When you hear someone say that seeing is believing, never doubt that. That’s because it is hard to believe that a place like the Mendenhall Ice Caves in Juneau, Alaska, exists until you see this breathtaking scenery. One would say that it is a trip worth your time, and it would be an incredible decision to consider visiting this magical kingdom.
Suppose you are still not convinced. What about learning more about what to expect from the scenery? Why is it a famous tourist destination? It is high time we started discussing this terrific site in Juneau, Alaska.
1. About Mendenhall Ice Caves
As the name suggests, Mendenhall Ice Caves are wholly made of ice. Their terrific blue ice formations will surely take you to a new world. The same applies to their glistening walls, and that combination is bound to amaze anyone who sees it.
The glacier extends up to 12 miles across the Mendenhall Valley, approximately 12 miles from Juneau, Alaska. Its initial names were Glacier Behind the Little Lake, Aak’wtaaksit, and Glacier Behind the Town or Sitaantaagu.
Over the years, the glacier has been retreating due to the climate change menace.
2. How Can You Get To The Mendenhall Ice Caves?
There are two major ways of getting to the Mendenhall ice caves. The journey usually starts at the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center that’s on Glacier Spur Road.
2.1 Paddling To The Mendenhall Ice Caves
If you choose this option, you will travel to the Mendenhall Ice Caves by canoe; hence, you have to paddle your way there. Paddling across the Mendenhall Ice Caves means enjoying your journey to this amazing destination. The journey is up to 5 miles and usually takes around 3 hours.
Don’t focus entirely on its calm waters when traversing this lake. On the contrary, check the Towers, Mt. McGinnis, and Thunder Mountain surroundings and enjoy their beautiful peaks. The mountain goats are easy to miss, but not when you keenly see this trip. The same applies to bald eagles; if you are lucky, you will see the rare beaver.
As you watch the Nugget Falls from afar, they will look quite small, but as you paddle closer, this breathtaking waterfall. Look out for the Arctic Terns, usually on the icebergs. Upon navigating the peninsula, you will now have your eyes on the Mendenhall Glacier, and you can start exploring it and what it has in store for you.
2.2 Hiking And Glacier Trekking To The Mendenhall Ice Caves
Unlike canoeing, this option involves hiking and glacier trekking for up to 8 hours. Therefore, it is strenuous, but everyone who takes this trip has no regret whatsoever. It means the experience usually makes it all worth it.
Interestingly, this route is shorter than the previous one since it is three and a half miles long. There is part of it that entails transversing the Tongass National Rainforest. Then, the glacier trekking starts, and it gets steeper with time until the awesome Mendenhall Glacier comes into your view.
3. What Should You Expect At Mendenhall Ice Caves?
Notably, it isn’t guaranteed that you will reach the Mendenhall Ice Caves regardless of your route. After all, the ice constantly moves, and no adventure is worth risking your life for. That’s why it is advisable to take guided tours of this scenery. If you are lucky, you will surely get an opportunity to explore the caves.
Upon stepping inside the Mendenhall Ice Caves, what meets your eyes is the glacial ice. It will surround you; its deep blue color is stunning and hard to go unnoticed.
You are most likely wondering why the glacial ice is cerulean blue. First, a visible light spectrum has various colors. Out of all these colors, the ice absorbs them except blue. Instead, it reflects this color, thus giving the glacial ice its deep blue color.
You will also notice that its color is more vibrant than its counterparts. After all, most glacial formations occur close to the earth’s surface. However, that’s not the case for the Mendenhall Ice Caves, given that it is a consequence of snowfall that has accumulated for centuries.
Therefore, its weight is significant enough to compress the air bubbles, thus forming ice. Its density and the blue wavelengths’ transmission increase the vibrance, thus making the Mendenhall Ice Caves stand out among others of its kind.
4. What Are The Risks When Visiting The Mendenhall Ice Caves?
Never let the excitement of visiting the Mendenhall Ice Cave make you overlook the dangers. These risks include the following;
- The lake ice is unsafe due to its unpredictable thickness that’s neither monitored nor measured by the Forest Service.
- Since water flows into Mendenhall Lake, the ice thickness will always vary.
- Because the lake is frozen, don’t expect the icebergs to be stable. On the contrary, they will roll over even under such circumstances, and the worst part is the lack of warning and how they break the ice once they shift.
- The thickness of the ice is relatively small if there is running water, proximity of the Nugget Falls and the mouth of Steep Creek.
- Besides, rockslides can also break the lake ice without any warning.
- Glacier movement and calving make the ice near its face weak, thus leading to people falling through it easily.
Therefore, as you navigate the frozen lake during winter, keep that in mind.
Now that the Mendenhall glacier is retreating, it would be great to visit before it becomes something people talk about, as is the case for the dinosaurs. Since the Mendenhall Ice Caves are part of the glacier, they have also not been spared. It would be sad to miss the beautiful scenery, yet you had a chance to visit.
Remember to carry protective gear, including a harness, helmet, and micro-spikes. Glaciers often fall off, and it would be best if it didn’t land on your bear head. Your clothes and shoes should be appropriate for the journey. Lastly, remember that it is a long journey, but you will undoubtedly enjoy every step of the way.