Trails in the Auke Village Recreation Area are some of the most accessible and enjoyable for hiking, ambling or even running, especially during the winter when other Juneau trails are snow-covered and icy.
The U.S. Forest Service recreation area begins near Mile 14.6 just north of the Alaska Marine Highway terminal. To reach the trails and the beach, turn on the old Glacier Highway just after the terminal and stay on it for half a mile until you see the Forest Service sign.
Alaska Native Tlingits of the Auk Kwan made Auke Bay their permanent winter home from prehistoric times until the 1880s, when they began moving to Douglas and Juneau as gold mining developed. Evidence of the village has disappeared, but a totem pole carved during the Great Depression in the 1930s was rehabilitated and reinstalled a few years ago, and is now located above and across the highway from the old village site.
Two paved trails are accessible to people with disabilities. One begins just east of the old Auke Village site and goes through the woods to several small picnic shelters, while the other trail begins just west of the village site and leads to other picnic shelters. A primitive trail continues on westward to Point Louisa.
Just below the trails, the beach is a great place to take the kids for a little exercise during the winter. The tides keep the beach free of ice and snow most of the winter, although the beach disappears at extreme high tides a few days a month and gets icy during spells of extremely cold weather.
This is one of the richest intertidal areas in Juneau and a great place to look for sea urchins, snails, sea stars, clams and many other life forms, especially during minus tides. Check a tide table for minus tide dates and times.
There is no place more beautiful than the outside tip of Point Louisa on a cold, sunny, windy winter day, where you can sit in the trees protected from the wind and look at the mountains, water and wintering birds in relative comfort.
Mary Lou King is author of "90 Short Walks Around Juneau." On the Trails is written by members of Trail Mix, a nonprofit trails organization.