Good to know before arriving in Juneau, Alaska
The capital of Alaska and the second largest city in the state, Juneau is located on the Gastineau Channel. That’s less than 100 miles from the US-Canadian border. The borough and city has a population of circa 31,000 inhabitants and is the second largest in the United States by area. Mayhap more impressive to non-Juneauites, that’s larger even than the state of Delaware!
The mainstay of the economy is government derived: 50% of the workforce serve in the Federal, state or local governments. Tourism is the largest private sector endeavor, followed by commercial fishing and mining. In 2017, well over a million tourists will make a visit to the capital. Three quarters of them will come from the cruise ships that visit between May and September.
Undeniably, the city enjoys a humid continental climate, where there is a zone of conflict between polar and tropical air masses. The local topography and the Pacific Ocean moderate its temperature extremes. It’s pretty wet here, with the city experiencing an average of 220 days of rain each year. Summer is the nicest time of the year to visit the city, as the daily high temperatures hover in the mid-60s F, and there’s plenty of daylight to be enjoyed. See more on Juneau’s weather and climate.
The face of Juneau
Juneau has an interesting vibe. The downtown part of the city has the feel of somewhere between the old West and a modern city. Pleasantly low-rise, with many of the buildings boasting frontier architecture, and with four-faced clocks adorning many of the street corners. When the cruise ships arrive in the summer months, the population of the town swells appreciably. Particularly on those days when five or six ships stop in the state capital, sending more than 10,000 passengers and crew downtown. And thus, into the historically iconic and touristic spots throughout the area.
But downtown Juneau does not Juneau make. The west side is a bedroom community across the bridge from downtown on Douglas Island, while the Mendenhall Valley, located northwest of downtown Juneau, is home to a large residential community, the businesses that serve them, the airport and the University of Alaska Southeast. This is also where the Alaska Ferry docks.
The Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest is the largest temperate rainforest in North America, covering nearly 17 million acres, including nearly all of Alaska’s Inside Passage. The mighty Sitka Spruce, Alaska’s state tree, dominates the Tongass and can be identified by its very straight top and sharp-tipped needles. Another common species in the forest is the Western Hemlock, with its drooping top and soft, flat needles. The old growth trees of the Tongass can be 200 to 700 years old.
Life in a rainforest
The Tongass is a temperate rainforest, different from tropical rainforests in two ways: temperate rainforests are much cooler and are home to fewer species of plants and animals (even though there are more animals than people here in Juneau), than their tropical counterparts. But what temperate rainforests lose in biodiversity, they more than make up in biomass.
More trails than roads
Juneau is home to 262.2 miles of hiking trails compared to Juneau’s 45 miles of roadways from Thane at the South to Echo Cove at the North, and there are only 22 miles of pavement on Douglas Island. Did you know Alaska has one mile of road for every 42-square miles of land, compared to the U.S. average of one to one?
Wild about our wildlife
Our saltwater coastlines, rivers and streams are great spots to look for wildlife. Don’t forget to scan the trees for the white heads and tails of adult bald eagles and the brown-speckled plumage of juveniles. During the summer months (May to September), watch the Channel for humpback whales, orcas, Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals and Steller sea lions. While it’s not uncommon for black bears, marmots, and porcupines to wander into town, please remember never to approach or feed wild animals or birds, for your safety and theirs.
Folks coming from mainland U.S., Juneau operates on Alaska Time, which is 5 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time. Visitors from farther afield, that’s 9 hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time (during standard time). Or, 8 hours during daylight savings time. (Daylight savings time begins on the second Sunday of March, and ends on the first Sunday of November.)
Juneau Telephone Information
Canadian cell phones used in the U.S. work seamlessly in Alaska.
The Country Code in the U.S. is 1, just like in Canada.
The Area Code (as in all of Alaska) is 907.
Local Phone Numbers have seven digits: XXX-XXXX
Emergency and Information Numbers
Alaska State Troopers, City Police, Fire Department, Ambulance: dial 911.
Bartlett Regional Hospital: (907) 796-8900.
Weather Line: (907) 586-3997.
There’s a lot to do in Juneau, and even more to discover off the beaten path. Because your safety is important to us, please keep the following in mind:
- Remember to watch out for traffic. Downtown Juneau is bustling with energy.
- Use crosswalks throughout the city. Juneau’s courteous drivers will stop, allowing for safe passage.
- Never approach or feed wild animals or birds, for your safety and theirs.
- Be prepared for variable weather. It’s important to dress in layers and bring along good rain gear. The weather here can change quickly, and there’s nothing worse than being wet and cold!
- If you go hiking, please remain on marked trails. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return, carry high-energy food and water and have good information and a map with you.
Juneau, Alaska shares the same currency with the rest of the United States is the U.S. dollar, and it is printed on bills in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Coins include the cent, nickel, dime, quarter, fifty cent piece and dollar.