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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Enter the Wild in Juneau


3. What to Do

The northern lights currently appear more dramatic in Juneau than in past years.  

See the aurora borealis (a.k.a. the northern lights) at the peak of its eleven-year cycle (now through March). Visitors usually need to travel farther north to enjoy the spectacle, but conditions this year make Juneau a prime viewing location. The ideal conditions are clear nights between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so check the weather before heading to nearby Auke Bay or Eagle Beach, where the locals go to see the sky light up away from the streetlights of town.

Hike across Mendenhall Glacier, a spectacular twelve-mile-long natural wonder just twenty minutes from downtown, where you can explore icy caves, marvel at the dramatic Nugget Falls, and even spot mountain goats and bears from afar. There are hiking trails for everyone, but do your research in advance, as they range from a half-mile jaunt that calls only for comfortable walking shoes to a seven-mile trek that requires a pair of boots and some experience. If you prefer to stay in town, walk to the end of Basin Road to find the scenic Perseverance Trail, a moderate three-hour hike that shows off the red cedar trees, massive firs, and carpets of moss that characterize the Tongass National Forest.

Ski some of the most picturesque and unsullied runs in North America at Eaglecrest, a premier ski resort (adult full-day passes from $34, equipment rentals from $33 per day) located right across the bay from Juneau. Spread across 640 acres, you’ll find 36 alpine runs, five miles of Nordic trails, and plenty of uncrowded, ungroomed areas in backcountry designed for adventurous skiers who prefer to explore solo.

Published on Dec 19, 2012 as a web exclusive.

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