Mt. Jumbo

Mt. Jumbo





Most Anchorage residents find ourselves in Juneau occasionally, and the capital city has great hiking near town. Whether you’re travelling to Juneau for a vacation, or you’ve just got a couple hours free, there are several convenient hikes through a stunning tapestry of rainforest, bog, and alpine terrain. Downtown: If you’re staying in downtown Juneau and don’t have a car, the best hiking starts near Basin Road. The Mount Roberts trail is Juneau’s most popular, with trailheads on Basin Road proper and at the upper end of 6th Avenue in the Starr Hill neighborhood. From downtown, it is a 4.5 mile walk up Mount Roberts trail to the tram and back. You can go much farther out the ridgeline after wading through throngs of tourists unloading from the tram. For a more liesurely walk, head out Basin Road and continue on Perseverance Trail, which climbs gradually, paralleling Gold Creek. This creek follows one of Alaska’s oldest roadbeds, and it is humbling to think about the challenge of hacking this road out of the mountainside to access mining claims a century ago. For a half-day walk that’s accessible from downtown, take Perseverance trail and turn left up the Mount Juneau trail. Mount Juneau looms over downtown, and has sweeping views up Lynn Canal to the north and Gastineau Channel to the south. If you have a full day, continue east along the ridgeline, then bushwhack downhill to Perseverance trail for a ridge and valley loop. Douglas: Mount Jumbo (aka Bradley) is an enchanting, lake-studded summit above the small town of Douglas. The trail up Mount Jumbo departs from the Treadwell Ditch trail south of town. There are multiple ways to access Treadwell Ditch trail from Douglas, including a non-descript, barely-trailhead off E St. Note there’s not a real trailhead here, so just parallel park on the street. Hike uphill on what looks like an abandoned roadbed, then continue uphill through grassy bogs until hitting Treadwell Ditch. The only part of the Mount Jumbo trail that’s in good shape is a nice boardwalk across bogs just uphill of the trail intersection with Treadwell Ditch. From town, including Treadwell Ditch, it’s approximately five and a half miles out and back to Jumbo’s summit. Since the trail up Jumbo is steep and essentially unmaintained, it is fairly slow going, and takes nearly as much time going down as up due to mud-sliding and root-climbing. Once you get above treeline, Jumbo has panoramic views looking south toward Taku Inlet, and the trail passes by numerous small alpine ponds. The true summit is a round, bedrock prominence on top of the broad summit plateau. Near the summit, look north over a deeply incised couloir that descends steeply to Jumbo’s east-facing bowl below. With the combination of limitless views, alpine ponds, and varied topography, Jumbo is my favorite half-day or long evening hike near town. Mendenhall Valley: The (other? better?) Valley has more hiking options than will fit in one article, and include very accessible trails starting from the Mendenhall Glacier visitors’ center. Looking beyond those obvious choices, I recommend checking out Thunder Mountain, the ridgeline that towers over the south side of the Valley. There are two trailheads providing convenient trail access to Thunder Mountain. One is just north of the DOTPF building on Glacier Highway, and the other is at the east end of Jennifer Drive near Glacier Valley Elementary. From the Jennifer Drive trailhead, head right across a boardwalk, then follow the largest trail generally heading right (south). After you hit the toe of the mountainside, you should cross a small creek and see a handmade sign indicating the trail up Thunder Mountain. The network of trails leading up to this sign can be confusing. After you start up the trail, navigation is easy but the fairly steep trail will be slippery when wet. You don’t hit treeline until the ridge tops out near Thunder Mountain’s “summit,” which is more like a small prominence. True summits are on the very walkable ridgeline further to the east. The standard out-and-back Thunder Mountain hike takes three to four hours, and allocate more time if continuing out the very tempting ridgeline in the direction of the icefield. Thunder Mountain has incomparable views of the Mendenhall Glacier and Auke Bay. There are more than enough places to explore to plan an outdoor-oriented vacation to Juneau, but it’s worth getting out to explore even if you just have a few hours. With Juneau’s steep topography and backyard trails, you can access the alpine and incredible views with an afternoon or evening walk.

by Zack Fields

Most Anchorage residents find ourselves in Juneau occasionally, and the capital city has great hiking near town. Whether you’re travelling to Juneau for a vacation, or you’ve just got a couple hours free, there are several convenient hikes through a stunning tapestry of rainforest, bog, and alpine terrain.

