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Most visitors want to see a glacier during their Alaskan vacation. Luckily, we have compiled a list of some of the best glacier tours and have categorized each experience by sea, air, or land.
Perhaps the most intimate way to experience the awesome scale of Alaska's glaciers is on the water. The tidewater glaciers of Prince William Sound and the Kenai Fjords extend down from mountain peaks and out into the sea. Hundreds of feet high and miles long, you can the hear ice crackling and sizzling as trapped air bubbles slowly escape. One of the most dramatic events in all of nature is witnessing a tidewater glacier unleash a house-sized block of ice into the ocean. The resulting icebergs can create enormous waves when they hit (kayakers beware!) and can continue bobbing up and down for a full day or more until they float out into open waters or beach themselves along the Alaskan shoreline. Cruises and sea kayak trips also let you see lots of marine life, such as playful sea otters and shy harbor seals.
From the air, you won't feel the power of calving, but you will gain a perspective you can't experience from the ground. You'll see how massive icefields, dozens of miles long, spill into valleys to create glaciers. These expansive sheets of ice leave only the highest mountain peaks and ridges peeking through. The Harding Icefield near Seward is a classic example, and is one of the few icefields easily accessible by foot (a five-hour hike from Exit Glacier, rising from sea-level to 3,500ft). Also best seen from a plane are piedmont glaciers, where several glaciers join at the foot of a mountain range to create a fan-like pattern of ice and rock. These beautiful formations are best spotted in Southeast Alaska.
Partake in a land based tour that allows you to direct access to glaciers. Driving over rocks, splashing through mud, and exploring Alaska terrain on an ATV is an excellent way to experience glaciers on land. With some tours, you’ll drive right up to the face of the glacier and gaze at the peaks of blue ice that surround you. Or, explore ice caves and crevasses on foot with a guided hiking tour that will take you up to, and sometimes directly onto a glacier.
Lazy Otter offers classic tours, but this is water taxi, so they’ll also take you anywhere you want to go within Price William Sound—or just customize a tour to whatever you want to see. Maybe that's glaciers, or whales,—or maybe it’s quiet time on a secluded beach, or a peaceful morning kayak among sea life such as otters and puffins. Lazy Otter can also help facilitate taking you and your family on a camping trip. You're not held to any strict schedule, either: if, on a day tour, you can spend more time in one spot if you want to see if a glacier will calve.
Lazy Otter offers classic tours, but this is water taxi, so they’ll also take you…
Toll Free: 800-587-6887
Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords are great places to see wildlife and glaciers. And Major Marine’s vessels, which have cozy heated cabins and an outdoor viewing area, can take you out to see both. The half- and full-day excursions offer an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet to enjoy while you take in the scenery.
Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords are great places to see wildlife and glaciers. And Major…
Toll Free: 800-764-7300
Major Marine Tours will take you into Prince William Sound, which has the world’s densest concentration of tidewater glaciers and calm waters for cruising. You can choose from the 4.5-hour Blackstone Glacier Tour or the new Surprise Glacier Tour that began in 2012. Both offer heated cabins, outdoor viewing decks, and an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet.
Major Marine Tours will take you into Prince William Sound, which has the world’s…
Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise, out of Whittier, will take you to 26 different glaciers in just 5 hours. Enjoy cozy comforts on the high-speed catamaran and wander its outdoor decks as you come within 300 feet of massive tidewater glaciers. In addition to glaciers, the captain will be on the lookout for wildlife like otters, whales, harbor seals, and marine birds. The trip takes place in the afternoon, and a hot lunch is included in your tour.
Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise, out of Whittier, will take you to 26 different glaciers in just…
Just an hour’s drive from Anchorage, the MV Ptarmigan let you get within 300 feet of the towering ice wall called Portage Glacier. You can also book a narrated motorcoach tour to take you to Portage Glacier.
Just an hour’s drive from Anchorage, the MV Ptarmigan let you get within 300 feet of…
Glacierview Sea Kayaking with Alaska Travel Adventures offers the opportunity to kayak through Auke Bay while enjoying views of Mendenhall Glacier. You’ll also have the opportunity to see wildlife like whales, sea lions, seals, and bald eagles. Kayaking offers a much more intimate and quiet experience than other boat tours; at the same time, it is perfect for travelers who want an adventure. And even if you’ve never paddled a kayak before, a guide will help you learn the ropes before you depart.
