Waking up in Gustavus is exciting when you know there are numerous trails around to explore. Whether you have a free day or a free afternoon, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the trails you don’t want to miss:
Nagoonberry Trail (Gustavus, AK)
Difficulty Level: Easy (45 minutes – 2 hours)
Head on down to the Nagoonberry Trail for a leisurely 2 mile loop stroll through forest and meadows. This walk features flat topography and benches located at two scenic outlooks.
Did you know that Gustavus’s landscape is rebounding an average of 1.5 inches per year from the glacial retreat? With this rebound comes a new and inspiring type of ecosystem. The trail was created by the Nature Conservancy as an effort to preserve 4.5 miles of coastal wetlands along with essential plants, animals, and natural communities. Terrain includes mixed woodland, mature meadow, browsed willow, spruce forest, and drift logs that float ashore from the tides. The flowers and grasses in the meadow keep the spruce and other trees from establishing, while the high water table in the mixed woodlands keep spruce and cottonwood trees from thriving.
Flowers to admire include shooting stars, chocolate lilies, strawberries, cow parsnip, beach pea, angelica, and of course, the state flower, Forget-me-not. Various wildlife can also be spotted, such as moose, black bear, coyote, and porcupine. Young willows are a nice treat for moose! The mudflats often attract a diversity of birds, from sandpipers to dunlin, songbirds, sanderling, geese, and ducks.
Falls Creek (Gustavus, AK)
Difficulty Level: Moderate (1.5 – 2.5 hours)
Just outside of the Bear Track Inn lies a hidden, magnificent waterfall. Falls Creek is part of a hydroelectric project created for the city of Gustavus. It uses a portion of the flow to generate electricity, directing a portion of the water through a 9,700 feet pipeline to a powerhouse generator. This project displays approximate 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually! (Source)
From our doorstep to the upper falls, it is around 1.5 miles one way. The trail is clearly marked and all gravel, however, there are one or two steep hills. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, head down to the lower falls and soak up an even grander view of Falls Creek. We suggest you bring water, and Bandit, of course. Bringing a lunch to eat at the picnic table overlook is optional.
Icy Strait Beach (Gustavus, AK)
Difficulty Level: Easy (20 – 45 minutes)
The Bear Track Inn features a breathtaking view of the Icy Strait- and its only a short walk to the beach from out doorstep! Part road and part grassland, this hike is suitable for all. Enjoy looking for signs of wildlife in the mudflats, bird watching, or simply sit and take in the view.
Forest Loop Trail (Glacier Bay NP)
Difficulty Level: Easy (30 minutes – 1 hour)
We recommend this trail to stretch your legs after a long day on the Glacier Bay Day Boat Tour. At only 1 mile long, the trail begins and ends at the Bartlett Cove dock. Pass through hemlock-spruce forest while listening to the sounds of Alaska’s wildlife. Peak bird migrations are in May and June, while June and July is great for wildflowers. Guided walks are also available at certain times, and are lead by Glacier Bay Park Rangers.
Bartlett River Trail (Glacier Bay NP)
Difficulty Level: Moderate (4 – 5 hours)
The Bartlett River Trail is 5 miles round trip full of muddy terrain, numerous stumps, and small inclines. The trail is not maintained and is as wild as it comes! Meander along inter-tidal lagoons and through the forest until you reach the Bartlett River. Here, you can spot duck, geese, and sometimes seal. Salmon run up the river in the later part of summer. This spot is also great for stream fishing during peak seasons. We suggest you wear rubber boots and rain gear, and bring water.. Taking a picnic lunch is optional.
Bartlett Lake Trail (Glacier Bay NP)
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult (7 – 8 hours)
Branched off the Bartlett River Trail is the Bartlett Lake Trail. This magnificent trail is 6 miles round trip and is even more wild than the River Trail. With non-maintained trails, it is vital to stay on the visible pathway. Travel through the temperate rain forest and hike through moss-covered boulders or lichen-covered trees. We suggest you wear rubber boots and rain gear, and bring water as well as a lunch.
Back Country or Off-Trail Hiking (Glacier bay NP)
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult
Back-country hiking is also an option, however, most guests only pursue this if they are camping in the park. As always in the forest, there are steep slopes, massive threes, impenetrable alder, and a chance of running into Alaskan wildlife. Do at your own risk! (Source)
Gustavus Plane Crash (Gustavus, AK)
Difficulty Level: Easy
Gustavus has a few hidden spots, and the plane crash site is no exception. This easy, 1/4 mile hike is located on Mountain View Road near Glacier Bay National Park. In November of 1957, a military, twin-engine Douglas C-47 crashed during an attempt to land for refueling during a home bound flight to Anchorage. There were four men killed, and seven survived. Take in the history and give a few moments of silence as you view this incomprehensible scene. Be sure to ask for our pamphlet, The Complete 1957 Gustavus Plane Crash Story written by Rita Wilson, explaining the historical significance of this site, or read about it here.