When cruising along the shores and through the fjords of Alaska, you can’t miss the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and get up close and personal with nature. Throughout our cruise, I mentioned to my husband, Pete, more than once that it felt like we woke up in a painting, surrounded by fresh mountain air and epic landscapes.
Skagway’s Davidson Glacier Cruise Excursion
When it came to choosing our shore excursions, the decision was tough. There’s so much to do, everything from seaplane tours, to dog-sledding, nature hikes, and wilderness dining and fishing. We spent a morning at Mendenhall Glacier while in Juneau and definitely wanted to get out into the wilderness a bit more at our next port. So we decided to go on the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari in Skagway to visit Davidson Glacier. It sounded like a great combination of active outdoor fun that included hiking through a rainforest, canoeing, and seeing a glacier up close.
The morning we arrived in Skagway, our tour began at 10:30 am, giving us plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast on board the ship before meeting our tour leader at the pier. Once we connected with our group, we boarded a speed boat that would take us deeper into the fjord to see the glacier while also getting a closer view at wildlife.
Along the way, our boat captain stopped at one of the many waterfalls spilling into the fjord, a spectacular scene of summertime snow melt coming off the mountain tops. There, lounging at the base of the falls, was an adorable sea lion resting on the shore. I couldn’t believe how close we were able to get!
Further along during our journey on the water, our guides pointed out a hanging glacier in the distance, Rainbow Glacier, cradled by two mountain peaks with a huge waterfall gushing in between. It was breathtaking. With houses and log cabins nestled in between the evergreens surrounding the glacier, the whole landscape looked like a fairytale.
Gearing Up To Visit The Glacier
After about an hour on the water, we arrived on a rocky beach and our captain lowered a stairway for us to step out onto a remote island where another group of guides were waiting for us to arrive. We took a short break, enjoying a simple lunch of turkey sandwiches and trail mix at a picnic pavilion surrounded by fields of vibrant purple fireweed.
After our quick snack, the next part of our journey began as we hopped onto a vintage school bus to take a ride deeper into the woods to get us closer to the glacier. During the drive, our guides told us more about the area including the names of the flowers we were seeing (that’s how I knew about the fireweed) and the bear sightings around the camp. The guides were funny, cracking jokes and sharing stories, obviously loving their job camping on this island during the summer months.
The bus took us to a trail head we were outfitted with soft rubber boots and waterproof coats to better prepare us for visiting the glacier. The boots were surprisingly comfortable to walk in and the trail was easy to navigate. Our short trek through the forest led us to a set of wood canoes on the shores of a fast-moving river. We’d later discover that this river was actually coming right out of the glacier.
The rubber boots kept our feet dry as we boarded the boats and paddled out to the middle of the river. Once we were safely away from shore, the guide took over, revving up the motor so we could relax and enjoy the scenic ride.
First Glimpse of Davidson Glacier From The Water
The path of the river changes frequently, so the guides never know how close we can get to the glacier until we paddle up to it. Well, lucky for us, we happened to go out on a perfect day because the river direction had changed and we were able to dock the boats, walk right up to Davidson Glacier, and actually touch it! It was definitely the experience of a lifetime and the most memorable part of our cruise!
Walking Up To Davidson Glacier Near Skagway
TIP: Outdoor excursions are such an important part of the Alaskan cruise experience, that I recommend taking a look at the activities available in each port and make sure to budget for the ones you’re most interested in. This one in Skagway Alaska for the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari was the perfect fit for us when it came to price, adventure level, and sight-seeing.
Recommended For: Active Travelers
Time: 6.5 Hour Day
What You’ll See: Waterfalls, Wildlife, Forests, and Glaciers
What You’ll Do: Fjord Cruise, Hiking, Canoeing
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Check out our gallery below for more photos of our adventure in Skagway!
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.