Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Activities & Programs

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you'll find plenty to do in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve—regardless of the season! Summer visitors typically enjoy boating, camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking, mountaineering, ranger programs, rafting and wildlife viewing. Since winter brings an arctic chill to the frosty Alaska air, only the most experienced adventurers tend to visit the park during the coldest season.


Five specific types of boats enter the park's natural waterway. First, there's the cruise ship: Most visitors see the bay from one of these large vessels with thousands of passengers. Cruise ship passengers do not go ashore in Glacier Bay; instead, National Park Service naturalists board the ships to share their knowledge about the park as the ships cruise up to the glaciers. The tour boat is much smaller and holds up to a few hundred passengers. National Park Service naturalists also join these boats during their trip into the bay, and some boats will also stop at Bartlett Cove to allow passengers time ashore. A dayboat with a park naturalist also departs daily from Bartlett Cove for a trip up to the glaciers. Charter boats offer a personalized trip—most often, they cater to groups of about six passengers. Private boats can also enter the bay, but must adhere to all park rules and regulations. Sea kayaking is also a popular means of traveling through park waters. For a list of boating concessioners authorized to offer services in the park, visit InDepth/admin/commercial/calist.htm. For recreational boating information, visit boat.htm or call (907) 697-2627.


Bartlett Cove has the only established campground in Glacier Bay Park. The campground is located about a quarter-mile from the main dock in Bartlett Cove, accessible by trail. It has specific sites, a warming shelter, outhouses and food caches. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. All campers are required to have a permit and attend a short orientation offered at the visitor information station. Camping permits are mandatory in the summer for overnight stays in the Bartlett Cove area and backcountry. For groups of 12 or more, group camping is permitted in the campground. A group limit of 12 exists for camping in all other areas of the park. Camping outside of the campground is prohibited within one mile of Bartlett Cove.


In order to fish in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve you must hold a valid Alaska State Fishing License and follow the State Fishing Regulations. Stream fishing in Bartlett River is within a short hike from Bartlett Cove. For more detailed information about fishing—or guidelines on obtaining a license—call park headquarters at (907) 697-2230.


Bartlett Cove offers three hikes, the only developed trails in the park. The Forest Loop Trail is a one-mile loop that begins at the Glacier Bay Lodge, ends near the dock, and winds through a pond-studded spruce and hemlock forest along the way. The Bartlett River Trail extends a full four miles round-trip, meandering along an intertidal lagoon and through a forest before emerging at the Bartlett River estuary. The Bartlett Lake Trail branches off from the Bartlett River Trail near Gustavus Road. This primitive path, about eight miles round-trip, winds through temperate rainforest and leads to Bartlett Lake. Although backcountry hiking is possible, thick alders and other vegetation make it somewhat difficult; terrain tends to be steep and hard to navigate. Thus, backcountry hikers should be experienced. If you wish to trek in the backcountry, topographic maps and other information is available from the Alaska Natural History Association (ANHA) or at the Visitor Information Station. Contact ANHA at (907) 697-2635, or the Visitor Information Center at (907) 697-2627.


Sport hunting is allowed only in the national preserve. Two hunting guide companies are authorized to provide guided sport hunting in specific areas of the preserve. For more information about hunting, call the concessioners at (907) 784-3451 or (907) 784-3287.


Sea kayaking is one popular way to explore the marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Please note that all kayakers intending to camp are required to attend an orientation, held daily upon request at the Bartlett Cove Visitor Information Station (located near the dock). Note, too, that there is a camper drop-off service that transports and picks up backcountry campers and kayakers at various locations in the bay. For more information about this drop-off service, contact Glacier Bay Lodge at (888) BAY-TOUR or (888) 229-8687. If you prefer, guided day and overnight kayak trips are also available. The kayak rental concessioner in the park is Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks. They offer evening, full-day and multi-day trips and can be reached at (907) 697-2257.


Mountaineering can be very arduous in the coastal mountains of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve; small wonder these are among the least visited mountains of their elevation in North America. A stormy weather pattern—which includes more than 100 inches of precipitation a year—adds to the challenge. Most climbing in the park is accessible via charter boat or float-plane out of Juneau, Gustavus or Yakutat. Fixed-wing aircraft landings are allowed in the park, but helicopter landings and airdrops are prohibited. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve does not maintain a rescue team with high-altitude rescue capabilities, so climbing parties must plan and arrange for their own backup (the National Park Service office in Yakutat should be made aware of the backup plans prior to the trip). For further information about mountaineering, contact the Yakutat District Ranger at (907) 784-3295.


There are numerous rafting opportunities in the park. The Alsek River and its major tributary, the Tatshenshini River, are both large, swift glacial rivers that offer the ride of a lifetime. Most rafting trips begin on the Tatshenshini at Dalton Post, the last road accessible off the Haines Highway in Yukon Territory, Canada. From there it is 140 river miles to the normal take-out at Dry Bay, Alaska. For a list of commercial rafting operators authorized to operate in the park, visit admin/commercial/index.htm. A permit is required for private trips. You may get on the waiting list for private trip permits by sending your name, address, home and work telephone numbers, email address and payment of $25 to the Yakutat Ranger Station. For more details about obtaining a permit, contact the Yakutat Ranger Station at (907) 784-3295.

Ranger-Led Activities

Please contact the park at (907) 697-2230 for information about interesting ranger-led activities.

Wildlife Viewing

Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife—because glimpsing any of Alaska's extraordinary animals will likely be a most memorable part of the trip. An assortment of marine mammals swim and forage throughout park waters, including the endangered humpback whale and the threatened steller sea lion. Thousands of harbor seals breed and nurture their pups on the floating ice both in Johns Hopkins Inlet and among the rocky reefs of the Beardslee Islands. Minke and killer whales—along with harbor and Dall's porpoises—feed in the park's productive near-shore waters. Sea otters are rapidly colonizing Glacier Bay as well as park waters in Icy Strait and Cross Sound. Thousands of seabirds nest on cliffs and rocky shores within the bay or on the park's outer coast. Bald eagles nest along much of its shoreline. Back on land, there are a variety of large mammals including mountain goats, brown and black bears, otters, marten, mink, lynx, beaver, weasels and wolverines.