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If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

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Boise, Idaho
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If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Currently in beginning stages of planning trip to Juneau for around a week during summer. My wife and I don't want to be on cruise ship, but wanted to see the most we could from one spot, Juneau seemed to be the best for what we're interested in. Currently planning on Taku float plane with Wings, either taking a regular helicopter tour with Era and an all day hike with Above & Beyond or doing the 2 hour hike with the helicopter from North Star. Also thinking about taking boat tour of Tracy Arm. If we're already doing glaciers and fiords here, is going to Gustavus/Glacier Bay worth it? Should we go to Glacier Bay instead of Tracy Arm? Also debating whether or not to take a side trip by plane or ferry up to Skagway. I guess if we flew up in morning could see it and maybe take train to the pass and still fly back to Juneau in the evening, but is it worth it, or are we better off concentrating on Juneau area?

New York
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1. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Is Glacier Bay and or Skagway, of interest to you? www.skagway.com

see, how far you get with your current plans, and how much time is still open? A week is not a lot of time.

I do however, only recommend the level 3 trek with Northstar, that extra hour is well worth it.

fti
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2. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Personally I would not consider going to Skagway for a day. I would invest the time and money in something else. Is Glacier Bay worth it? Only you can decide. You would need at least 2 nights there to make it worth it. One year I went to Gustavus for 3 nights then to Juneau for 4 nights. I did whale watching in both Gustavus and Juneau (both excellent) as well as the Glacier Bay tour and the Tracy Arm tour. But I love Alaska by boat and foot.

On my list of "things to do" in Juneau is the Above & Beyond hike to Mendenhall. That interests me far more than the hike from the helicopter (and is much cheaper). Another great hike is the West Glacier Trail that goes above the glacier. It starts off as the same hike as Above & Beyond but rather than going to the glacier it goes above it. Great views, hardly anyone else around and you could do this hike on your own without a guide.

If you book Tracy Arm with Adventure Bound, be sure to confirm, reconfirm and re-reconfirm your reservation. The tour is great but their office staff is horrendous.

If you are considering a whale watch tour in Juneau there are several, but one of the best 6-passenger operators is Harv & Marvs. Just great experiences each time I have gone with them.

haines, alaska
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3. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Where you stay in Juneau will also determine the quality of your trip......avoid the downtown area as it will be packed with cruise ship passengers all day.......since you are choosing some of the same tours that the cruisers will be doing, you will probably want a quieter lodging choice at the end of the day.......... www.traveljuneau.com/cms/d/accommodations.php

Also plan on renting a car, in addition to your tours.......it will really come in handy.....

Boise, Idaho
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4. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Yes, definitely planning on car, we're looking at finding a place to stay through VRBO, either on Douglas Island or out on Auke Bay. I've kind of talked myself out of Skagway, I have mild interest in gold rush, but don't think I have enough time or interest to jam it in. I would prefer the Above & Beyond tour, but am not sure if my wife would want to hike 8 miles or not, so that choice will be up to her. So the main question I still have is if Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm are too similar. In limited time would be duplicating ourselves. If we do whale watching are we better off with something like the weather permitting tour or the Above & Beyond that also does kayaking. If we do split time between Juneau & Glacier Bay which is better for whale watching. Which for kayaking? Is the Glacier Bay boat tour better than Tracy Arm or are they completely different? Thanks all for your suggestions.

Boise, Idaho
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5. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

We want to experience as much as we can that we can't do at home (hike on glacier, ice climb, float plane, sea kayak, whales) and be able to experience the enormity and beauty of the icefield and glaciers. So if we end up having to make choices between Glacier Bay or more time in Juneau how do they compare. If we spend 1 day (2nights) in Glacier Bay what do we make sure we do? Thanks again.

fti
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6. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

The answers to most of your questions are subjective, i.e. there are no "right" answers.

Glacier Bay is a national park for a reason. Tracy Arm is not. What else can I say?

Why would you select your whale watching tour based on whether they also offer kayaking? So if you also book a kayak tour you will get a discount for booking both tours? You won't go kayaking on the same trip as whale watching, so I am confused on this question.

Gustavus and Juneau both have 100% humpback whale sightings. When I did whale watching in both places, the Harv & Marv captain was shocked I was whale watching with him in Juneau after going in Gustavus where he thought was "better." Well, I saw more whales and more breaching in Juneau than in Gustavus. They are not zoo-trained whales. It is in the wild. Every trip is different.

I know overnight kayaking is popular in Glacier Bay but honestly I am not sure about the differences between kayaking in either place.

If you spend 2 nights in Glacier Bay you actually have 1 full day and 2 half days. For sure take the Glacier Bay day tour. If you do overnight kayaking, that is combined with the Glacier Bay tour. There is also some nice hiking in the area and the whale watching. Those are the main points. In 2 nights you could do all of that.

haines, alaska
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7. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

You can also take kayaks out for a few hours from Glacier Bay, no need for an overnight.......the Glacier Bay Lodge is quite comfortable (a little pricey) but the boat tour and kayak tours start right there at the dock........if you stayed in Gustavus you would need to arrange transportation to Glacier Bay Lodge for the tour........I think flying into Gustavus one way and ferrying one way via Juneau make the best of the scenery........

Boise, Idaho
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8. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Got the message regarding national parks, that makes sense. My question about the whale watching was more about what is more frequented, just like in Hawaii you're much more likely to see whales on Maui than Oahu or Kauai, I haven't been to Alaska so an unsure if whales are more common in one location than the other. My question about whale watching and kayaking is because Above & Beyond does a combo tour, two hours of whale watching and then 2 and half hours sea kayaking. http://www.beyondak.com/boatandkayak.html . I'm having a hard time finding links for guided kayaking at Glacier Bay, I've found info on rentals (from the lodge). After your suggestions I think we'll fly direct to Glacier Bay on Alaska (looks like the flight we were intending to take to Juneau continues on to Glacier Bay) the first day and start our trip there, then head back and do the rest of our trip in Juneau.

fti
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9. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

Personally I think 2 hours on the water for whale watching is hardly enough. Most are 2-1/2 or 3 hours on the water. I guess you have to decide for yourself. Longer is always better.

Re: sightings, there are 100% humpback sightings in both places. Supposedly Pt. Adolphus (from Gustavus) is world-renown, but as I said, I saw more whales and more action from Juneau. No hard and fast rules.

If you stay at Glacier Bay Lodge, you can see the NPS displays the day you arrive.

Also, check out Toursaver or Northern Lights coupon books (see Top Questions about Alaska) for discounts on things like the Glacier Bay day tour. I think at least one of the books also has a whale watch coupon for Juneau.

jjo
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10. Re: If visiting Juneau, should we go to Gustavus and Skagway too

For kayaking in Gustavus: http://www.seakayakalaska.com/

Spirit Walker is a local outfit and was very good when I used them years ago.

A couple of things about kayaking in Gustavus to keep in mind:

1. You will not be kayaking in the heart of the park where the glaciers are unless you take an extended overnight trip. There are, however lovely areas to kayak near Gustavus, but don't think you'll be seeing glaciers on a day trip.

2. The whale watching kayak trips are a great experience, but not the same as going on a motor boat. You will likely not get very close to a whale. It is a very moving experience to see (and hear) a whale, even from afar, in total silence, from water level, but it will likely be quite a ways away. Sea lions do, however, come right to to your kayak and are actaully an equally dramatic sight.