Tracy Arm Fjord. A “fjord” is a Nordic term meaning a narrow waterway surrounded by sharp cliffs. So while Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier steals most of the tourist traffic, the 27-mile-long Tracy Arm Fjord is the bigger, better, and more dramatic natural gem. The inlet is very narrow – at times, no more than half a mile wide – with cliffs that rise more than 3,000 feet on either side and waterfalls that cascade down the steep rock walls. During the summer, you can spot eagles, seals, bears, and whales here. Recent visitors said that if you only have time for one experience in Juneau, this is it. Travelers described the glacial scenery as “incredible” and “breathtaking,” and recommended bringing along a quality set of binoculars and a camera to capture the scene.
The Tracy Arm Fjord is 45 miles south of Juneau, but worth the trek. If your cruise ship doesn’t sail through the glaciers, you’ll have to take a boat tour, which usually lasts an entire day. Adventure Bound Alaska and Allen Marine Tours operate well-reviewed excursions from May through September, and you should reserve your spot at least a week in advance; space is limited and rates vary. For more information, check out each tour company’s website. This small town (with only about 30,000 residents) is no longer fueled by mining, fur trading, and whaling; outdoor enthusiasts are the economic driving forces here. And now, the citizens of Juneau brandish cheap souvenirs rather than hunting equipment. But don’t take the bait: The best souvenirs will be the priceless photos you shoot with your camera. Juneau’s majestic setting leaves many in utter awe.