Ruth Glacier Flyover  (:30)

The Ice Age hasn’t ended in Alaska! Gobs of hanging glaciers can be seen from just about every highway that traverses Alaska’s high mountains. Many terrestrial glaciers can be approached up close by people who can handle short hikes. Go to sea on a day cruise or fishing charter, and you’ll discover the coastal mountains of Southcentral and Southeast Alaska are among the best places in the world to experience glacier calving. And don’t forget the uncounted thousands in remote areas—many accessible by air charters or mountaineering trips. You’ll never run out of glacial viewing options.

Jump To | Map | By Road or Rail | Hike, Bike or Ski | Boat Cruises | Flightseeing & Glacial Landings

By Road or Rail

Matanuska Glacier

About 100 miles northeast of Anchorage

Located at the end of a private road through a resort at Mile 102 of the Glenn Highway—about 50 miles east of Palmer—this craggy, heavily crevassed river of ice is the real thing. It’s fed by the same ocean-driven weather that creates the vast glacial crown surrounding Prince William Sound. And it can be touched!

Portage Glacier

About 50 miles southeast of Anchorage

This very active glacier now hidden inside a lobe of Portage Lake has undergone what may be the most closely watched retreat of any glacier in Alaska. Decades after it exposed its own deep lake, the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center was built specifically to showcase a stunning head-on view of its rugged, collapsing face. Though the glacier finally slipped from easy view in the 1990s and became largely a tour boat destination in summer, Portage continues to generate icebergs that ground within sight of lakeshore parking.

Spencer Glacier

About 10 miles south of Turnagain Arm on the Alaska Railroad

For a unique, European-style excursion that offers direct access to an active glacier that clogs its lake with amazing icebergs, take a train to the Spencer Glacier Whistlestop station during the summer visiting season. Guides offer activities such as sea kayaking and rafting, hiking and climbing. The U.S. Forest Service maintains a campground (reservations required.) You can backpack a new trail system, rent a public use cabin on a mountain ridge, or explore a basin recently emerging from beneath ice.

Exit Glacier

About 12 miles outside Seward on a paved road

This dramatic tongue of ice descends from the massive Harding Ice Field to a visitor center with curated trail system, located inside the only portion of Kenai Fjords National Park reachable by road. Signage identifies the glacier’s terminal locations during its retreat over the decades, making the access trail a real-time index into the dynamics of climate warming. The easy lower trail leads to overlooks of crevasses.

Worthington Glacier

About 29 miles north of Valdez on the Richardson Highway

One of the most popular natural attractions on the Valdez-to-Fairbanks highway corridor, this active glacier descends almost to the Richardson Highway, and can be easily approached via a short trail system. Great photographic potential during summer, with picnicking, wild blueberries and restrooms.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

About 12 miles from downtown Juneau

This 13-mile-long river of ice descends from the immense Juneau Icefield into a berg-strewn lake only minutes from downtown Juneau. It is the easiest glacier to visit in Southeast Alaska, and one of the most popular glaciers in the state. A visitor center operated by the U.S. Forest Service is open year-round with spectacular views and interactive exhibits, plus you’ll find great hiking to waterfalls and overlooks for photography.

Childs Glacier

About 50 miles from Cordova at the end of the Copper River Highway

The terminus of this active glacier looms over the main channel of the Copper River just across from a popular campground. Calving events sometimes throw 10-foot waves that strand flopping salmon on the forest floor. The historic Million Dollar Bridge—damaged in the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964—is nearby. Unfortunately, a washed-out bridge on the road to the glacier currently complicates access.

Highway Shoulders During Road Trips

Look up, and you shall see. After seasonal snow recedes during spring and summer, scores of glaciers become readily visible on slopes overlooking highways that traverse Alaska’s coastal mountains and the Alaska Range. Generally, by the time you can see green vegetation in the chutes and bowls near ridge tops, most of the white, icy masses on looming slopes will be bona-fide hanging glaciers rather than just late-melting snow. Most have no names. Enjoy them as you travel!

Promising stretches include:

  • Seward Highway southeast of Bird Point and north of Ingram Creek. Watch for glaciers overlooking Girdwood and Alyeska Resort. Look for the many sparkling buttresses that cling to the mountains above the Portage and Placer river valleys at the head of Turnagain Arm.
  • The Alaska Range seen from the Parks and Richardson highways. A great way to start would be to visit the best Denali viewing sites. The waysides at Parks Mile 135 and Mile 163 inside Denali State Park are prime. On the Richardson, watch for glacier views during a 50-mile stretch between the Summit Lake area north of Paxson through Donnely Lake. Good views of the Gulkana Glacier can be found in a primitive camping area about 1.5 miles up an access road to a former pipeline construction camp, running east about two miles north of Summit Lake.
  • The Chugach Mountains along the Glenn Highway between Glacier View area and Eureka Summit. Glaciers will be nestled in hanging valleys and in distant drainages. The most extraordinary ice vista will be at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site at Mile 101. Find views of the distant Tazlina and Nelchina glaciers to the south in the Eureka Summit area around Mile 129-Mile 132.

