaska.
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 part of a 25-million acre, one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From sea to summit, Glacier Bay offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration.
Village of Gustavus
More than 90 percent of the park’s visitors arrive on cruise ships, which swing through the vast bay but never stop. The rest pass through either the village of Gustavus or the park headquarters of Bartlett Cove for a variety of adventures. The Gustavus surrounding area and Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska offer visitors a fantastic selection of exciting wilderness adventures and activities to choose from. The park’s 10 miles of maintained trails is limited to Bartlett Cove but Glacier Bay offers an excellent opportunity for people who have experience on the water but not necessarily as kayakers. Kayakers will enjoy world class kayaking adventures, often dropped off in the well-protected arms and inlets deep in the bay where they paddle past glaciers and camp along the shoreline on their own or as part of a guided kayaking tour. Nature and wildlife enthusiasts will be wowed by fantastic whale watching and eco touring experiences, fisherman will be blown away by the finest sportfishing charters and opportunities on the planet. Whether you are here for a day or a week, you’ll find endless opportunities for discovery and adventure here. Glacier Bay Lodge, nestled under the spruce trees that line Bartlett Cove, offers the only hotel accommodations within the park.
The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay offers rare opportunities to study the ebb and flow of glaciers. The last of Glacier Bay National Park’s four glacial periods, the Little Ice Age, began about 4,000 years ago, and the glaciers that exist in the park today are remnants of this period.
Temperate rainforest dominates the southern part of Glacier Bay National Park. Many plants are able to live in this coastal area is due to the mild, moist climate that’s developed in the region over the past 200-300 years. As the forest ages, trees grow taller and their branches form a canopy that shades the ground beneath them. The soil becomes more acidic and swampy, promoting the growth of western hemlock. Spruce does almost as well in these unique conditions.