The Juneau area has four popular Forest Service cabins that can be reached by hiking trails or on skis in winter. Some of these book up six months in advance. For more details on all Forest Service cabins in the area, contact Centennial Hall Visitor Center (101 Egan Dr., 907/586-2201 or 888/581-2201) or the district office in Mendenhall Valley (8510 Mendenhall Loop Rd., 907/586-8800, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass).
Located on a scenic alpine ridge, the John Muir Cabin overlooks Auke Bay and the surrounding islands. Get there by following the Spaulding Trail for 0.5 miles, turning left onto the Auk Nu Trail, and continuing another 2.5 miles to the cabin. The trail starts from a parking area on the right side of the road 12 miles northwest of town and just beyond the Auke Bay Post Office.
The Peterson Lake Cabin lies at the end of a 4.5-mile trail. Although it’s mostly boardwalk, rubber boots are strongly recommended. The trailhead is on the right, 24 miles northwest of town, and just beyond the Shrine of St. Therese. Experienced hikers or cross-country skiers with a map and compass may want to cross the alpine ridges from Peterson Lake to the John Muir Cabin (2.5 miles away), where they can head back along the Auke Nu and Spaulding Trails.
The Dan Moller Cabin on Douglas Island lies at the end of a three-mile trail. Get there by taking the Douglas bus to West Juneau. Get off the bus on Cordova Street and hike three blocks up the street. Turn left onto Pioneer Avenue; the trail begins from a small parking lot next to 3185 Pioneer Avenue. One of the most popular wintertime skiing trails in the area, it leads up to the beautiful alpine country of central Douglas Island.
Eagle Glacier Cabin faces this magnificent glacier, and is accessed via the Amalga (Eagle Glacier) Trail that begins 28 miles north of town. The path is relatively easy to hike, passes the cabin at the 5.5-mile point, and ends at the Eagle Glacier, 7.5 miles from the trailhead. The cabin faces across a lake to the glacier, offering some of the most dramatic vistas anywhere. Wear rubber boots for the oft-muddy trail.
Windfall Lake Cabin is a modern cabin with a gorgeous setting on this lake north of Juneau. It’s accessible via a three-mile trail from Herbert River Road.
Two trail-accessible cabins (reservations 907/465-4563, www.alaskastateparks.org, $35) are in Point Bridget State Park, at Mile 39 of the Glacier Highway. The 12-person Cowee Meadows Cabin is a three-mile hike (or wintertime ski) from the road, and the Blue Mussel Beach Cabin is four miles and has a wonderful bay vista.
In addition to these hike-in cabins, there are five other Forest Service cabins on the mainland around Juneau, plus another 15 on nearby Admiralty Island. Access to these cabins is by floatplane or sometimes by sea kayak. The Berners Bay Cabin is just eight kayak miles from the north end of Glacier Highway. The location is grand, with fine vistas across the bay, good fishing, a beautiful waterfall, and lots to explore on the two-mile-wide river delta just north. Book this cabin early.
Two close and extremely popular cabins (they fill up several months in advance) are on Turner Lake, 20 miles east of Juneau. There is great fishing for cutthroat trout and incredible waterfall-draped rock faces on all sides. The flight in takes you near the enormous Taku Glacier, an added bonus.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition