Ice Cave Trail

MODERATE 77 reviews
#1 of 26 trails in

Ice Cave Trail is a 4.9 mile out and back trail located near Juneau, Alaska that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is best used from June until August. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
4.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
626 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

hiking

trail running

cave

forest

lake

views

waterfall

rocky

hiking
7 months ago

It's almost gone! I was there a week ago and there was only about a 30 yard section still there. I heard from some locals that a portion has collapsed the week prior. I didn't realize this, but the cave is created by a river that enters the glacier from the side. The glacier has now almost retreated past that rivers path. We were able to walk in the mouth of the cave from both ends (where the river goes in and where it goes out. I wouldn't expect the glacier cave to last another month.

As far as the hike goes... our group laughed at some of the comments posted. The trail is actually marked quite well with neon ribbon tied to trees and bushes along the trail. If you stay on the trail anyone with half of an adventurous spirit and able to jog a half mile without stopping to die should be fine. No you do not need special gear. You can do it just fine in tennis shoes. We did it in the rain and loved it. No, you do not need a guide. My in-laws each paid $300 per person for a tour guide to take them by canoe/kayak across the lake to the glacier. We beat them to the glacier. They were pissed to have paid so much. Their guide didn't even let them go inside the cave due to the risk of it caving in. We paid $20 per person for a van to take our hiking group to the trailhead and back. I walked on the glacier for about 10 yards (slippery... duh) The hardest part is climbing up a steep rocky section where you will need to use your hands, but there are plenty of foot and hand holds. Be careful and you'll be fine.

hiking
7 months ago

I just came back from a hiking trip near Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska. I heard about the ice cave under Mendenhall Glacier for a while and wanted to visit it before it melts away. Juneau’s summer temperature is like late October in north FL (about 50-60), where I live. Another thing to note is that it rains constantly in Juneau, mostly sprinkles, sometimes pours. So I brought waterproof gears just in case. I began hiking from the West Glacier trail (trail head located on Skater’s Cabin’s road, a hand written board points to the direction of the trail). This trial is well maintained clear marked.

After about 1.2 miles, I got off West Glacier trail and turned to the West Glacier Spur trail. The next 1.3 miles was pretty challenging. This trail was very poorly marked, very muddy. I started following the neon ribbons tied by previous hikers from this point on. There were couples of creeks without bridges and some places were flooded. I tried to go through the creek with bear foot, so my shoes don’t get wet (above-ankle high; flooded area was Knee high. You could go around the flooded area but very muddy). The water came from the Glacier, it was COLD! After 2 miles, I encountered another challenge --- I needed to climb over an 5-story-tall rocky hill. The suffice of the hill was very steep (about 80-85 degrees) with loose rocks and was slippery from the rain. Thankfully I brought my crampons!

Once I climbed over the steep hill, I got the first close-up glimpse of the glacier. The glacier was powerful and majestic, lying in the arms of mountains like a silent giant. The next step was to some how get down to the bottom and go find the entrance of the ice cave. It didn’t look as steep as the other side but loose rocks were dangerous. The ice cave is unearthly beautiful! It is cold as a freezer with dripping ceiling. The glacier appeared to be blue, because the ice filtered all spectrum of light but blue.

I went back the same way I got here. A guide is not necessary, I went by myself and found the cave just fine. Keep your eye out for the ribbons. I did got lost couple of times because the rocky hill looks similar all the way around but got back on track quickly. At one point on top of the rocky hill, you may feel that there is no way down. Just follow the ribbon and inch close to the edge, then you will see some spots that you can step on. There is no "right way" to climb this hill; making sure stepping stones are not loose or slippery is very important. Total distance was 5 miles out and back; it took me 5.5 hours. Not a long hike but the climbing part can be dangerous. Crampons/micro-spikes and hiking poles are recommended. Water proof shoes or boots are must. The ice cave worth the effort tho! Great hike!!

7 months ago

Amazing hike. Getting to see something that is unique and changing daily.

hiking
7 months ago

This hike was absolutely breathtaking. It started off in flat, moss covered forest. It transitioned to rock scrambling, a steep climbing section and finally loose rock. The views of the lake, Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier are impossible to describe. While there is nothing too technically challenging, it's a solid hike and helps if you're in moderately decent physical shape.

hiking
8 months ago

It is one of my favorite hike. It is a fun hike with rock scramble, scree, and an ICE CAVE at the end for all your effort.

