Glacier Helicopter Tour Excursion

Here’s a short video of us landing on the Norris Glacier via Era Flightseeing Helicopter. The other helicopter landing nearby really helps put the glacier’s scale into perspective. This was one of my favorite excursions on our Alaskan cruise. I had never flown in a helicopter before and was impressed with how smooth and exciting the flight was. The weather wasn’t perfect but it certainly made it memorable.

I would highly recommend a helicopter excursion on your Alaska cruise!

It was No Northwest Passage: Hubbard Glacier

Disenchantment Bay Ice Jam

Soon chunks of ice obscured the water

We spent the next day at sea, no ports on the itinerary and we were scheduled to disembark in Seward the following day, docking before dawn. It was a day to relax, enjoy the ship’s amenities and cruise the Yukatat Bay. We had whale watching and glacier viewing on our agenda.

After breakfast and gathering all of our camera equipment, we headed out to the deck to grab some seating. It was probably our chilliest day at sea, quite windy. The ship proceeded through Yukatat Bay and proceeded into Disenchantment Bay, named thusly as an 18th century explorer was once disappointed to find that it was in fact NOT the entrance to the mythical Northwest Passage. He found himself surrounded by ice chunks and blocked by the face of the Hubbard Glacier, similar to the situation in which the ms Veendam now was.

Approaching Hubbard Glacier

Approaching Hubbard Glacier, another cruise ship gives us a sense of scale through the fog

The captain continued to warn us that we may not be able to get as close to the glacier as desired due to the ice blockages in the passage but eventually we had a great view of the entrance to the Hubbard Glacier, a 76 mile long glacier which stretched both through Alaska and into the Yukon Territory of Canada.

Just as the bay had choked up with ice, it quickly relented its grip and we found ourselves in calm, open water. The captain remarked that in his 20 years of experience he’s never been able to get this close to the glacier. This doubled the excitement in the air, like we were privy to a secret or getting away with playing a trick on mother nature herself.

It was remarkable, the ‘foot’ of the glacier being 8 miles wide. The calves we saw sliding off in chunks off the face were actually the size of 10-story tall buildings, the sound the calving made was impressive. Again we could see the crystallized bright blue across the face of the ice, beautiful.

Crystal Blue Face of Hubbard Glacier

Crystal Blue Face of Hubbard Glacier

At the face of the glacier, most of the ice is actually below the waterline, so our captain explained we had to be careful not to get too close to the shore as calving also took place below the water. Calves could shoot up from below at any moment. He also informed us that the ice we were seeing could possibly be over 400 years old, as it would take that long for the ice to travel the length of a glacier this size.

Hubbard Glacier: very humbling, very powerful.

The Juneau Icefield – Helicopter Glacier Flightseeing Excursion

It had started raining while we were enjoying the Salmon Bake, but not heavily. We traveled by tour van from the heart of downtown Juneau to the Era Helicopter Headquarters. After being weighed, divided into groups of four and geared up, we were ready for our helicopter/glacier excursion. Again, a very well organized business, very friendly people and we felt very secure with the adventure we were about to take.

Era Flightseeing Helicopters Landing

Era Flightseeing Helicopters Landing

Taku Glacier

Flying over the Taku Glacier


See four of Alaska’s most spectacular glaciers as your pilot flies over the ice spires and pinnacles of the “cascading” Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier, the “advancing” Taku Glacier, the “retreating” Norris Glacier and either the mysterious “floating” Dead Branch Glacier or the “river-like” East Twin Glacier.

Land on a remote glacier to step out and explore the ancient landscape with your pilot as your guide. Peer down into a crevasse and look for a glacial stream. On the return trip, watch for bears, mountain goats and moose.

Each glacier we saw during the excursion is part of the Juneau Icefield. The whole trip lasted a little over an hour. We started with flying over the Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier, flew through the Taku Glacier and came to land on the Norris Glacier. It was a completely different world.

Foggy Treeline Gives Way to Blue Glacier

Foggy Treeline Gives Way to Blue Glacier

Glacier Surface Blue Ice

Glacier Surface Blue Ice

Once we departed the helicopter, we found ourselves walking on rocky, uneven ice. Albeit uneven, the pattern in the ice was consistent. It almost looked like it had been purposefully carved with ripples. Several crevices in the surface gave us view to that brilliant blue color of the ice once again, water running over the blue ice like a miniature waterfall or a sculpture.

Norris Glacier Panorama - Juneau AK

Norris Glacier Panorama - Juneau AK

Tug pulling barge from Juneau Port as seen from helicopter

Tug pulling barge from Juneau Port as seen from helicopter

Era Flightseeing also sponsors Dog Sled Excursions on Norris Glacier, we’d love to try this the next time we make the trip. The glacier walks and dog sled lessons are only accessible via air travel.

We sadly returned to our helicopter and began our way back to Era after viewing the last two glaciers on the itinerary. After returning to Juneau, we completed our day in the city just traveling the streets. We poked our heads in the historic Red Dog Saloon and ultimately decided to check out some of the jewelry shops along the main street. Ryan bought me an incredible sapphire and diamond ring, and then we found a great Jade shop next door where we were able to buy some gifts for family members back home.

All in all, a great day in Juneau.

Aerial view of Juneau, Alaska and Cruise Ships at Port

Aerial view of Juneau, Alaska and Cruise Ships at Port

Era Helicopter Flightseeing Brochure 2010