Portage was once a roadside glacier, but it recedes an average of one foot a day and is now no longer visible from the road. However, its big blue icebergs are often found along the shore of the lake, right in front of the parking area. You can see the lake in a half hour, but may want to spend time at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center (½-1 hour), take the boat cruise (1 hour), or have lunch at the local cafeteria.
Directions: Head south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway, to the end of the 5-mile Portage Spur Road. You can visit the face of Portage by tour boat from the dock at the lake. Bring a light jacket, as winds tend to pick up around the face of the glacier itself.
Distance: 48 miles south of Anchorage.
Drive Time: 1 hour.
Explore Time: 1-4 hours.
Child's Glacier is certainly Alaska's most spectacular roadside glacier--it's the only one where you can see calving. Child's Glacier is 400 yards across the river from the viewing platform, so you can't walk up to it like you can Exit, Byron, or Matanuska Glaciers.
Directions: Cordova is an hour flight from Anchorage. Then, it's a 1 hr drive to the glacier.
Distance: 190 miles east of Anchorage
Drive Time: 3 hours
Explore: If you visit Cordova, make a day out of exploring the Copper River Highway (which ends at the glacier), Child's Glacier itself, and the nearby Million Dollar Bridge.
You can hike right up to Seward's Exit Glacier and feel the dense blue ice while listening to it crackle. Walk the lower trail to get a good photo in front of the glacier face. Or, choose the more challenging 7-mile round-trip Harding Icefield Trail. There is a short ranger-led walk daily at 11am and 3pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Some 15,000 years ago, this glacier reached another 50 miles west to the Palmer area. It now has a four-mile wide towering face that you can walk right up to and touch. Keep an eye out for summertime ice-climbers at this most impressive roadside glacier.
Directions: Head north from Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. At mile 102, you can drive down to Glacier Park and pay a day fee (888-253-4480), then hike 15-20 minutes to the face of glacier.
Distance: 102 miles north of Anchorage.
Drive Time: 3 hours.
Explore Time: 1 - 2 hours.
Worthington Glacier is found along Thompson Pass, 28 miles northeast of Valdez. Thompson Pass holds the honor of being the snowiest place in the state: During the peak winter of 1951-52, it got more than 80 feet of snow. It still gets plenty today, which keeps this 4-mile glacier from retreating as much as others. You can do a two-mile hike here along a sometimes treacherously narrow ridge, or you can also just do a short, paved hike to a viewing platform.
Directions: Take the Glenn Hwy to the Richardson Hwy. Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site is located at milepost 28.7 of the Richardson Hwy.
Distance: 28 miles from Valdez, 328 miles from Anchorage.
Drive Time: 45 minutes from Valdez, 5 hrs from Anchorage.
Explore Time: 1-4 hours.
Columbia glacier is located in Prince William Sound. At over 550 meters thick at some points and covering an area of 400 square miles, this glacier is a sight to behold, whether from a boat or the sky. It snakes its way 32 miles through the Chugach Mountains before dumping into the Columbia Bay, about 40 miles by boat from Valdez.
Named after Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, this is one of Alaska's most picturesque glaciers. It's 12 miles long, located in Glacier Bay National Park and has been confirmed to be one of few glaciers that is still advancing rather than shrinking. The only access to the face of the glacier is by cruising up the Johns Hopkins Inlet.
Named after Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, this is one of Alaska's most picturesque glaciers. …
Naturalist and author John Muir first made his way to Alaska in 1879, where he went to explore Glacier Bay. Later, a valley glacier in Glacier Bay National Park was named after him. Just under 90 miles from Juneau, Muir Glacier was a popular stop for many tourists in the late 19th century, and still is today. Be sure to catch Muir on your cruise through Glacier Bay!
Portage Valley may be one of the most popular visitor destinations in Alaska, but don't let that scare you away. The truth is that most people stop at the visitor’s center for a quick walkthrough, take a photo on the deck and then get back on the road, to Whittier or elsewhere. And while it’s true that the valley's blue ice and glacial scenery is outstanding from More...
Icy Bay lives up to its name with an active tidewater glacier often clogging the fjord with icebergs. This remote fjord in Prince William Sound is a special spot for paddlers looking for spectular views of Tiger and Chenega Glacier descending into the sea. Beware of tight ice conditions changing with the tide and strong cold katabatic winds off of the Sargent Icefeild.
The 2000 photograph documents the continuing advance of Harvard Glacier, which has completely obscured the view of Radcliff Glacier. Baltimore Glacier has continued to retreat and thin. Alder has become established on the hill slopes, but is difficult to see from the photo location. Harvard Glacier has advanced more than 1.25 kilometers (0.78 miles) since 1909. (USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia).
