Exploring Alaska’s Glaciers: Norris vs Mendenhall

Alaska is home to some of the most stunning glaciers in the world, including Norris Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier. While both offer breathtaking views and unique experiences, there are some key differences to consider when deciding which one to visit. Read on to learn more about these two impressive natural wonders.

Location and Accessibility

One of the biggest differences between Norris Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier is their location and accessibility. Norris Glacier is located in the remote wilderness of the Coast Mountains, accessible only by helicopter or a strenuous hike. On the other hand, Mendenhall Glacier is located just 12 miles from downtown Juneau and can be easily accessed by car or bus. This makes Mendenhall Glacier a more convenient option for those who want to experience a glacier without venturing too far from civilization.

Norris Glacier packraft day trip

Size and Shape

Another difference between Norris Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier is their size and shape. Norris Glacier is smaller and more compact, with a length of about 3 miles and a width of about 1 mile. Mendenhall Glacier, on the other hand, is much larger, with a length of about 13 miles and a width of about 1.5 miles. Additionally, Mendenhall Glacier has a distinctive shape, with a large icefall at its head and a glacier-fed lake at its foot.

float plane parked near Norris Glacier

Activities and Tours

Both Norris Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier offer a variety of activities and tours for visitors. At Norris Glacier, visitors can take a float plane tour to see the glacier from above, or go on a guided glacier trek to explore the ice up close. Mendenhall Glacier offers kayak and canoe tours and guided hikes, as well as kayaking and canoeing on the glacier-fed lake. Mendenhall Glacier also has a visitor center with exhibits and educational programs about the glaciers and their surrounding ecosystems. Norris Glacier is a completely different experience located in the wilderness with little to no development.

guide assisting a packraft off Norris Glacier into water

Wildlife and Scenery

Both Norris Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier offer stunning views of Alaska’s wildlife and scenery. At Norris Glacier, visitors may spot mountain goats, black bears, and bald eagles in their natural habitats. From the Norris, visitors will also get majestic view of the Taku Glacier, which is the largest glacier on the Juneau Icefield. Mendenhall Glacier is home to a variety of wildlife, including salmon, and bald eagles. Both glaciers offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and waterfalls. No matter which glacier you choose to visit, you’re sure to be awed by the natural beauty of Alaska.

Climate and Weather

The climate and weather at Norris Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier can vary depending on the time of year. In general, the summer months (June-August) are the warmest and driest, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to mid-60s Fahrenheit. However, it’s important to note that weather can be unpredictable in Alaska, and visitors should be prepared for rain, wind, and cooler temperatures even in the summer. In the winter months (December-February), temperatures can drop below freezing and snowfall is common. Visitors should check weather forecasts and dress appropriately for the conditions.

Explore Mendenall and Norris Glacier Tours with Above & Beyond Alaska. Our experienced guides are ready to lead you on an adventure of a lifetime.