Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Mt Roberts Goldbelt Tramway in Juneau, Alaska

'On a clear day you can see forever'- perhaps not forever but from the top of the Goldbelt Mt Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska it feels like you can. The view is magnificent. Looking across to the Chilkat Mountains the snowy fleece lays like a last reminder of winter, but down in the Gastineau Channel the huddle of cruise ships tells us summer is not far away. We are here in late June when the flowering fireweed plants respond to the warm days. We are told they will bloom through summer and when they stop winter will have returned.


The Tramway  rises 1,800 ft from sea level. The only aerial tramway in south-east Alaska, it skims the tree tops and carries us upward. I am tempted to say it is not for the faint-hearted but that wouldn't be true. Although it is one of the most vertical cable-cars in the world we feel as secure as if we were still on the ground. Even David, famous for his inability to cope with heights, chats happily as he takes in the scenery.

At the top we are rewarded with a panoramic vista.  If you come on a cruise ship, bring your binoculars. You may be able to make out your fellow passengers far below.


Stunning view from the top.

After a brief stop to soak in the view we investigate the trails radiating out from the upper station. Near the top station the spruce trees which dominate the landscape soon give way to treeless alpine meadows. The Tramway station is at 1750 feet (544 metres). Although one trail goes all the way to Gastineau Peak at 3666 feet (1117 metres) we only make it as far as Father Brown's Cross at 2030 feet (618 metres) .  Father Brown was a local Jesuit priest and keen hiker who, with volunteer help, built the first trail up Mt Roberts. The original cross was erected in 1908 and is now a favourite landmark with amateur photographers. I soon have a small collection of cross photos to add to my digital snapshots.

Spruce Trees near the top station.
Father Brown's cross


We share the mountain with soaring bald-eagles and strutting ravens. The eagles are majestic. The ravens swagger around with a proprietorial air.  Just outside the top station, Lady Baltimore sits in her mew. Injured and unable to be released into the wild she gives us a chance to see how impressive these beautiful creatures are up-close. It turns out bald-eagles aren't bald at all. The white feathers on their heads just make them look that way from a distance.

Lady Baltimore

The highlight of our visit is watching Doug, a master Tlingit (pronounced as if the first 't' was a 'k') craftsman, shape a totem pole from a ten foot cedar log. Visitors are invited to try their hand and I wonder what happens if the chisel slips while in the hands of an amateur. Later we are told visitors are, wisely, kept away from the fine detail.


A visitor being shown how to carve by Doug's son Michael .

Beyond the carving demonstration lies the Raven Eagle Gift Store and Gallery with it's collection of exquisite souvenirs. I fall in love with everything and David is lucky to escape with his wallet intact.

Locally carved totems in the Raven Eagle Gift Store and Gallery - I want to own them all.

We finish our visit with lunch at the restaurant. We are told the crab nachos is a local dish. It seems unlikely somehow, but sitting on the outside deck in the sunshine admiring the mountain scenery it really doesn't matter.


Fast facts:

Where is the Tramway? - The Tramway is situated at the cruise ship dock. If you arrive in Juneau on a cruise you can't miss it. If not head to just south of downtown along Egan Drive and South Franklin St.

Is the Tramway accessible to the disabled? -  Yes the Tramway prides itself on it's disability access.

What facilities are there for children? - Children will love the tram ride itself. Once at the top head to the Nature Center for interpretive displays and information pitched at the younger members of the family. They can climb into a life-size reproduction eagle's nest, play 'Whose Scat is that?', or try their hand at solving the puzzles of the mystery boxes.

How much does it cost? - Adult tickets are $33. Children from 6-12 cost $16 and children 5 and under are free.  Click here for ticket purchase information

Is there a restaurant at the top? - Yes. On a fine day grab a table outside in the sunshine. We did.

Children can play 'Whose scat is that?' 

David was a whizz at the Mystery Boxes.

Note: David and I received complimentary tickets to the Goldbelt Mt Roberts Tramway.

For the next post in this series click - here

For all my posts on the Alaska Marine Highway and our Alaska/Canada road trip click- here


11 July 2015


40 comments:

  1. Wow! Really interesting. Like the mix of views, culture and wildlife. I think this is a must visit place in Juneau.

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    1. I hadn't really thought of it that way but you are right - views, culture and wildlife.

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  2. Would love to go to Alaska and to Juneau, and the tramway looks ..well, high

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    1. Haha - yep - high is a good word for it!

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  3. Would love to visit Alaska! Just found out that Icelandair goes from London to Alaska so it's now an easier option for us. My kids would love this tramway. The views!

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    1. We took our boys on a few tramways around the world when they were young and they were always a hit.

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  4. Oh, thanks for this tip! We're just putting together an Alaska itinerary, and you can bet this is on it now. The hike sounds great - did you stop at the cross because of time or does it get pretty steep after that? Curious how hard the hike is, as we'll be taking Grandma with us. :) Thanks!

