Mendenhall Glacier ice caves on Smithsonian Magazine’s ‘bucket list’

Smithsonian Magazine has listed Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier ice caves on a list of “25 Great New Places to See.”

It’s number six on the “life list” or “bucket list,” beaten out by the largest cave located in Vietnam, gorilla trekking in East Africa and the Alma Telescope in Chile.

Because the Mendenhall Glacier is melting, the magazine says there’s “less time to see one of the most breathtaking visions available.”

The Mendenhall Glacier ice cave in March 2014. This view shows daylight streaming in from the moulin. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
The Mendenhall Glacier ice cave in March 2014. This view shows daylight streaming in from the moulin. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

It says the melting also “reveals astonishing ice caves where blue water runs over blue rocks, creating surreal lava-lampish images.”

Director of the glacier’s visitor center John Neary says images of the ice caves have gotten a lot of media attention in the past few years causing more and more visitors to seek them out.

“People are drawn to the beauty of those photos and they want to experience that. The only disappointment is that 99 percent of them can’t. It’s not feasible in the time frame or the skill of the athletic ability needed,” Neary says.

Hiking to and from the ice caves can be an all-day affair and Neary recommends going with a guide.

The ice caves were heavily photographed in the earlier part of 2014. That particular one has since collapsed and is a remnant of what it was, but other smaller ones have formed.