Glacierview Sea Kayaking with Alaska Travel Adventures offers the opportunity to kayak…
Toll Free: 1-800-323-5757
This family-run company operating out of Valdez will show you the best glaciers, with great customer service along the way. On any given day trip you’ll likely see huge rafts of sea otters, horned and tufted puffins, cormorants, humpback whales, or even bald eagles. Stan Stephens offers two daily tours, one of which features Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in South Central Alaska. And the company prides itself on staffing its vessels with all local Alaskans.
This family-run company operating out of Valdez will show you the best glaciers, with great…
A fleet of fast, modern boats takes you to specifically selected tidewater glaciers as you watch for puffins, cormorants, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, sea lions, and more. This veteran tour operator offers a lot of variety with its day trips into Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. Some tours are designed to please birders or shutterbugs, while some are perfect for families with little kids. You’ll hear the captain’s narration on all of them, sharing his deep knowledge of the Seward area’s history and terrain.
A fleet of fast, modern boats takes you to specifically selected tidewater glaciers as you…
Northstar Trekking operates out of Juneau and caters to all styles of exploration. The curious glacier observer can simply fly to the glacier and snap photographs from flat or rolling terrain. You can also choose to hike on the glacier itself. If you’re very adventurous, you can even learn how to climb on the ice walls. No matter which option you choose, NorthStar Trekking will guide you all the way, making sure you get the most out of this unique opportunity.
Northstar Trekking operates out of Juneau and caters to all styles of exploration. The…
Toll Free: 1-866-590-4530
Discover Alaska’s glaciers close-up on one of Chugach Adventures’ Spencer Lake tours. Two popular options get you off the main roads and into the backcountry – by train and a raft or canoe. Your trip begins with a scenic ride on Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train, which runs from Anchorage, Girdwood, and other pick-up points along the railbelt. Enjoy a beautiful ride down Turnagain Arm and the Placer River Valley and into remoter areas of Alaska that you can’t get to by car. Disembark at the Spencer Glacier Whistlestop, and gear up for an exploration of the iceberg-choked Spencer Lake and points beyond.
Discover Alaska’s glaciers close-up on one of Chugach Adventures’ Spencer Lake…
Whether you take a glacier hike or a nature walk, this guiding company lets you experience the Alaska backcountry in a much richer way than you could on your own. You’ll travel to gorgeous, easily accessed mountains and glaciers outside of Anchorage and Girdwood. Ascending Path guides you to iconic Alaskan terrain—alpine ridges, snowfields, and crevasse-lined glaciers—and share natural history, personal stories, and their love of the wilderness on every trip.
Whether you take a glacier hike or a nature walk, this guiding company lets you experience…
Kennicott Wilderness Guides is a small guiding company, with just 12 guides. There’s very little turnover here, and your guide is likely someone who lives for skiing, climbing, backpacking, or glacier trekking. The company’s trips are vast and varied, and they’ll work closely with you to create a trip suited to your interests.
Kennicott Wilderness Guides is a small guiding company, with just 12 guides. There’s…
Long Distance: 1-800-ON-HIKES
Mid-May through Mid-September
Alaska’s Portage Valley is the closest spot to Anchorage for learning about and seeing the dramatic beauty of its glaciers. Girdwood-based Chugach Adventures has designed an all-day, all-ages tour that combines the best this valley has to offer: wildlife, informative exhibits, a scenic river float, and a tasty salmon-bake – not to mention all the amazing views along the way.
Alaska’s Portage Valley is the closest spot to Anchorage for learning about and seeing…
May - September
After just a 15-minute drive, you can take a gentle hike up close to Exit Glacier and see the beautiful dense blue ice. Walk the lower trail (an easy half-mile) to get a good photo in front of the glacier face. The trail also provides access for people with disabilities.
After just a 15-minute drive, you can take a gentle hike up close to Exit Glacier and see…
Phone: (877) 777-4079
Mid-May to Mid-September
There’s climbing a mountain – and then there’s climbing an ICE mountain. Regardless of your climbing ability or experience, you'll end the day feeling fulfilled and inspired. MICA also offers short, guided hikes and longer treks if you prefer a more leisurely explore of the glacier and its grandeur.
There’s climbing a mountain – and then there’s climbing an ICE mountain.…
Phone: (800) 956-6422
Mobile: (907) 351-7587
With Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours, you can experience glaciers inaccessible by road. Never fear if you’ve never driven an before; this company teaches you to maneuver your ATV through the Alaskan wilderness with your guide at the lead. Your destination is the magnificent Knik Glacier, where you’ll enjoy lunch and gorgeous scenery.
With Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours, you can experience glaciers inaccessible by road.…
Toll Free: 1-888-414-7669
The focus of the 3.5-hour Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip is great views of the namesake glacier, which is 1.5 miles wide, 150 feet high, and the most famous part of the massive Juneau Icefield that even John Muir once raved about. Glide along the iceberg-studded lake and scope out the glacier, getting up-close views of hanging glaciers and towering peaks. Keep an eye out for birds nesting in the rocky cliffs, as well as otters, seals, black bears, and bald eagles.
The focus of the 3.5-hour Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip is great views of the namesake…
Ratchet up the adventure factor and try your hand at dogsledding. Alpine Air Alaska flies to a dog camp run by the oldest established dog-sled tour business in Alaska. You’ll travel by helicopter from Girdwood’s green forests up over a small saddle to land on a glacier and be introduced to the dog team. You'll get to stand on the sled runners and "drive" the dogs yourself, or sit in the sled and survey the hanging glaciers that surround you.
Ratchet up the adventure factor and try your hand at dogsledding. Alpine Air Alaska flies to…
While you may never join the ranks of climbers who have summited Mt. McKinley, an up-close view of North America's tallest peak can still be yours. K2 Aviation offers once-in-a-lifetime flightseeing tours among and above the Alaska Range. Add a glacier landing to get a sense of how immense these peaks really are.
While you may never join the ranks of climbers who have summited Mt. McKinley, an…
Enjoy a bird's eye view of Alaska's scenic highlights on a flightseeing tour with Rust's Flying Service, where every passenger gets a window seat. Tour options include a short 30-minute Anchorage Flightseeing Safari, a flight to Mt. McKinley, Mt. McKinley plus a glacier landing, and more. Tours begin at Anchorage’s Lake Hood, the world’s busiest seaplane airport.
Enjoy a bird's eye view of Alaska's scenic highlights on a flightseeing tour with…
A lot of people swear to it: the best way to see Alaska is from an airplane, and there may indeed be no better way to get close to the face of Mt. McKinley. This one-of-a-kind flightseeing operator—with departures from Fairbanks and Denali —makes it easy to see up close to the Great One without spending a great deal of time.
A lot of people swear to it: the best way to see Alaska is from an airplane, and there may…
Natron Air’s owner and only pilot, Tim, can take you flightseeing to some of Alaska’s most beautiful places: the Harding Icefield and Mt. Redoubt Volcano. You can also opt for a bear-viewing tour that includes a beach landing, where you can photograph bears in their natural environment.
Natron Air’s owner and only pilot, Tim, can take you flightseeing to some of…
Toll Free: 1-877-520-8440
Temsco’s eight tours—based out of Juneau, Skagway, and Petersburg—give you the chance to walk on glaciers, see wildlife and even take the reins of a dogsled. This Ketchikan-based helicopter company was founded to provide support and rescue capabilities for the lumber, fishing, and mining industries, since its aircraft could reach places that fixed-wing planes couldn’t. TEMSCO added tourism to its repertoire in the 1980s, offering travelers amazing views of the mountains, glaciers, and landscapes, as well as unparalleled access to remote areas.
Temsco’s eight tours—based out of Juneau, Skagway, and Petersburg—give you…
Toll Free: 1-877-789-9501
This Seward-based operator combines helicopter rides with dog sledding and more, catering to independent travelers who want both a personalized and flexible tour experience. Owned by veteran dog musher Joe Holod and his wife, Melissa, Seward Helicopter Tours doesn’t run on a strict schedule: just call or e-mail to discuss what day or time during the summer works best. They always take last-minute bookings, too. They offer three tours besides their dog-sledding tour; all involve flightseeing over glaciers, the coastline, or the Harding Icefield.
This Seward-based operator combines helicopter rides with dog sledding and more, catering to…
Toll Free: 1-888-476-5589
Go with Wings Airways and you’ll take off from Juneau in a 10-passenger DeHavilland Otter floatplane and get a lush view of the city as well as the surrounding mountains and ice fields. Opt for a 40-minute flight seeing tour, or book the “Flight and Feast Tour,” which takes you to dine at a 1920’s lodge.
Go with Wings Airways and you’ll take off from Juneau in a 10-passenger DeHavilland…
Era Helicopters has been doing trips over the massive Juneau Icefield—which is accessible only by air—since the 1980s, and combines flights with either glacier hiking or meeting sled dogs.
Era Helicopters has been doing trips over the massive Juneau Icefield—which is…
Era Helicopters has been doing trips over Denali since the 1990s, and offers a varied selection of tour options. Take a spectacular helicopter trip and then walk on a glacier or hike above treeline. Or don’t land at all—just stay in the air and soak up the views.
Era Helicopters has been doing trips over Denali since the 1990s, and offers a varied…