Located just 12 miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska, Mendenhall Glacier is a 12-mile long glacier within Mendenhall Valley. Inside the glacier is a sight that few people have had the opportunity to see in person: the Mendenhall Ice Caves. Having been described as “otherworldly” and “surreal,” the magical Ice Caves are very difficult and dangerous to access due to their location. However if you can kayak over frigid, rough seas or ice climb over slippery, uneven terrain, then you can experience the stunning beauty of the Mendenhall Ice Caves hidden inside.
Federally protected as part of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a unit of the Tongass National Forest, the glacier originally had two names: Sitaantaagu, which means “Glacier Behind the Town,” and Aak’wtasksit, which means “Glacier Behind the Little Lake.” It was later renamed to Mendenhall Glacier in honor of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. As a noted scientist, he was responsible for surveying the international boundary between Canada and Alaska with the Alaska Boundary Commission. Mendenhall served as Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1889 to 1894.