The last two aerial photographs in this group of five document changes that occurred during the 69 years between June 1937 and July 28, 2006. Both photographs are taken towards the north and show the retreating, calving, tidewater terminus of Yale Glacier, located at the head of Yale Arm, College Fiord, Prince William Sound, Alaska. In 1937, Yale Glacier’s terminus was More...
In this series of photos from June of 2002, Bruce Molnia of the USGS documented the advancing terminus of Hubbard Glacier and the channel cut into the top of its push moraine that blocked the mouth of Russell Fiord. A push moraine is sediment that, in this case, has been bulldozed from the floor of Russell Fiord by the advancing ice. In a few views, some of this sediment can be seen in contact with the bedrock on the wall of the fjord.
One of two tidewater glaciers at the head of Tracy Arm, South Sawyer Glacier extends deep underwater and makes for a very blue iceberg. It is the larger of the two glaciers, and if conditions are good you can come within 1/2 mile of the face. Check for mountain goats at the base of the glacier. Just fifty miles southeast of Juneau, this glacier is not one to miss!
Spencer Glacier rises 3,500 feet in a stunning, natural ramp from a lake of royal-blue icebergs in the Chugach National Forest just 60 miles south of Anchorage. It’s a family-friendly recreation destination featuring camping, hiking, glacier exploration, nature walks, paddling and sightseeing. Maybe best of all: You have to take a train to get there!
The famous surveyor Mendenhall named this glacier for a miner who was carrying mail from Cook Inlet to Whittier in 1896, disappeared in a snowstorm, and was never seen again. His brother Willard (who gives his name to the nearby island) searched for him but found only the mail packet atop the glacier which now bears his name.
Grand Pacific Glacier can actually be found in two countries. Part of the tidewater glacier is located in Reid Inlet within Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, while the other side can be found in the Grand Pacific Pass in British Columbia, Canada. Back in the 1700s, Grand Pacific Glacier filled the entire bay, and reached all they way to the Icy Strait.
One of few glaciers that are actually advancing, Margerie Glacier is about 21 miles long and 250 feet high (with a base 100 feet below sea level). The tidewater glacier has been growing roughly 30 feet per year for the last few decades, and has joined and separated from Grand Pacific Glacier over the past twenty-five years.
Not too spectacular in size, these hanging glaciers dangle from mountains in the Chugach National Forest. Several pullouts allow for viewing. They feed the nearby stream systems that harbor many species of salmon and trout. Tangle Pond and Tangle Creek are favorite fishing spots for locals, and there are lots of places to camp in Portage Valley itself.
Directions: Head south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway, along the 5-mile Portage Spur Road. You'll spot these glaciers on the south side of the road, halfway from the Seward Highway to Portage Lake (thus the name Middle Glacier). Check them out on your way to Portage and Byron.
Distance: 48 miles south of Anchorage.
Drive Time: 1 hour.
Explore Time: 1/2 – 2 hours.
Look for the historical sign describing the rapid advance of Black Rapids Glacier. During the winter of 1936, this mile-wide, 300-foot-high river of ice advanced an average of 115 feet a day, or over 4 miles, to within a half-mile of the highway. It was dubbed the Galloping Glacier and has been receding ever since.
Beloit Glacier fluctuates betwen 125 and 250 feet high at water's edge depending on recent calving activity. Calving diminishes the face but it builds back up again quickly as the glacier descends to sea. Nonetheless, the glacier is in rapid retreat; you can spot bedrock becoming exposed at the base of the glacier. It was named after the Wisconsin college, as were most of the other More...
Like its name implies, Cascade twists steeply down a mountainside into the west side of Barry Arm. The dividing line between Cascade and Barry Glacier is sometimes hard to distinguish, because they converge into each other. Cascade is in rapid retreat. The large rock behind the kayaker in this photo was under ice only five years ago. Today, the rock is not only exposed, but the More...
This glacier, named after Northwestern University in 1909, can be found at the head of Northwestern Fjord in Kenai Fjords National Park, just under 30 miles southwest of Seward. By the second half of the 20th century, Northwestern Glacier's recession revealed a number of islands in the Fjord that had previously been covered in ice. Take a cruise from Seward and envision the entirety of of Northwestern Fjord filled with ice, as you make your way to Northwestern Glacier.
The Knik Glacier snakes out of the Chugach Mountains, tumbling into an iceberg-studded lake that feeds the Knik River. With a five-mile-wide face and daily calving, it’s an impressive sight: 400-foot ice walls rise out of a lake filled with icebergs that are floating, turning, and breaking apart. This glacier used to wreak havoc on the Mat-Su Valley, advancing every winter and More...
Bear Glacier, found in Kenai Fjords National Park, is a tidewater glacier and a popular spot for kayakers, but you can easily see it on a cruise from Seward. With massive icebergs and blue waters, seeing the glacier up close is a thrilling experience. Many people camp on the outer beach near Bear Glacier, and enjoy the glacier views in the background. This is also a great area to check for whales, sea otters, puffins, and other wildlife.
