Basic Facts About Glacier Bay National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and spectacularly beautiful US National Park, Glacier Bay National Park is home to vast landscapes composed of jagged mountains, massive glaciers, and freshwater lakes. Situated in Alaska’s panhandle not far from Juneau, the state capital, Glacier Bay National Park has much to offer. 


Glacier Bay National Park was originally carved into being by the enormous Grand Pacific Glacier. In 1794, Captain George Vancouver was the first to survey Glacier Bay in detail, recognizing the glacier as more than 4,000 feet thick and more than 100 miles long. In 1879, naturalist and author John Muir discovered that a bay had been formed where the glacier had retreated more than 30 miles. By 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier had retreated more than 60 miles. 

Along with other conservationists, John Muir pushed for the protection of Glacier Bay and President Calvin Coolidge signed Glacier Bay National Monument into being in 1925. The monument was elevated to national park status by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, which also expanded the boundaries of the park. Glacier Bay National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.


Glacier Bay National Park is characterized by jagged snow capped mountains, coastal beaches, vast tidewater glaciers, deep fjords, rocky valleys, freshwater rivers and lakes, and plenty of native wildlife. The park’s tides can be intense and change dramatically to as much as 25 feet within a 6-hour period. The region is situated in the rugged Gulf of Alaska and is home to the snowy Fairweather Range.