Hike, Bike or Ski

Byron Glacier

About 50 miles southeast of Anchorage

Only a short hike on a flat trail south of Portage Lake near the head of Turnagain Arm, Byron dominates its own gorge-like valley, offering a rugged, remote atmosphere that feels as though you’ve traveled deep into the backcountry. It also hosts a population of ice worms.

Portage Glacier

About 50 miles southeast of Anchorage

Listed above as a road accessible, Portage Glacier can be approached under human power via the Portage Pass Trail from the Whittier side of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. Non-motorized boats like kayaks are permitted along the north shore of Portage Lake to the beach at the base of Portage Pass, with a great view of the ice. During winter—once Portage Lake freezes solid—people also walk, ski, ice skate and snow bike about three miles to the vicinity of the glacier’s active face.

Root Glacier

About 300 miles east of Anchorage in Wrangell St. Elias National Park

For those able to handle a four-mile round-trip hike with a couple of moderately steep sections, an obvious trail from the historic Kennecott town site leads north to the Root Glacier. On a sunny day, the photography is outstanding, in a locale that’s as wild and exotic as it gets.

Kennicott Glacier

About 300 miles east of Anchorage in Wrangell St. Elias National Park

The spectacular Kennicott Glacier dominates the vista from the historic copper mill town of Kennecott and the decks of the Kennicott Glacier Lodge, 4.5 miles from the end of the McCarthy Road inside Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Shuttles regularly operate between McCarthy and Kennecott.

Eklutna Glacier

About 40 miles from downtown Anchorage inside Chugach State Park

A landmark at the head of a multi-use trail inside Chugach State Park, this fast-receding glacier anchors one end of a popular mountaineering traverse that connects to the Girdwood area on the other side of the range. Depending upon the time of year and snow cover, Eklutna’s toe can be quite treacherous (but beautiful) with headwalls, rock slides and fins of ice. The narrow gorge has the raw, wild feel of a defile far from civilization.

Raven Glacier

Near Crow Pass about 8 miles from Girdwood

This stranded mountain glacier sprawls from its hanging valley below Crow Pass—a white, striated mass with blue-etched crevasses. If approached after the snow has melted—late June through September—the contrast between the glacier and the surrounding tundra, gravel and rock is startling and otherworldly. Considered one of Alaska’s best summer day hikes.

Day cruise in Whittier

Day cruise in Whittier

Mint Glacier

About 60 miles north of Anchorage in the Hatcher Pass area

The very doable 8-mile Gold Mint Trail in the Hatcher Pass area north of Palmer parallels the Little Susitna River up a gorgeous valley to its headwaters and a ridge overlooking Mint Glacier. The total elevation gain is about 3,000 feet, but the trail is mostly gradual and popular for backpackers and day-hikers, especially from July until snowfall.

Day Cruises to Tidewater Glaciers

There’s nothing else like the moment a giant hunk of ice calves from the face of a glacier and then crashes into the sea. This display of immense natural violence fills the senses. There’s the groan of tortured ice, the artillery-shot crack as it shatters, the rumble of its collapse—all ending in a colossal splash followed by tsunami-like waves that jostle floating ice and bergs and maybe rock your boat. Alaska may be the best place in the world to witness this spectacular phenomena. Most people book a day-trip on a marine tour.

Whittier

About 60 miles from Anchorage

Many tour companies and small-boat operators offer daily excursions into Western Prince William Sound from this port town on the road system about 60 miles from Anchorage. Popular destinations with a good chance of witnessing calving include Beliot and Blackstone glaciers at the head of Blackstone Bay and the very active Surprise Glacier in Harriman Fiord.

Valdez

At the head of Valdez Arm in Prince William Sound

Known for the terminal of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and colossal winter snowfall that can literally bury housing, this friendly port town at the end of the Richardson Highway is one of Southcentral Alaska’s best launch spots for glacier touring. Guides and marine tour operators offer trips to the Valdez Glacier near town, the Shoup Glacier further out Valdez Arm, and to the immense Columbia Glacier—now undergoing drastic retreat and exposing a new spectacular fiord.

