Glacier Bay Flightseeing (East Arm)

Glacier Bay Flightseeing (East Arm)

Port: Skagway


  • Duration:
    1.00 hours
  • Adults:
  • Children:

Marvel at Alaska's Crown Jewel, Glacier Bay, on this one-hour flight that features pristine wilderness, frequent wildlife spottings, and dozens of glaciers.  The East Arm of Glacier Bay is known for its glaciation, and your pilot Paul will provide you with closeups of both land-based and tidewater glaciers on this incredible Skagway tour.

No weight restrictions on this tour.  Infants up to two years old are free.  Sunglasses and camera recommended.  Paul can accommodate groups and families of up to eight people on one flight.  Landings are also available for an additional $75 per person, so if you are interested please inquire about this option.   

Tour Description: You will meet your pilot, Paul, at the Skagway International Airport. Paul will assist you as you step into his custom DeHavilland Beaver for your flight over Glacier Bay. Once inside the airplane, you will buckle up and put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones so that you can hear and talk to your friendly pilot. This is a good thing because Paul will share a number of humorous stories guaranteed to provide you and your party with a few laughs. Every flight over Glacier Bay is unique as glaciers are living bodies of ice and always in constant motion. It's not uncommon to see wildlife and Paul will safely ensure you get a good look when possible. If you're lucky enough to enjoy a landing, you will have an opportunity to get out of the Beaver and explore for a while, taking pictures and enjoying the remote beauty of Alaska's pristine wilderness. When your flight is over, you will land safely back at the airport with a big smile on your face.

What exactly is flightseeing?
Flightseeing is another way of saying that a person is getting on an airplane to fly over some interesting stuff so that passengers can see it. There are a number of reasons why a person might go on a flight. It might be to visit family during Christmas or for a vacation. Soldiers fly in airplanes during combat missions and businessmen fly in airplanes to make money. 

When you travel to Alaska, you should go on a flight to look at the fantastic scenery. Sure, everything is very pretty while you’re standing on the ground but when you see mountains and glaciers from an airplane it will blow your mind right out of your skull. It’s that pretty. You will also quickly learn that you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains, ice, and the ocean. 

What kind of airplane is used on the tour?
The airplane is called a DeHavilland Beaver. The DeHavilland Beaver is the most famous bush plane in all of Alaska because it’s safe, reliable, and perfect for flightseeing. Pilot Paul’s Beaver is fully customized for flightseeing. It is very comfortable and comes equipped with headphones for every passenger. This allows Paul and his passengers to talk and tell stories and laugh at funny jokes.

Is the Glacier Bay flightseeing tour safe?
Paul has been giving flightseeing tours for decades. He’s conducted thousands of flights. These facts alone show that flightseeing with Mountain Flying Service is safe. 

Consider this: Most people traveling to Alaska live in or near a metropolitan area. They drive on the Interstate and local roads for hours every day. When you consider how many people are in accidents every day, the logical conclusion would be to say it’s not safe. But everyone keeps driving anyway. 

Flying in Alaska is no different. Skagway residents often have to fly to Juneau in a tiny airplane. Some locals call these airplanes “puddle jumpers” because Skagway people have a good sense of humor. So, you see, flying in small airplanes is a part of everyday life in Alaska, just like driving in traffic is an everyday part of life in the Lower 48.

What can you tell me about Glacier Bay?
Some people call Glacier Bay the Crown Jewel of Alaska. That’s because its unspoiled beauty is arguably the most striking and beautiful in the entire state of Alaska. And that’s saying something!

Glacier Bay is 3.3 million acres of rugged Alaskan beauty. As you fly over Glacier Bay, you will see endless mountains, countless glaciers, deep fjords, and pristine coastlines. Mush of Glacier Bay is a temperate rainforest filled with all sorts of animals that have thrived there for a very long time.

Glacier Bay is also part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site that includes Kluane Provincial Park, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Tatshenshini-Alsek. This is one of the World’s largest international protected areas and it’s larger than the state of New Jersey! It smells a lot better too.