The most important thing is to find your point of entry to the ice cave trail that splits from west glacier trail. The first view point sign that you see, turn right and then make a left down a rocky terrain. There should be a "1940" glacier retreat sign in front of the trail. After defending that rocky terrain, that is where the fun starts.

The trail is well mark with ribbons and the glacier retreat year sign. The trail is well traveled so you can spot the trail. Coming back might be a little trail searching in the beginning. Since there is a good proportion of the trail is rock exposure, wear good traction boots and watch out for rain. A little rain is find but a down pour might have you slipping.

I hiked a lot and was able to carry my 2 year son on a carrier and use my hand once on a upclimb rock scramble. So it is doable for every hiker and even the beginner. Just take some time and don't get intimidated.

hiking
8 months ago

I'm an avid hiker and this trail is definitely not moderate. A few things to help y'all, where there's a sign and fork in the road, take the scenic route to the right. Don't try to hike this in tennis shoes at all. Be prepared to free climb a canyon, and be really really careful if it's suppose to rain or if it just rained. A lot of the trail was flooded out and when climbing down the canyon it started raining rendering small waterfalls and made it really difficult and slippery. There is no easy way to do this. On top of the canyon/ mountain follow the signs or stacked rocks. The red trail markers not always visible. Overall it's well worth the views. Absolutely gorgeous. But make sure you follow what I listed above and it will go smooth.

hiking
8 months ago

I'm not a hiker, I'm a walker, so for me it was hard. We did get lost and had to back track to get on the trail. It's not well marked, the ice cave was amazing!! My husband is an avid hiker he rated it a 6 out of 10. Beauty is a 10+.

8 months ago

Most beautiful and unique place I have ever been in, and the sad part is that it just won't last for more then a year or two.

hiking
8 months ago

First half of trail is easy. Gorgeous forest, stream, small waterfall. Can easily hike side trails a few hundred feet for views of Mendenhall lake, glacier and Nugget Falls.

8 months ago

Amazing trial! As others have said, it's difficult in places with rock scrambling and a poorly marked trial. Head right when you see the white laminated sign toward "viewpoint" for the best route down. Very worth it and you don't need a guide in my opinion.

8 months ago

on the harder side of moderate with one moderately hard, but short, climb. In July it was well marked with tape through the woods and rock cairns. Pretty deserted early in the morning, but use picked up midday. no ice cleats were needed this year to get to the caves.

heard loud cracking and rockfalls, so did not enter caves.

easier route is boating across lake to west side of glacier and easy uphill walk to caves

8 months ago

Not moderate, very challenging and brink rock scrambling skills but awesome accomplishment.

9 months ago

A bit sketchy to follow, and tricky on the rocks, but worth it! I didn't find it very hard, but plan 5 hours to be safe. took us 4.5 with break at the caves for about 30.

hiking
10 months ago

Unforgettable! Don't be in Juneau and skip this. The coolest thing I've seen on a hike. Trail isn't too hard though sometimes you need to locate the markers in the rocky parts.

hiking
10 months ago

AMAZING trail. We took a different route, but got the same result. The ice caves were an unforgettable experience. The bluest blue you'll ever see in shapes only Mother Nature could design. Get out here and hike it!

hiking
11 months ago

If you want to get up close and personal with the glacier this is the hike to do. I have also hiked the
West Glacier and East Glacier trail which are beautiful but keep you at a distance from the glacier. If you are hiking this trail do not follow my map and make sure you get off the WGT at the view point split otherwise you will end up above the glacier and past the caves.

11 months ago

Incredible experience to explore the ice caves of the Mendenhall glacier!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Extraordinary

hiking
Thursday, November 10, 2016

This was a very challenging, fun, scenic hike! We thought it would take about 5 hours to complete, but were able to finish in 3 hours (20 minute break at the glacier to look around and take pictures included) because we kept a very fast pace! The path has a nice warm-up for the first mile or so as you walk flat terrain through the rainforest. Then things get interesting... Once past the first mile, you are required to scramble up slippery rocks, climb stairs, and maneuver around some trees... sometimes using the assistance of a rope. The trail can be hard to follow at times so keep an eye out for markers. The glacier has receded quite a bit so it takes some careful sliding down loose gravel to get up close. Be weary of hidden Moulin and ridges on the ice! Unfortunately, we went on a rainy day so the trail was extra slick in some parts and muddy. Challenging but highly recommend for the awesome views and a chance to explore ice caves!

