Explore some of Southcentral Alaska’s most breathtaking wilderness, just minutes from Anchorage. Locally-owned Ascending Path offers several day trips out of its headquarters at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood. Hike and kayak to a glacier, explore a rainforest or head far out into the backcountry. Each choice offers stunning views, crisp mountain air, and insight into the flora, fauna and history of the area.
Iceberg Tandem Kayaking
Tandem sea kayaking through the calm waters of Spencer Lake is perfect for every ability level. Touch icebergs along the way and get a new perspective of one of Alaska’s incredible glaciers. This trip also begins with incredible views from the Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Train en route from Anchorage or Portage.
Times: 10-12 hours starting daily at 6AM or 7:30AM. Departs from Alaska Railroad Anchorage Depot at 6:45AM or from Girdwood at 7:30AM.
Spencer Glacier Hike With Kayak Approach
This awe-inspiring outing packs several exciting elements into one satisfying day. Begin on the Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Train with incredible views out every window. Disembark at the Spencer Whistle Stop, where you’ll gear up for a one-hour tandem kayak journey to the face of Spencer Glacier. Then explore the glacier for two hours while a guide points out its amazing features.
Times: 10 hours starting daily at 9am or Noon. Departs from Alaska Railroad Anchorage Depot at 9am or the Ascending Path yurt next to Hotel Alyeska at noon.
Perfect for families or folks looking for an educational and enjoyable stroll in the woods, this affordable trip explores Girdwood’s Winner Trail in North America’s northern-most temperate coastal rainforest. A fairytale path through lush foliage and old-growth trees forming a canopy overhead, Winner Creek Trail also has historic connections to the original Iditarod Trail. Hike out-and-back on a five-mile journey, while a friendly naturalist helps you interpret what you’re seeing, hearing, and tasting! Nibble on edible leaves, flowers & berries, explore traditional and contemporary herb lore, identify bird song & animal behaviors, and enjoy stories about Native and Alaskan history. You might even see a moose!
Times: 3-hour hike starting daily at 9:00AM and 3:00PM. Departs from Ascending Path.
Discover amazing features of glacier ice over several hours in a full-day heli-glacier tour. Board one of Alpine Air’s R44 helicopters for an quiet and awe-inspiring ride into the remote back-country. Land on a glacier or at the glacier’s edge and begin your exploration after gearing up with helmets and crampons. Your glacier guide will work with your small group for maximum attention to your technique and individual experience. Explore ice caves, find crevasses, moulins, blue ice and more. The trip includes all your equipment, lunch, snacks and water. Add on an ice-climbing option if you also want to get vertical!
Times: Requires advance reservation and fills up quickly! Full day, meeting in Girdwood departing at custom times, returning when you want.
Iceberg Viewing Hike
Your small group will hike along the iceberg-filled Spencer Lake, sculpted over thousands of years by Spencer Glacier. Touch icebergs and get up close to the massive face of the glacier – all in relative peace and quiet. The only access to this area is on Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery Train, which brings you to the Spencer Whistle Stop. There, your Ascending Path guides transport you along old mining roads to start your trek to the glacier. (While the Forest Service also guides hikes here, only Ascending Path operates a vehicle that brings you closer to the ice. Start your hike where everyone else turns around!)
Total Time: Departing from the Ascending Path in Girdwood: six hours. Departing from Anchorage: 9-hours.
Hike the alpine tundra, learn mountaineering skills and get out onto a glacier, all in one excursion. Your trip begins with a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Girdwood scenery, as you ride the Alyeska tram 2,300 feet up into wildflower valleys and mountain tundra. An Ascending Path mountain guide will show you the basics of mountaineering, complete with harness and rope and/or crampons (depending on snow conditions). The hike takes you up 800 feet and back (1 mile total) with plenty of “Natural History Breaks” to rest your lungs and muscles. Be ready for stunning views of seven glaciers, the Chugach Mountains, Turnagain Arm and the Girdwood Valley. Great for families with kids 10 and up!
Times: 3 to 4 hour excursion, leaving daily at 9AM and 3PM.
About Ascending Path
The owners of Ascending Path, Matt and Heather Szundy, live the business. (In fact, they met on an ascent of Denali!) Matt and Heather have spent their adult lives exploring, from Nepal and New Zealand to Antarctica and Alaska. Matt has guided for Hollywood film crews, acted as a stunt double for ice climbing films – and was even called on by the White House to guide President Obama on a 2015 trip to Exit Glacier.
Here are some of the reasons Ascending Path is the go-to guiding company for so many:
Ascending Path is one of three permitted operators at Spencer Whistle Stop in the Chugach National Forest. Ride the train to the Whistle Stop and then travel by van for closer access to the Spencer Glacier. Ascending Path nurtures relationships with local partners – such as the Alyeska Resort, Alaska Railroad and Alpine Air – so that visitors can have convenient access to Alaska’s wilderness areas.
Accomplished and enthusiastic mountaineer guides
Ascending Path is the rare guiding company that employs expedition guides for day trips. Your adventure may be led by a guide who has summited Denali, kayaked on month-long ocean expeditions and/or climbed in the Himalaya mountains. Enthusiasm and love of the outdoors is something the Szundys look for in every guide they hire, so when you opt for an Ascending Path guided trip, you’re guaranteed a fascinating adventure filled with tons of interesting facts and maybe even some corny jokes.
Each hike offers a small group to guide ratio. Small groups have less impact on the environment and allow for maximum interaction between guests and guides. Having a fun, friendly and attentive guide can make a regular outing a spectacular day. Learn about glacier formation while sea kayaking or walking beside an iceberg-strewn lake. Discuss the uplift of coastal mountains, and then identify wildflowers. Step into a harness and crampons to learn about glacier hiking while viewing crevasses as you explore an ancient ice field. The pros here not only guide, but they teach and inspire, and with very small ratios, you won’t be lost in a crowd. Each trip is customized to your skills & interests. No previous experience is necessary!