Article Overview: Alaska Upside Down Trees
Nestled within the breathtaking Mendenhall Valley and the Tongass National Forest lies a whacky and mystical botanical wonderland, Juneau’s Glacier Gardens. Owned and lovingly crafted by Steve and Cindy Bowhay, this unique botanical garden boasts a fascinating feature, Alaska upside down trees, also known as Flower Towers. In this article, we’ll highlight the vertical anomalies as we explore the captivating beauty and history of the Glacier Gardens in Juneau, Alaska.
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Alaska Upside Down Trees
At the heart of Glacier Gardens are the mesmerizing Flower Towers. These Alaska upside down trees, with their tops buried in the ground and roots sticking up, look like a colorful acid tripped Ostrich with its head stuck in the ground. The trees root wad creates a natural planter pot like structure that holds all sorts of colorful trailing flowers. Begonias, fuchsias, Dr. Sues dreams and petunias all flourish as they hang from the inverted trees.
History of the Alaska Upside Down Trees
In the early 80’s, Steve and Cindy Bowhay bought a few acres of landslide ridden property from the state of Alaska. They had a vision for their little slice of the Tongass National Rainforest, and they embarked on a mission to transform the land. Steve, a seasoned landscaper, envisioned a rainforest sanctuary with cascading waterfalls and breathtaking vistas of Juneau.
This ambitious vision spurred an ambitious plan. Hydroelectric powerhouses were designed to fuel greenhouses, settling ponds tamed the rushing water, and lush paths began to thread their way through the recovering landscape. Slowly, the dream of Glacier Gardens started to take root.
As for the Alaska upside down trees, they came to be by accident. Story goes that one day while working on repairing a stream, Steve managed to mangle a piece of his moving machinery. Frustration simmered until, in a moment of what could be called either brilliance or sheer exasperation, he grabbed a fallen tree stump and shoved it, trunk first, into the mud. This wasn’t a tantrum, mind you, it was a stroke of genius. He saw, in that upside down root ball, not dirt, but an empty flower pot begging to be filled.
And so, the first Alaska upside down trees were born, a living monument to the transformative power of a good outburst. Just let it out man! What started as a single, gravity defying act blossomed into a full-blown floral frenzy. More land was acquired, bringing the grand total to a 44.5 acres. Today, Glacier Gardens boasts nearly a hundred flower towers or Alaska upside down trees, each one a vibrant testament to the Bowhay’s ingenuity.
Alaska Upside Down Trees Tour
Located within the embrace of the Mendenhall Valley, Glacier Gardens finds itself at the doorstep of the Tongass Rainforest, the largest national forest in the United States. Stretching over 16.7 million acres of pristine wilderness in Southeast Alaska, the Tongass Rainforest is a sanctuary of unparalleled beauty and ecological diversity.
Visitors can explore the Tongass National Rainforest via the garden’s guided Rainforest Adventure Tour. Board a limousine style golf cart and enjoy a ride through the forest as you learn about Glacier Gardens history and diverse flora, as well as the fascinating story behind the Alaska upside down trees. The tour takes you up thunder mountain to a view point that offers stunning panoramic views of the city of Juneau and its surrounding beauty.
Alaska Upside Down Trees: More to See!
While the Flower Tower Alaska upside down trees steal the spotlight, Glacier Gardens is home to a diverse array of flora. Rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese maples, devil’s club, elderberry shrubs, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock thrive in this unique botanical haven. And beyond gawking at the impressive Alaska upside down trees and enjoying the adventure tour, there are a few other offerings from Glacier Gardens.
Eagle’s Nest Cam
Glacier Gardens YouTube channel streams live footage of a bald eagle nest in Juneau, Alaska. Unfortunately the eagles have yet to nest in one of the Alaska upside down trees but the feed still offers a chance to observe the iconic white headed birds in their natural habitat. Check it out here: Eagle Nest Cam YouTube Link
Nursery & Landscaping
While Glacier Gardens nursery doesn’t sell the iconic Alaska upside down trees yet, they have a wide selection of bedding plants, veggie starts, flowering baskets, trees and shrubs. Their landscaping business specializes in low maintenance landscapes that thrive in the wet and cold Juneau climate. During the holidays they convert their greenhouse into a Christmas shop where they sell Christmas trees, poinsettias, wreaths, garland. All I want for Christmas is an Alaska upside down Christmas tree!
Gift Shop & Cafe
At the entrance to Glacier Gardens there is a lovely greenhouse that acts as a coffee and gift shop. So make sure to grab a warm cup of Joe before enjoying the Alaska upside down trees!
The Glacier Gardens Visitor Center Atrium can be booked out for special events. Located at the Rainforest Adventure property its a beautiful venue to commemorate that special day. The calendar fills up fast though, so plan far in advance to party with the Alaska upside down trees!
Alaska Upside Down Trees FAQ’s
Tour prices are $30.40 after tax for adults and $19.90 after tax for children ages 6-12. Children aged 5 and under are free. 2023 prices*
The tour through the rainforest is around an hour.
Around 7 miles.
When & How to Visit Alaska Upside Down Trees
Glacier Gardens is open 9am-6pm daily from May 1st to October 3rd. So if you’re on that summer cruise and want to make sure you see the Alaska upside down trees, you’re in luck. However, hours and days of operation vary depending on weather so call ahead to confirm. Phone: 907-790-3377
Glacier Gardens and the Alaska upside down trees are located at 9148 James Blvd, just off Mendenhall Loop Rd in the Mendenhall Valley of Juneau, Alaska. For more information visit their website: Glacier Gardens