Soaring high at 20,310 feet is Denali (formerly named Mt. McKinley after an Ohio Senator who never visited Alaska). The mountain was renamed Denali in 2015. Equally impressive are its nearby cousins: Mt. Foraker (17,400), and Mt. Hunter (14,573). These three dominate the skyline for hundreds of miles.
You can get up close and personal with the “Roof of North More...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This lake is home to the best swimming in Talkeetna. The public dock is a few miles out of town and provides access to deep, clean water with a summer water temperature in the low to mid 60s. This is a local hang out spot, so strike up a conversation and make a new friend.
This hidden, little visited waterfall feels immense as it fills its small canyon with a roar that can be heard during the approach. Tucked into a gorge where the South Fork of Eagle River takes a 25-foot-plus plunge, the falls split into two channels as they cascade over a giant bedrock outcrop and are very photogenic. One of the Chugach’s secret places. The surrounding access More...
Bridal Veil Falls and the Valdez Goat Trail: This two-mile-long hike is a restored section of the Trans-Alaska Military Pack-train Trail that was the first glacier-free route from Valdez to the interior of Alaska. There's a fantastic overlook about a mile down the trail.
You’ll either enjoy a peaceful walk through a secluded and beautiful estuary ripe with birdlife—or have a ringside seat at the annual salmon dipnetting extravaganza, featuring hordes of crazed locals armed with 10-foot poles. The beach road emerges from the forest at a river-mouth lined by dunes, tidally influenced beach, an estuary and broad salt marsh.
Black Sand Beach is a popular place for sea kayakers to camp in Prince William Sound. Look for them standing on the beach! It will give you some perspective on how enormous the surrounding glaciers and mountains are. With water cascading down from the hanging glaciers, sea life playing among the ice bergs and a commanding view of Barry Arm, Black Sand Beach is one of the most spectacular beaches in Alaska.
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).
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...
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.
36 miles west of Denali (Mt. McKinley), Mt. Russell is one of the major peaks of the Alaska Range—and one of the most dramatic. To give a sense for its size and steepness, it rises over a vertical mile above the Chedotlothna Glacier to the northwest in less than two miles. It rises two miles above the Yentna Glacier to the south in only 8 miles.
Overshadowed by its More...
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...
These mountains lie in the central Alaska Range, roughly 120 miles east of Denali (Mt. McKinley). To the east of the Parks Highway and north of the Denali Highway (the gravel highway that connects Cantwell to Paxson), they are relatively inaccessible and seldom climbed.
In this video, we follow pilot Jim of Denali Air into the range and a mountain kindgom equally More...
A short drive from downtown Anchorage will land you in the middle of Kincaid Park, the jump-off point for this moderate two-mile out and back hike to Anchorage’s only big, sandy beach. If not for the cool Alaska temps, it'd be easy to think you were in Southern California. The sand is fine and very little mars its surface other than the occasional piece of driftwood. More...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
Goose Lake is located in central Anchorage, near the university district. You'd never know you're in the heart of Anchorage as you view Pacific loons nesting at the far end of the lake from mid-May to mid-September. Rent a paddleboat from the Paddleboat cafe (certain days of the week) to get a closer view of the loons. Obey the signs, and don't get too close. More...