Mendenhall Glacier –Steep Creek

Photograph of Mendenhall Glacier bears

At a Glance

Beginning in August and lasting into September, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau offers some of the most accessible and affordable bear-viewing you're likely to find anywhere. The main attraction is the black bear population, mostly mothers and cubs. Brown bears also inhabit the area but tend to avoid such heavily trafficked areas.

The bears are drawn to the sockeye and coho salmon that spawn in Steep Creek and an elevated boardwalk is accessible a few paces from the parking lot that’s just short of the Visitor Center. Around a dozen female and juvenile black bears congregate to catch and feast on the fish, all within a few yards of viewing platforms. Despite the bears' apparent docility and interest in their dinner, remember they are dangerous wild animals. Stay on the trail and give them space. Don't bring food or drink, not even coffee.


A .03 mile elevated boardwalk winds past viewing platforms along Steep Creek. Bears wade up and down the creek snagging salmon and eating them just a few feet from the boardwalk. From July through September you are likely to see bears feasting on spawning sockeye and coho salmon or napping in tall vegetation. Forest Service interpreters are usually on site during peak bear season to offer information about area bears and natural history. Parts of the trail may be closed due to heavy bear traffic in summer.

Getting There

The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley is accessible by city bus, taxi, tour bus or rental car. The city bus drops visitors a mile and a half from the visitor center and those hoofing it should be prepared for changing weather conditions.

From downtown: 12 miles. Take Egan Drive and turn right at Mendenhall Loop Road. Mendenhall Loop Road turns into Glacier Spur Road and ends at the visitor center.

From the Juneau International Airport: 5 miles. Turn left onto Glacier Highway. After a quarter mile, the road will curve right and become Mendenhall Loop Road. Follow this road across Egan Drive. Mendenhall Loop Road eventually turns into Glacier Spur Road and ends at the Visitor Center.

From the Alaska State Ferry Terminal: 7 miles. Turn right onto Glacier Highway. After a mile and a half, the road splits at Auke Bay. Turn left onto Mendenhall Loop Road. After four miles, it will intersect Glacier Spur Road. Turn left onto Glacier Spur Road.

Contact Information


A close-up view of bears from an elevated platform. Photos: Laurie Craig, USFS
Three black bear cubs napping in a cottonwood tree.
Elevated platforms keep people and bears separated.
The Mendenhall boasts wheelchair accessible bear viewing.