Glacier Bay NP Day Boat Tour

A full-day guided tour through the West Arm of Glacier Bay

Of all the activities we like to recommend to guests, the Glacier Bay Day Boat Tour is an absolute must. We believe this tour encompasses what Glacier Bay is truly about. From scouting for Alaskan wildlife to admiring massive glaciers, this tour is thoroughly informative about the history, geology, and current ecosystems of our favorite National Park. View the map here.

The tour begins early morning in Bartlett Cove, where you will board an elegant  and comfortable high-speed catamaran. The best seats in the house can be found on the second floor, right-hand side (it goes along the coast as you travel and it is a convenient side to be on when wildlife is spotted ashore). The boat offers coffee, hot chocolate, fruits and granola bars for passengers, and offers candy bars, sodas, and alcohol for purchase. A mid-day snack of smoked salmon chowder is offered before approaching your first glacier- and it tastes delightful! Lunch of chips and sandwiches are served around noon, and cookies are served as a nice treat towards the end of the tour. IMG_0655_edited-2.jpg

Throughout the day, you will experience the changing surroundings, from developed forests to lichen coated rocks near the tidewater glaciers, as you head up through the West arm of the park.

First stop is South Marble Island. Here, you’ll want to walk outside to the viewing deck so you can hear (and smell!) the Stellar Sea Lions. The island is small and isolated, and is a great spot for the sea lions to haul ashore between feedings. Nearby, you will scan the rocks and waters for various Alaskan seabirds, such as the famous Tufted and Horned Puffins. The Common Murre, Pelagic Cormorants, and Black-legged Kittiwakes can also be found.

As you cruise along, be sure to scan the sea and shore for wildlife. Look for humpbacks, orcas, or sea otters. On the shoreline: is it a bear, or a rock? Along the way you may find black or grizzly bear, wolves, or moose. Stop at Gloomy Knob and search the mountains for large, off-white patterns- Mountain Goats!

As you approach the glaciers, notice the changes in your surroundings. Look at the shoreline and notice the change of both vegetation and geology. Icebergs from the tidewater glaciers begin to surround the boat. Finally, Margerie Glacier comes into view. Margerie advances anywhere from 12 to 14 feet a day, and calves frequently. Listen for the crackling sound of ice breaking, or “White Thunder”, as the Tlingits say. To the right, you’ll notice a long wall of black- The Grand Pacific. This mighty receding glacier once filled the entire bay, even reaching the Icy Strait in the 1700’s. The blackness hiding the glacier’s once beautiful blue coloring is rocky moraine.

After spending some time admiring and learning about Margerie and the Grand Pacific, the tour takes you to admire other glaciers nearby. Occasionally, the boat may turn into John Hopkins Inlet. (We say “occasionally” because during particular months, harbor seals will haul on the icebergs to have their pups- and for their protection, boats are not aloud to disturb). Johns Hopkins displays some of the most astounding terrain in Alaska. Above the inlet is Mount Orville and Wilbur, standing at more than 10,000 feet. Floating ice surrounds the glacier, as if its nature’s own form of protection for the habitat.

Lamplugh is the final glacial stop. It is about 160 feet high and 3/4 mile wide. A recent landslide has changed the appearance of this subtle beauty. Look in the surrounding waters for kayakers. Admire the large blocks of ice sitting on the shore. After Lamplugh, enjoy a peaceful ride back to the dock.


After arriving back at Bartlett Cove, we always encourage our guests to explore the grounds. Take a left at the top of the dock, down a dirt road leading to Alaskan monuments. On the way, you will see a handmade Tlingit canoe, a humpback whale skeleton, and end at the Tlingit Tribal House. Inside Glacier Bay Lodge, you will find a small museum on the second floor, displaying all you need to know about Glacier Bay’s ecosystems.

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We are confident that the Glacier Bay Day Tour will be a trip you will never forget! 

Other information:

  • Passengers board at 7AM and depart at 7:30AM, and return at 3:30PM
  • A Park Ranger narrates the tour and is available to answer questions
  • There are tables on the downstairs level and serving trays on the seats upstairs
  • There is a viewing deck both behind and on the top level of the boat
  • The boat has two marine toilets available for passengers
  • There is no smoking aboard the vessel
  • Binoculars are available for use
  • Vegetarian meals are provided per request (just let us know during booking)
  • We suggest you bring:
    • Warm clothing, such as a fleece, long underwear, wool socks, and a jacket
    • Hats, gloves, sunglasses
    • Camera equipment
    • Regular tennis-shoes or hiking shoes are OK, as you will not be leaving the boat
  • Rangers lead walks through the Forest Loop Trail at various times throughout the day. Be sure to ask us for a schedule of events, if you are interested in joining!

Interested in a smaller, more personalized tour? We can arrange for you to take a private glacier tour, which allows you to get a little bit closer or spend a little more time where you want. Contact us for more information!


Author: beartrackinn

Experience the mesmerizing landscapes of Glacier Bay in a luxurious handcrafted lodge. We offer gourmet meals, transportation, and excellent service.

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