I loved my air journey from Anchorage to Juneau where white-dipped mountains rose in waves under the clear blue sky as far as the eyes could see. I stepped out of the airport breathing in the fresh air and cool summer wind knowing I arrived at one of the most beautiful American cities.
Overview of Juneau, the capital of Alaska
“When we lived in Juneau, Alaska, it was a town of about 7,000 people, and totally isolated, the only way to get to it was by ship.” – John C. Hawkes
With a total land mass of 3,255 square miles, Juneau is the largest capital city in the USA, and is the only state capital that is inaccessible by road. Apart from air travel, the only road that connects to Juneau is the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Juneau’s history starts with the discovery of the gold-bearing quartz in the1880s and the mining history is still waiting for you to discover it. Visitors can sign up for the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining and Gastineau Mill Tour to learn different mining methods and the mining history.
Juneau is walkable and has public transport taking passengers around the city. The state government buildings, shops, and museums can be easily found downtown. Its remote location and a strong sense of community make it perfect for visitors to disconnect from their daily routines.
On the other side of Douglas Island
I crossed the Gastineau Channel via the bridge span and turned left on Douglas Highway to arrive at Douglas Island. When I arrived, I did not know that on the north end of Douglas Highway there was another hidden place that had the most beautiful and peaceful vistas in Juneau.
Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn right on the N. Douglas Highway and drive all the way to the end. There comes an island with alpine meadows, tidal water, deep fjords, and the Alaskan mountain range at every corner. There you can get a beautiful view of Admiralty Island and the Chilkat Range under the sunset. If time permits, go sea-kayaking against a backdrop of tidal waves, lush forests, and Mendenhall Glacier. There is a wide array of marine creatures on the island and you may spot humpback whales leaping out of the ocean on a lucky day.
Seafood by the Ocean
Juneau’s waterfront has several seafood restaurants and trucks offer a variety of seafood. The Hangar on the Wharf offers a variety of seafood dishes and over 20 beers on tap with an outdoor seating area where you can overlook the Gastineau Channel and watch the seaplanes taking off. At night, grab fresh Alaska king crab meals at Tracy’s King Crab Shack featuring locally and freshly – made crab. I had king crab legs, crab bisque, and crab cakes. For a party of more than two, order the Large King Crab Bucket and savor the deliciousness of the king crab legs. Pick a seat, watch the sunset over the sea, and let the delicious crab meat melt in your mouth.
State Government Building
To be frank, I did not have high expectations with this government building. The state government has trouble with the funding. The attempt of finding a new building and the moving of the capital of Alaska has been unsuccessful, and they started upgrading the building and replacing the façade in 2012. Inside the building on the first floor, there are clay murals and committee rooms. This building opens to the public every day and offers a 30-minute guided tour during the summer season.
One fact on Sarah Palin and Juneau: Sarah Palin stays in Juneau only during legislative sessions, and works out of her office in Anchorage for the rest of the year. She is the first Alaskan governor whose inauguration ceremony took place out of Juneau (in Fairbanks).
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Stunning road trip
I was amazed by the spectacular vistas from Mendenhall Glacier to the Franklin Street, and thought I was heading to the wilderness instead of downtown. There are scenic views and outlooks, and the landscapes on the road took my breath away. Here is a picture I snapped from a lookout.
As aforementioned, the hidden island on the North Douglas Highway is a charming place, and the journey on that highway is equally beautiful, with the lush rainforest on one side and the oceans on the other. It reminded me of my summer road trip on Seward Highway, as the landscape is pretty similar.
During my last day in Juneau, I made my way to the Tongass Forest, the largest national forest in the USA to start the zipline adventure with Alaska Canopy Adventures. We boarded the vessel, and crossed the Gastineau Channel to reach the outfitting camp on the Douglas Island. We soon led on the first platform where the real adventure begins. Unlike cruising and hiking, we entered a rich rainforest through a tree top and actually flew amid the tall spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees.
We were held back by the heights, but our two guides, Eric and Emily, clipped us in, laughed with us, and told us to have fun. After three beginning zips, we started forgetting about the heights and totally enjoyed flying in the largest national rainforests with greenish surroundings and the view of salmon streams and Treadwell Mines.
After experiencing ten dual-cable zip lines and walking through two treetop suspension bridges, we entered into a final platform where we experience the thrill of rappelling into the base camp. We had a long talk with each other and everyone ended up knowing everyone on the team. We could also see the rainforest in which we went ziplining before, the Gastineau Channel, and the Juneau downtown; it was beautiful.
I could not take any pictures of my canopy adventure, so here is the video of the zip line adventure made by Alaska Canopy Adventures.
The plane took off in the early morning. I sat by the window and glanced at the waves of mountains against the blue sky once more. When the landscape underneath turned into the oceans of clouds, I bid my farewell to Alaska, knowing I want to be back one day.
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