hiking
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This hike is incredible! The trail begins on the west glacier trail. You can park in the lot by the skaters cabin. After the first cable incline there is a viewpoint. Turn there to find a trail that goes downhill. You follow this trail until it ends and then use cairns and ribbons to find your way to the glacier. There is one section where you have to scramble up large, slippery rocks. That part of the trail is really intense. The rest of the trail is pretty easy going. There is a section where a tree blocks the path because a beaver cut the tree down. Some of the cairns have been knocked over too, so you need to be alert. It took us five hours roundtrip. That includes stopping for lunch and geocaching. As always, make sure you bring lots of water and you're wearing proper hiking boots.

hiking
Friday, July 08, 2016

Probably the most fun hike of my life! It begins very even (for just about a mile), followed by some beautiful scenery. Lots of climbing, so the latter part of the hike is definitely not stroller-friendly. Perfect trail for the active hiker who likes a bit of adventure ;)

hiking
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Def not easy but a great hike

trail running
Wednesday, August 05, 2015

This was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. The ice cave that everyone has pictures of isn't there anymore, but there are still a lot of pretty mini ice caves. You will definitely need good trail shoes or boots. I'm a trail runner so I just had a good pair of trail running shoes and I was okay.

hiking
Monday, June 09, 2014

I just did the trail to ice caves last week. The ice cave is the most amazing thing that I have seen in my life! If you are able to hike 7 miles you should do this!!! It will be an experience that you will never forget.

The trail is said to be strenuous but I think its more moderate to strenuous. Perhaps it was the adrenaline running but as a moderately fit person, I felt like it was very doable. We did the trek in the rain which made the rocks and ground slippery but if you're careful enough you will be fine! The hardest part is probably the rock scrambling which is free hand rock climbing, but because the rock face had lots of spots to hold onto and you can lean on it to rest, it wasn't too hard and afterwards you feel like you can conquer anything. You also have to go down a few steepish granite rocks so make sure you've got shoes with good grips aka hiking shoes. DO NOT WEAR SNEAKERS!!

I went on a guided tour and I would recommend anybody who is not familiar with glacier walking and the trails to join a tour first. It is VERY hard to find the trail if you don't know the way. The trail is not obvious and only marked with some cairns (rock stacks) and pink ribbons in some parts. I am still not confident to be able to find my way if I did it again. The tour I went with is called Above and Beyond - tour guide was Connor who was a good guide. I think there may be others that run tours there - we got a good deal on Viator - $209pp but with 10% off coupon. We spent about an hour on glacier, did ice climbing, checked out holes, crevasses, moulins and for finale went inside the ice cave. Apparently the cave has been there for about 4-5 years in different forms (changing every year) and last year, a big hole formed at end of cave that you look up and see the sky from the bottom. SO AMAZING.

hiking
Thursday, June 27, 2013

I worked on a glacier for 4 seasons--I LOVE ICE! This trail gives anyone in Juneau access to the terminus of the Mendenhall Glacier and a chance to see a spectacular ice cave while it lasts. There are two methods to access the ice cave: by trail or by boat. The trail is maintained to the sign (in photo) with a black marker arrow to the ice caves and after that the trail becomes a bit of work to find. It is grown over but at times there will be markers tied on trees and bushes so do your best to locate them. When the trail leaves the vegetation, there will be cairns to follow. Basically, head to the glacier and watch out for sliding on steep rock slopes. The other way is by boat--launch at Skater's cabin and paddle to the terminus. Mornings are usually calm but beware that a strong glacier wind will pick up by early afternoon. Once at the terminus there will be an ever changing trail to the ice cave. The glacier should be fairly ok to walk on depending on weather, the sunnier the better as rain will create a slicker surface. Crampons are very nice to have along! Access can be by the moraine as well but beware that this loose pile of rocks rests atop solid ice and is very unstable. Take some common sense with you and a little glacier knowledge and you will be rewarded with a luminescent, deep glacier blue ice cave beautifully chiseled by running water, wind and movement.

4 months ago

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