Gustavus (Glacier Bay National Park)

44 miles west of Juneau

Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, the most stunning place in Alaska to witness a fiord system newly exposed by retreating ice. The park features seven tidewater glaciers that actively shed icebergs and brash into 65-mile deep bay that didn’t yet exist in the 1700s. For sheer rugged wilderness character in an ecosystem that’s fast exiting the ice age, there’s nothing else like it. Though most people visit Glacier Bay on cruise ships, there are many other tour options once you get to Gustavus.

Flightseeing and Glacial Landings

One of the most spectacular and otherworldly modes to view glaciers is from the air. What might appear as a static (but enormous) landform from the ground or the deck of a boat suddenly seems to come alive in real time, like you’re rocketing down an undulating river as it twists through canyons and plunges over falls. Only from the air do you fully perceive how glaciers are flowing downhill in slo-mo, in some ways resembling gigantic lava floes. As they spill from accumulation zones through gorges and valleys, you follow the curves where crevasses rip open and track the serpentine lines of rocky lateral moraines that stripe their spines. Flightseeing transforms glacier viewing into something like the grandest amusement park ride you’ve ever imagined.

Alaska hosts an entire industry that specializes in flying visitors into glacier country, ranging from hour-long overflights to extensive trips that might involve landing or drop-offs on active ice. There are scores of carriers in dozens of communities, using both ski-equipped airplanes and helicopters. While many visitors aspire to visit the extraordinary icebound realms like Ruth Glacier in Denali or the Kennicott and Root glaciers of Wrangell-St. Elias national parks, don’t count out the less remote backcountry of the Chugach, Kenai and Talkeetna mountains. Many air charters take off from Merrill Field and Lake Hood airstrips right inside Anchorage.

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Glaciers by Access

Roadside Glaciers

Glaciers visible from the road

This 12-mile glac­i­er is part of Ton­gass Nation­al For­est and its vis­i­tors’ cen­ter is just a half mile from the glacier’s face. Once dubbed the Auk Glac­i­er by John Muir (after a mem­ber of the Tlin­git tribe), 

This very active glac­i­er forms a wall along the fabled Cop­per Riv­er near a his­toric rail­road route that once ser­viced the world’s largest cop­per mine. NOTE: A bridge at Mile 36 of the Cop­per Riv­er High­way is cur­rent­ly (2020) impass­able, with repairs not expect­ed for sev­er­al years. Child’s Glac­i­er is not cur­rent­ly acces­si­ble by road. Con­tact Cor­do­va Ranger Dis­trict for cur­rent venders pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion options to the far side.  ...more

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 (8882534480), then hike 15 – 20 min­utes to the face of  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

This short day hike — with an eas­i­ly acces­si­ble trail­head a few hun­dred meters from the Begich Bog­gs Vis­i­tor Cen­ter — offers you big views of the Byron Glacier.

One of the most vis­it­ed nat­ur­al attrac­tions along the Richard­son High­way, this four-mile-long glac­i­er descends almost to pave­ment and is easy to approach on foot. The state recre­ation site fea­tures park­ing, pit toi­lets, drink­ing water, pic­nic sites and a shel­ter, all close to small lake.

Wor­thing­ton Glac­i­er State Recre­ation Site is made up of 113 acres, and includes one of the most vis­it­ed spots in the Cop­per Riv­er Basin, Wor­thing­ton Glac­i­er. There are trails, pic­nic sites, and pic­nic shel­ters with­in the road­side park, along with water and restrooms. Make sure to stop at mile­post 28.7 on the Richard­son High­way to view this favorite glac­i­er, or take a short walk to the glac­i­er and see it up close! 

These gleam­ing val­ley glac­i­ers perch in the moun­tains above Portage Val­ley, easy to view from high­way pull­outs. 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.

Tech­ni­cal­ly, Portage is no longer a road­side glac­i­er, as it recedes an aver­age of one foot a day and is now no longer vis­i­ble from the road, but its big blue ice­bergs are often found along the shore of the lake, right in front of the park­ing area. 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…  ...more

Trailside Glaciers

Glaciers you can hike right up to

13-mile glac­i­er in the Kenai Mountains. 

Tech­ni­cal­ly, Portage is no longer a road­side glac­i­er, as it recedes an aver­age of one foot a day and is now no longer vis­i­ble from the road, but its big blue ice­bergs are often found along the shore of the lake, right in front of the park­ing area. 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…  ...more

This white rib­bon of ice merges with the much larg­er Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er only a mile or so north­west of the his­toric mill town of Ken­necott in Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park. One of the most acces­si­ble glac­i­ers in Alas­ka, it can be reached by hik­ing a few miles up a rel­a­tive­ly easy trail.

