BY LORI KLEIN
For the UAS Whalesong
Did you know that Juneau has over 200 miles of hiking trails? Some trails meander short distances through the forest or along the beach. Others lead you away from civilization, to the top of mountains or the face of glaciers. You don’t have to be super fit or back country savvy to enjoy Juneau’s trails. You just have to know your limits and choose wisely.
Since I moved to Juneau in 1996, I’ve always had a copy of 90 Short Walks Around Juneau, by Mary Lou King on my bookshelf. You can find this book locally at all bookstores. I crack it open almost every time I go out. It’s rich with information – not just the length and elevation of the trail, but with historical information and notes about wildlife.
There are two great trails near UAS that I wanted to share with you. They are a little different from each other, and both will give you flavor for the area.
The Auke Lake Trail was developed in a partnership between the UAS and the City and Borough of Juneau. It can be accessed at two points – 11.3 mile Glacier Highway or at Goat Hill Road off from “Back Loop” Road. If you’re on the main campus, simply follow the lower trails system past the Hendrickson Annex and across the bridge. You have to get back on Glacier Highway for a short stretch before you reach the trailhead.
The trail itself is just over a mile long, although you can extend the hike by walking on the highway to reach your starting point. The trail meanders right along the lake, through an ancient forest rich with history. The elevation gain is only 30 feet, and the trail is built up quite well, although you’ll want to watch the sloping edges. The trail is unique for its floating dock, and the lake itself is used for a lot of recreational activities throughout the year.
I love the deep silence of this trail. Someone once told me they thought it was “spooky,” but I feel a sense of reverence every time I walk it. It’s a great trail to walk in all weather, but I especially like to walk it on sunny or partially sunny evenings as the sun is setting. The light on the lake and through the trees is beautiful. Watch for eagles sitting on the downed trees in the lake. I once walked with a whole family of river otters swimming parallel to me along the shoreline. They even came up out of the lake to check me out. And, as always, in bear country, be aware.
Spaulding Meadows Trail is one of my favorites and a little more challenging than the Auke Lake Trail. It’s only a short walk (or even shorter drive) from main campus. Head “out the road” and watch for the trailhead parking lot on the uphill side of the highway just past Sea View and Bay View streets.
The trail used to be an old mining road, but is now packed dirt with roots and rocks. Its total elevation is around 1400 feet, however my favorite walk is to the “First Meadow” which is about 500 feet and one mile up. I recommend hiking this trail on a nice day, since the view from First Meadow back down into Auke Bay is stunning. Another short walk option is to turn left when you reach the Auke Nu (John Muir) trailhead sign, and follow the trail a short way to the bridge. My family enjoys sitting along the Waydelich Creek and watching the small waterfalls.
For the more adventuresome hikers, keep following the trail beyond First Meadow…up and up. At 1150 feet up the trail you’ll get to “Second Meadow,” and another half mile beyond that you reach Spaulding Meadows. This is “destination” for cross-country skiers in the winter.
Get yourself a copy of 90 Short Walks Around Juneau, grab a friend or two and get out and explore!
BY LORI KLEIN