Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The U.S. Forest Service will close the back side of Steep Creek Trail beginning July 16 for the annual return of spawning salmon near Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
Visitor Center Director John Neary said they anticipate the return of salmon and bears soon, “The elevated platforms provide a safe viewing area, but the backside-trail along the west bank does not since it is on grade.”
The bears have grown tolerant of people who move slowly and quietly on the elevated platforms, allowing people to observe natural bear behavior while having a minimal impact on the wild animals.
Steep Creek Trail and the platforms are included in the glacier’s fee areas. Passes are needed at any time of day or evening. Season passes cost $10 after July 15th. They can be purchased at the visitor center’s Discovery Southeast bookstore and at the Juneau Ranger District at 8510 Mendenhall Loop Road. They are also available at credit card vending machines located in the parking lots.
Providing a safe buffer zone for people and bears along Steep Creek is essential to good wildlife viewing, according to Neary. “The bears are not surrounded by people on all sides and are less stressed which ultimately provides better viewing,” said Neary. “This closure significantly improves bear viewing each summer and was first instituted over ten years ago.”
Hikers and cyclists will encounter signs at trailheads alerting them to the closure when they enter the Dredge Lakes area. Access is closed between the Moraine Ecology Trail and the glacier. The boundary is clearly marked by yellow rope with closure signs. An alternative route can be accessed through the bus parking lot that avoids the closure zone.
The visitor center recommends following this guidance when on Steep Creek’s elevated platforms, for the safety and enjoyable experience of everyone:
- Maintain a calm demeanor and use slow movements.
- Be courteous and respectful of other visitors.
- Dogs and bicycles are not permitted.
- Food and flavored beverages are prohibited outdoors in the visitor center area.
- Please notify staff when you see a bear.