Three north-looking photographs, all taken from about the same offshore location, about 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) north of Toboggan Glacier, document significant changes that have occurred during the 103 years between August 20, 1905 and August 22, 2008. An intermediate age photograph shows the glacier on September 4, 2000. The 1905 photograph shows that Toboggan Glacier was thinning More...
The 700-square-mile Harding Icefield, one of four major ice caps in the United States, crowns Kenai Fjords National Park. The icefield may be a remnant of the Pleistocene ice masses once covering half of Alaska. The magnificent coastline of Kenai Fjords is steep valleys that were carved by glaciers in retreat. Active glaciers still calve and crash into the sea as visitors watch from More...
Just "across the street" from the Kennicott Glacier Lodge, this glacier is located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Kennicott Glacier has been receding for years, but it still proves to be a magnificent sight. The glacier stretches from Mount Blackburn to its terminus at the Kennicott River.
The trip from McCarthy to the Toe of the Kennicott Glacier is only 1.5 miles. On More...
Both of these photographs were taken from the same location in Nuka Passage, about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the position of the 1909 terminus of the glacier. The first photograph by D.F. Higgins, is an August 6, 1909 view of the then retreating northern part of the terminus. The absence of any icebergs indicates that by 1909, the glacier was no longer tidewater. When More...
You enter the Sheldon Amphitheatre, named after a bush pilot who built a viewing hut here on the glacier before it became a national park. You can stay here for $100 a night. It has a wood stove and bunks 6. If you opt for a glacier landing, this is where you’ll likely land. You’ll step out of the plane and onto an ice sheet nearly a mile thick. The scale of the More...
What you're able to see of the Muldrow Glacier from the park road is actually just the tip of a 32 mile long river of frozen ice. The Muldrow Glacier is the park's longest and it is a great example of the power these behemoth ice masses have on the landscape. Much of the lower reaches of the ice are covered in dirt and rocks that have been scoured off of the More...
The main street in Kennicott turns into a well-maintained, 4-mile-long hiking trail just outside of town. This trail winds alongside the Kennicott and Root Glaciers, and hiking it is a great opportunity to experience the grandeur of the Wrangell Mountains and see more of the valley. It's a great starting point, whether you have only a few hours or are planning a multi-day glacier More...
The Kahiltna Glacier is the longest in the Alaska Range—a 45-mile long river of ice! You’ll cross it 35 miles up it, at an elevation of 5500 feet above sea level. See any dark specs on the surface of the glacier? Those are the climbers and tents of Denali (Mt. McKinley) basecamp! Most climbing expeditions begin here. A base camp manager coordinates communications between More...
A few hundred feet above the boat, you'll see Northland Glacier perched atop sheer rock. This glacier calves a lot. The ice blocks ricochet and shatter down the rock face before exploding into the water below. It's an exciting spectacle. Also, a steady waterfall drains down; to the side, you'll see a kittiwake rookery.
Holgate Glacier, found in Holgate Arm in Aialik Bay, within Kenai Fjords National Park, is a tidewater and mountain glacier. While it is one of the smaller glaciers in Aialik Bay, Holgate Glacier is still a popular destination to see calving glaciers. And it is actually advancing! Holgate Arm is often filled with ice, but on a good day you can get to a close and safe distance from the glacier. Catch a cruise from Seward, or go kayaking!
You enter the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier—the world’s deepest. The ice is 3700 feet deep, some of it more than a thousand years old. The surrounding walls soar 4000-5000 feet above. Were the ice to melt tomorrow, you would witness a spectacle twice as awesome as the Grand Canyon—a gorge a mile wide and nearly two miles high. Watch for climbing camps…These More...
While not the most spectacular glacier, it nonetheless deserves note because one of the creators of The Alaska App went to Amherst College. We shall say no more. Except one thing: When the Harriman Expedition named the glaciers in College Fjord, they had no idea the insult that would be felt more than a century by Amherst alums cruising Prince William Sound only to discover their alma More...
Cross the Tokositna River which marks the southeast corner of Denali National Park. Look for tents or rafts next to the river. While difficult to access—even by bush plane—this area is a prime place for camping, exploring, and to begin a raft trip down the Tokositna River to Talkeetna. Out the left window, you can look south to the Peters & Dutch Hills, an active More...
Pedersen Glacier, located in Kenai Fjords National Park, receded throughout the 20th century exposing Pedersen Spit and Pedersen Lagoon. In the 1980s, the lagoon was designated as the Pedersen Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary, a 1,700-acre sanctuary meant to preserve and protect the area's wildlife and land. Take a cruise from Seward to see Pedersen Glacier, and the beautiful habitat surrounding it just under 20 miles away.