Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Alaska Cruise Hiking Tips

Mount Roberts hiking trail © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
Mount Roberts hiking trail © 2018 Scott S. Bateman

Even moderately fit cruise visitors to Alaska will find some easy hikes to take without spending much money on expensive shore excursions.

Juneau has two popular hiking options accessible from the cruise port: the Mount Roberts Tramway and the Mendenhall Glacier. Both require a fee to reach the trails.

Mount Roberts Tramway is impossible for anyone to miss because it is right by the docks. The tramway takes visitors 1,800 feet up a breathtakingly steep climb to the top of Mount Roberts. In addition to other activities, visitors can take some easy to hard hiking trails around the mountainside including the Alpine Loop.

Just be sure to bring mosquito repellant. They were all over us during our visit. Tramway prices were $35 per person, although coupons are sometimes available online.

Mendenhall Glacier has several easy hiking options. Five trails start at or near the visitor center ranging in length (round trip) from one-third of a mile to a challenging three and a half miles. Beware of the possibility of black bears, especially on the 3.5-mile hike. Do not approach or run from them.

The most popular hike is the trail that goes from the visitor center to Nugget Falls. It is two miles round trip on flat ground.

The glacier shuttle is now $45 round trip per person.

Free Hiking Options

Otherwise, some hiking trails are free and accessible within walking distance from the cruise ports.

Sitka has quite a few trails including an easy one for cruise visitors. It is right outside the door at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center. Two loop trails are connected by a footbridge over the Indian River. The length is 1.6 miles.

Any cruise visitor to Sitka with the time and energy can look for the Gavan Hill trailhead at the end of Baranof Street. This steep trail ascends 2,000 in less than two miles, although much of it is on wooden stairs. From there, hikers can head back to town or continue on for another four miles.

Skagway has 12 trails ranging in time from a few hours to a few days. Two trailheads are accessible from the city. Cruise visitors should go online to the Skagway Chamber of Commerce website to get a detailed trail map for more information.

In Ketchikan, experienced hikers should consider the Deer Mountain Trail in Ketchikan, which begins at the base of a mountain. A steep climb will take hikers to an elevation of more than 3,000 feet. It offers panoramic views of Ketchikan and Tongass Narrows.

Another moderately challenging trail is at Mount Ripinski in Haines. This 3,000-foot climb from a dense forest to a rocky summit will take hikers three to four hours to complete. It has views of Haines and a chance to see some mountain goats when they are around.

Seward has 13 hiking trails in or near the city. One of the easiest to access is Mount Marathon, which is the site of the popular Mount Marathon Race in July. The trail begins at sea level and climbs to more than 3,000 feet. The train head begins at Lowell Canyon Road behind 1st Avenue.

Kincaid Park next to the Anchorage airport is a 1,400-acre forest on a glacial moraine and has “one of America’s top trail systems”, according to one cruise line. The park has the largest moose population in Anchorage.

Shore Excursion Hikes

Some of the more interesting hikes are fee-based shore excursions with guides. For example, one operator offered a hike on Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau as well as a canoe ride on Mendenhall Lake for $340 per person. Other tours to the glacier include getting there via helicopter for about the same price.

Similar tours in Skagway take hikers via helicopter to glaciers for a similar price.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
June 28, 2021