Top Photography Spots in Gustavus

Ideas and tips for the most photographic spots in Gustavus

Gustavus is a fascinating playground for both outdoors-men and photographers alike. Whether you’re a well-known photographer, or just starting out, these top picks are perfect for wowing friends and family with the beauty of Glacier Bay.

Bear Track Inn

The Bear Track Inn is a wonder in itself. With handcrafted logs and beautiful surroundings, you’re bound to get a few great shots. Fireweed  and Cotton Grass bloom all around the lodge, while Barn Swallows build nests nearby. Take a walk down to the beaches of the Icy Strait where you will find wildflowers, various species of Alaskan birds, and possibly spot a moose or bear!

Tip: June is great for Cotton Grass and Dandelions, while July brings Fireweed. August and September are the best months to view the Northern Lights. 

Falls Creek

Rebecca's Waterfall PhotoThe hike to Falls Creek is 3-5 miles round trip and offers many opportunities to spot wildlife. The growing berries invite Black Bear to graze, while moose travel through the brush with their calves. The waterfall itself is a marvel, and is a must-visit bucket list shot for both beginner and advanced photographers.

Tip: Visit the waterfall after a few days of heavy rain for a fuller effect. 

“Downtown”

Or 4-Corners, as the locals call it. This tiny city was established less than a hundred years ago. Sites to photograph include the Dray, which features old-fashioned pumping stations, a few staple restaurants, and the Gustavus Inn. On Saturday mornings, visit the Farmer’s Market and view local artwork. In addition to the city, there is a boat harbor, old golf course, and of course, the charming little airport (which was built during WWII).

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Tip: There are a few, off-the-beaten-path trails to explore, so be sure to ask around about what trails you should be seeing.

Gustavus Dock

The Gustavus Dock is great for spotting Eagles, Sea Lions, and other marine life. Fishermen bustle in and out of the dock with their catch of Halibut, Salmon, and other tasty fresh Alaskan fish. Sometimes, humpback or Minke whales can be spotted near Pleasant Island, which is viewable from across the dock. To the West, the Fairweather mountains boarder Gustavus with peaks rising 15,000 feet from the sea. Look for Strawberries sprouting on the beach in July. Spending some time around the dock or on the beach will surely bring you some great photo opportunities!

Tip: Check the tides to better plan your photo session. Low tide brings feeding eagles and other birds, while high tide is great for Sea Lions and other feeding wildlife. 

Nagoonberry Trail

Not far from the Gustavus dock is the Nagoonberry Trail. Here you will find natural communities of wildflowers, fruits, Alaskan seabirds, and other various wildlife. The trail is a 2.2 mile loop through forest and meadow, with two scenic outlooks.

Tip: The best months for blooming flowers are June and July. 

Plane Crash Site

IMG_0335_edited-1Off Mountain View Road  is a short, secluded, historically significant trail to the plane crash site of 1957. As you approach the wreckage, scattered pieces of metal are on all sides of the trail. Take a moment to learn about what occurred that frightful night, and take a moment to honor the survivors and brave residents who assisted with the search and rescue.

Tip: Look for various species of mushrooms along the trail. 

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay offers numerous opportunities for amazing shots. Along the Forrest Loop Trail you will find various wildflowers and wildlife, as well as a reconstructed whale skeleton, Snow, a handmade Tlingit canoe, and the beautiful Tlingit Tribal House. Bartlett Cove offers breathtaking scenery and is busy with passing fishermen, small cruise ships, seaplanes, and various wildlife. Look across the cove for signs of black bear, or walk the tide pools and explore the cove’s sea life.

In addition to the cove, Glacier Bay has two rugged trails that are a must to visit. The Bartlett River Trail curves along with the river where you will find various species of mushroom, red squirrels, seals, salmon, or black bear. The Bartlett Lake Trail, which branches off of the River trail, is just as breathtaking, and takes you through temperate rainforest.

We hope you enjoyed our list of incredible photography sites around Gustavus. As always, feel free to contact us for more information. We would love to help you prepare for your visit!

Top Hiking Trails in Gustavus

A compiled list of the most scenic trail ways

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)

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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)

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Bandit at the Upper Falls

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.

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Forest Loop Trail (Glacier Bay NP)

Difficulty Level: Easy (30 minutes – 1 hour)

IMG_0920_edited-2We 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)

BLTBranched 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.

 

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