In 20 years of travel around Alaska, I had never visited Glacier Bay National Park until yesterday. I flew down for an overnight at Aramark's Glacier Bay Lodge. After hearing about Glacier Bay all these years, it was nice to finally see it.
I began by flying an Alaska Airlines jet from Anchorage to Juneau. The jet doesn't continue to Gustavus this time of year, so I took a small plane. That was good fortune; the scenery was as captivating as a flightseeing trip.
We arrived in Gustavus--which has to be one of the most charming towns in Alaska. It's about a 20-minute drive to the lodge, a series of wood buildings in the forest connected by boardwalks and set right on the bay. As soon as I arrived, I found myself wishing I had more than one night to spend there. It would be a great place to read a book, write in your journal, and relax with friends.
As seems to happen to me more than I deserve, I completely lucked out with timing. Minutes after we sat down for dinner, a black bear and her cub wandered into view just below the deck, then we were treated to one of the most stunning sunsets of the summer according to the staff. It was the first night in weeks that the Fairweather Mountains across the bay came into clear view.
The next morning, I took a run through the woods and along the beach on a great trail, ate breakfast, then caught the all-day cruise into the Park. Again, we totally lucked out on weather. Nothing but blue skies and warm breezes in our faces! We saw brown bears beachcombing, sea lions basking in the sun, bald eagles galore, and several glaciers.
Glacier Bay National Park is a really special place, and I can't claim to have seen all of it. But I have to say, for me it did not surpass the glaciers and imposing scenery of Prince William Sound which I can get to in a short drive from Anchorage.
As for wildlife, Glacier Bay is pretty impressive. We saw a whale, sea lions, lots of eagles, and 2 different sets of bears on the beach. You do see whales in Prince William Sound, but not as predictably. You also see eagles, but not as many. You see more harbor seals and otters in Prince William Sound. I’d say seabirds are about equal.
If you do plan to visit Glacier Bay from Anchorage, take the morning jet. It will give you 6 hours to play around in Juneau and ensure you don't miss the connecting jet flight into Gustavus (the airport for Glacier Bay).