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.
On Byron, ice worms are common, if you get down and look. There are also beautiful ice caves and rivulets to see, but be careful not to walk too far onto the ice of this tempting glacier. You can see the lake in a half hour, but may want to spend time at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center (1/2-1 hour), take the Portage Glacier 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. Byron Glacier trailhead is near Portage Lake. It's a one-mile scenic walk to the glacier face along Byron Creek. 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: 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.
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.
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.