Glacier Bay is commonly divided into two sections, the East Arm and the West Arm. When you look at these two arms, it looks like there are actually two bays. However, when Glacier Bay was named, the southern end was nothing more than a massive tidewater glacier. Then it melted into what you see today.

Some of the largest mountains in North America are found in the West Arm of Glacier Bay. On any Glacier Bay flightseeing tour, guests get to see tidewater glaciers, which are glaciers that end in the water. 

Sometimes unusual formations appear on glaciers, like glacial arches, but glaciers are always moving so these features don’t last long. You could travel to Alaska every year and actually see the glaciers change. That is simply amazing.

Do people see wildlife on the Glacier Bay flightseeing tour?
Absolutely. But remember that it’s not a wildlife tour. The goal is to see the beauty and majesty of Glacier Bay, so seeing wildlife is an added bonus. What kind of animals might you see on your Glacier Bay flightseeing excursion?

Mountain Goats - When you fly over mountains in Alaska, there’s always a chance to mountain goats. Makes sense.

Moose - As you fly over muskeg and meadows surrounded by trees, look for moose. This is the kind of terrain moose like because it’s where they eat and find mates. 

Bears - It’s possible to see a black or brown bear just about anywhere, even on a glacier. There is a variety of bear sometimes spotted in Glacier Bay called a glacier bear. These are actually black bears that have a gray or blonde color morph. They are very rare. If you see a glacier bear, you are very lucky and should tell all of your friends about it.

Where does the airplane land?
Paul offers landings for an affordable additional fee. There are a number of places to land, depending on the time of year. 

During the spring, it’s often possible to land right on top of a glacier. Paul’s Beaver can be outfitted with skis, which allows him to plop that puppy down right on the snow-covered glacier. It’s like something out of an IMAX movie. 

During the summer and fall months, guests can land on the beach. This is especially exciting on flights to the Pacific Coast near Yakutat where the Glacier Bay plateau descends to the mighty ocean. 

Paul arranges custom flights to this area with fishermen who like to have the best Alaskan fishing experience possible. He lands his Beaver right next to the Alsek River so that anglers can catch king salmon in the summer and coho salmon in the fall. 

Flightseeing guests who want to experience something truly unique and off the beaten path should consider a flight over Glacier Bay that includes a landing. Everyone on the cruise ship will be jealous. 

How many glaciers are there in Glacier Bay?
There are more than 1,000 glaciers in Glacier Bay. That’s a whole lot of ice. Margaritas anyone? When you take a Glacier Bay flightseeing excursion, you have a chance to see some of Glacier Bay’s more famous glaciers. Let’s talk about a few of them.

Johns Hopkins Glacier - This glacier is very big. In fact, it is about one mile wide and 200 feet deep where it meets the water. This is also the only advancing tidewater glacier in Glacier Bay. This is one of those glaciers that looks like it’s covered in something gray or black. That is debris, actually rock, carved from the mountain as the glacier flows downhill. Crazy!

Every year, this glacier flows downhill at a rate of about 3,000 feet. That’s almost 8 feet per day! 

Grand Pacific Glacier - This glacier is prominent when you fly to the Alsek River and land on the beach. The glacier is more than a mile wide at the terminus. There is a large amount of rock and debris on this glacier which makes parts of it look “dirty,” as people sometimes say.

Margerie Glacier - This is arguably the most famous glacier in Glacier Bay because cruise ships travel up the East Arm so that passengers can get a close look at it. It’s even more impressive from a Skagway flightseeing excursion. 

The Marjorie Glacier is about 200 feet high at its terminus. As big chunks of ice fall into the ocean, it makes a tremendous sound. This is called calving for some reason. The glacier is also 100 feet below the water, which makes it 300 feet total. That’s a big piece of ice for sure. 

Muir Glacier - This glacier used to be the most famous glacier in the National Park. It was a beautiful tidewater glacier named after the famous naturalist. But it is fully grounded now and no longer a tidewater glacier. The retreat of the glacier began in 1899 and the calving rates were extreme. 

If you’re ready to book a Skagway flightseeing excursion, you will learn a lot more about glaciers. Better yet, you will get to see them with your own eyes before they all recede just like the Muir Glacier.