Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves

Sometimes you get to experience something so spectacular that you know it will happen only once in your lifetime.  I experienced something like this while on a hike this week.  I took off hiking across a lake in Juneau and ended up inside of Mendenhall Glacier.

Standing on Mendenhall Lake.  Look closely and you'll notice that we are wearing ice cleats! 
Mendenhall Lake, which the glacier sits on, is completely frozen right now.  This makes getting to the caverns underneath Mendenhall Glacier not only possible, but downright easy! The Glacier is accessible to hike to/in all year by hiking West Glacier Trail.  However, this trail isn't for the faint of heart, especially if you are not the most skilled hiker. The trail includes some steep climbs, slippery rocks, and it requires that you go off-trail to get to the ice caves.  It can also be quite dangerous to go inside the caves under the glacier due to the constantly melting ice.  Enter at your own risk!

View from West Glacier Trail,  August 2013. 
With Mendenhall Lake frozen though, the glacier is accessible by hiking a mile across the lake, up the base of some rather large hills/cliffs, and sliding on your bum (literally) down a slippery slope to the opening of the ice caves. It was a wonderful hike and the views the entire way were spectacular.  Nothing can compare to the feeling of standing INSIDE of a glacier though.

Cliffs near the glacier.

Touching a glacier for the first time!

Inside Mendenhall Glacier, frozen ice columns. 

Inside the largest cavern in Mendenhall Glacier. 
Look up! Massive hole inside of the ice caves that looked skyward. 
The glacier was completely amazing.  Everything emitted a soft, blue glow.  The ice was the smoothest thing that I have ever touched.  It appeared bumpy, but the bumps were actually many inches underneath the actual top layer of ice.  The top layer of ice was so clear that it was almost invisible.  It was cold inside of the caves, but warm enough that I was comfortable without my gloves and hat on.  This was, without a doubt, a once in a lifetime experience because of the melting ice.  I am so thankful that I got to experience this incredible, natural wonder.

What is the top item on your bucket list?
What is something that you've done that is "once in a lifetime?" 


  1. That is absolutely amazing! Bucket List!

    1. Definitely! It is accessible year round and worth the hike!

  2. Wow that looks amazing Hannah, I'm in Alaska right now and I would love to go there, did you went with a tour or by yourself?

    1. Thanks! We went there by ourselves. It's "technically" discouraged by forest services/authorities because the glacier could flood, calve, or collapse at any time. It's less dangerous in the winter though because the ice isn't melting as quickly. It's an amazing experience and, for me, it was worth the little bit of danger to get such an incredible life experience :)


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