Downtown: If you’re staying in downtown Juneau and don’t have a car, the best hiking starts near Basin Road. The Mount Roberts trail is Juneau’s most popular, with trailheads on Basin Road proper and at the upper end of 6th Avenue in the Starr Hill neighborhood. From downtown, it is a 4.5 mile walk up Mount Roberts trail to the tram and back. You can go much farther out the ridgeline after wading through throngs of tourists unloading from the tram. For a more liesurely walk, head out Basin Road and continue on Perseverance Trail, which climbs gradually, paralleling Gold Creek. This creek follows one of Alaska’s oldest roadbeds, and it is humbling to think about the challenge of hacking this road out of the mountainside to access mining claims a century ago. For a half-day walk that’s accessible from downtown, take Perseverance trail and turn left up the Mount Juneau trail. Mount Juneau looms over downtown, and has sweeping views up Lynn Canal to the north and Gastineau Channel to the south. If you have a full day, continue east along the ridgeline, then bushwhack downhill to Perseverance trail for a ridge and valley loop.

Douglas: Mount Jumbo (aka Bradley) is an enchanting, lake-studded summit above the small town of Douglas. The trail up Mount Jumbo departs from the Treadwell Ditch trail south of town. There are multiple ways to access Treadwell Ditch trail from Douglas, including a non-descript, barely-trailhead off E St. Note there’s not a real trailhead here, so just parallel park on the street. Hike uphill on what looks like an abandoned roadbed, then continue uphill through grassy bogs until hitting Treadwell Ditch. The only part of the Mount Jumbo trail that’s in good shape is a nice boardwalk across bogs just uphill of the trail intersection with Treadwell Ditch. From town, including Treadwell Ditch, it’s approximately five and a half miles out and back to Jumbo’s summit. Since the trail up Jumbo is steep and essentially unmaintained, it is fairly slow going, and takes nearly as much time going down as up due to mud-sliding and root-climbing. Once you get above treeline, Jumbo has panoramic views looking south toward Taku Inlet, and the trail passes by numerous small alpine ponds. The true summit is a round, bedrock prominence on top of the broad summit plateau. Near the summit, look north over a deeply incised couloir that descends steeply to Jumbo’s east-facing bowl below. With the combination of limitless views, alpine ponds, and varied topography, Jumbo is my favorite half-day or long evening hike near town.

Mendenhall Valley: The (other? better?) Valley has more hiking options than will fit in one article, and include very accessible trails starting from the Mendenhall Glacier visitors’ center. Looking beyond those obvious choices, I recommend checking out Thunder Mountain, the ridgeline that towers over the south side of the Valley. There are two trailheads providing convenient trail access to Thunder Mountain. One is just north of the DOTPF building on Glacier Highway, and the other is at the east end of Jennifer Drive near Glacier Valley Elementary. From the Jennifer Drive trailhead, head right across a boardwalk, then follow the largest trail generally heading right (south). After you hit the toe of the mountainside, you should cross a small creek and see a handmade sign indicating the trail up Thunder Mountain. The network of trails leading up to this sign can be confusing. After you start up the trail, navigation is easy but the fairly steep trail will be slippery when wet. You don’t hit treeline until the ridge tops out near Thunder Mountain’s “summit,” which is more like a small prominence. True summits are on the very walkable ridgeline further to the east. The standard out-and-back Thunder Mountain hike takes three to four hours, and allocate more time if continuing out the very tempting ridgeline in the direction of the icefield. Thunder Mountain has incomparable views of the Mendenhall Glacier and Auke Bay.

There are more than enough places to explore to plan an outdoor-oriented vacation to Juneau, but it’s worth getting out to explore even if you just have a few hours. With Juneau’s steep topography and backyard trails, you can access the alpine and incredible views with an afternoon or evening walk.

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