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    1. We stopped at the cross because it was hot and we were being a bit lazy. The walk beyond there isn't hard but unless Grandma is really fit she won't manage it. You could always pop Grandma on the tramway and meet her at the top. You can hike up the mountain but it would take a good hour or so. There is a discount price to just ride down the tram and if you spend $20 each at the top you can ride down for free. We have friends who did the walk up - if you want more info on that I could ask them.

      If you want a great walk which Grandma could manage as long as she isn't too infirm I would head out to the Mendenhall Glacier and do the walk out to it. It is flat, easy and only takes about 20 minutes with stunning views at the end.

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  5. Ah, thanks for this post, Lyn. I was just asking around on FB the other day if anybody has any posts about Alaska, as I am planning to go there in August. This comes in very handy.

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    1. I have a few more to go - Juneau, Sitka, Haines and Skagway. My plan is to post one each week but I may get them up a bit quicker once we arrive home in a couple of weeks.

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  6. I'm hoping to do an Alaskan cruise next summer and have pinned this to my Pinterest board so I'll remember it. That is indeed quite a steep climb, but the view and that hike among the trees make it so worthwhile. Thanks for linking up with #WkendTravelInspiration.

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    1. I think that is why so many people take the tram - you get the view and the trees without having to hike up. Good luck with your Alaskan cruise. I'm sure you'll have a great time.

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  7. It looks like you had a picture perfect day to enjoy the view, as well as explore once you got up to the station. We haven't yet been to Juneau, so this is a great recommendation.

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    1. We did get fabulous weather. South-east Alaska is famous for rain and miserable weather but David went to great lengths to time our visit to give us the maximum chance of sunshine - after that it was just luck.

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  8. That view is amazing! Tramways like that always make me nervous, but a view like that would be enough to get me on the tram. Some day I'll do an Alaska cruise and when I'm in Juneau, I'll be there!

    And I love that 'Whose scat is that?' activity! Very clever.

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    1. I'm with you about tramway's being scary. We've done a couple in Europe and I've thought the whole way up 'why are we doing this' but I felt really safe on this one.

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  9. As you know, we were also in Juneau some years ago, but I don't even remember the Tramway. Although we were there in August, the weather was not friendly - I don't think we would have seen anything from the top! It looks like a beautiful and interesting spot to visit.

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    1. My brother went last year and got terrible weather but he was there in September. We were lucky and got sunshine the whole time.

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  10. What gorgeous landscape and views. I would love to try chiseling a small portion of that totem, what a fun idea! Please do share this on our link up today at Travel Photo Mondays

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    1. I'm all thumbs when it comes to any sort of artwork but the offer to have a go was open to any visitor.

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  11. Beautiful scenery. I'm glad you mentioned feeling secure and comfortable in the tramway. I'd love to see the views, but might have been put off by nervousness, Your comment about the flowering fireweed plants reminded me of seeing them years and year ago on a visit to the Yukon. They are so pretty.

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    1. One thing I have been blown away by in both Alaska and Canada is how lovely the flowering wildflowers are.

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  12. I, too, have a fear of heights, but as enclosed as the tramway car looks, I'm sure I wouldn't have a problem with it. Such beautiful scenery! I don't think I've ever seen a bad photo of Alaska.

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    1. I could send you a few terrible photos but that has a lot more to do with my amateur efforts than the beautiful scenery. I defy anyone to be more frightened of heights than David and still function normally but he was fine with this.

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  13. Great photos! And I'm so glad you shared the background info on the cross - I'd have been wondering!
    Thanks for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/07/get-peek-at-those-cute-little-feet.html

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    1. I wondered too. Usually a cross, especially on a mountain, means someone has died. It was nice to read the plaque and see that wasn't the case.

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  14. Thanks for the tour. These are some beautiful pics. Found you over at Sue's Linky. ~Lowanda of Sunshine and Elephants

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  15. Interesting read with beautiful views.Glad to read about this carving and other interesting details.

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    1. Watching the carving and learning about the meaning of the different totem symbols was a real privilege.

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  16. Our first cruise was to Alaska several years ago, and the Mt Roberts tramway was one of the highlights. Thanks for the memories and great photos!

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  17. I don't like riding trams but I do like Juneau. It was nice revisiting this scenic town with you.

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  18. Lovely pictures Lyn and I enjoyed learning about the tramway.

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    1. Thanks - glad you enjoyed the post.

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  19. Looks like a fantastic way to see Juneau! Gives new meaning to looking down on it. We are headed to Alaska next week but won't be making it to the capitol city. Have to do that on another trip sometime.

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  20. Just incredible, I'd love to do that hike. What wonderful memories you have been making!
    Thanks for joining in #WednesdayWanderlust

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