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 tour boats here. Sea stacks, islets, and tagged shoreline…  ...more

This glac­i­er dom­i­nates all views west of the his­toric mill town site of Ken­necott (basi­cal­ly locat­ed across the street” from the Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er Lodge) in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias Nation­al Park. Although Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er has been reced­ing from its ter­mi­nus for years, its immen­si­ty and rugged­ness remains a mag­nif­i­cent sight, fill­ing the four-mile-wide val­ley like a mighty river.

You can find a great over­look that shows off most of the glac­i­er near the 3,880-foot Crow Pass, about three miles from the Crow Pass trail­head in Gird­wood. Anoth­er mile past the pass, and you can approach the edges or toe of the glac­i­er itself, for a more inti­mate expe­ri­ence of its tex­ture, col­ors and gnarled shape.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

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 and moun­tain adven­ture. You will be reward­ed through­out the…  ...more

Locat­ed in the Hatch­er Pass area of the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains north­west of Palmer, the Mint Glac­i­er area is a pop­u­lar day-hike, sum­mer back­pack­ing and ski moun­taineer­ing des­ti­na­tion. Inter­mit­tent views of the glac­i­er from the Gold Mint Trail will only get bet­ter the fur­ther you hike up the valley.

To see the glac­i­er, you have to trav­el into the gorge, a 26-mile round-trip from the trail­head over a most­ly flat mul­ti-use trail. (It opens to ATV use on cer­tain days.) Once you enter the canyon, you will see the rugged, boul­der-choked ter­mi­nus with flut­ed ice above. This some­what stren­u­ous day-trip over a grav­el ATV route takes you deep into the back­coun­try in just a few hours, with great pho­tog­ra­phy and a chance to see the rav­ages of climate  ...more

This very pop­u­lar glac­i­er lies just beyond the end of a flat, well-main­tained trail up a nar­row, glac­i­er-scoured val­ley south of the Portage Lake. Byron descends from the same ice field that feeds both Portage Glac­i­er on the lake and Black­stone Glac­i­er in Prince William Sound.

Boatside Glaciers

Can be seen from a day cruise, or Inside Passage Alaska cruise

Gor­geous Portage Glac­i­er lies just 48 miles south of Anchor­age. Explore the glac­i­er, vis­it the muse­um, and go for a boat ride.

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. 

Gor­geous tide­wa­ter glacier. 

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! 

From May to late August, you may see loons, mer­gansers, gold­en eyes, and arc­tic terns fly­ing through here on their migra­tion routes. This is also a good van­tage point to look back up Bar­ry and Coxe Glacier.

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. 

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). 

Lam­plugh is about 96 miles north­west of Juneau, and is often a stop on cruis­es going through Glac­i­er Bay Nation­al Park. If you’re want­i­ng a more adven­tur­ous vis­it, go sea kayak­ing in Glac­i­er Bay and make Lam­plugh Glac­i­er a stop on your route. 

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 locat­ed at about the same posi­tion that it occu­pied when it was vis­it­ed by…  ...more

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. 

This is the most active tide­wa­ter glac­i­er in Prince William Sound and the best place to see glac­i­ers calv­ing. Sur­prise also seems to cre­ate its own weath­er; it can be clear around here even when it’s cloudy every­where else in the area. 

Aia­lik Glac­i­er is the largest glac­i­er in Aia­lik Bay, locat­ed in Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park. While fair­ly sta­ble, the glac­i­er calves most active­ly in May and June. The glac­i­er is very acces­si­ble on a kayak tour or day cruise from Seward. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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! 

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 glac­i­er has pulled back away from it anoth­er sev­er­al hun­dred feet.   ...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  ...more

20 miles west of Valdez, this short glac­i­er fea­tures a very steep dropoff from ice to ocean!

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 damming up a lake that would flood each sum­mer. (And it’s been…  ...more

Car­roll Glac­i­er, found in Glac­i­er Bay, is a ter­res­tri­al glac­i­er. Although it reced­ed through­out much of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, Car­roll Glac­i­er expe­ri­enced a surge in the 1980s. 

Bar­ry Glac­i­er actu­al­ly flows behind Col­lege Fjord and par­al­lel to it for a dozen miles before plung­ing into the head of Bar­ry Arm. On many days, it spawns enough ice into the Arm to pre­vent boats from get­ting close. It all depends on the tide, winds, and calv­ing activ­i­ty. Some­times, a bay clear of ice can fill up in less than an hour.

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. 

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 glac­i­ers in Black­stone Bay (Lawrence, Mar­quette, Concordia,…  ...more

Coxe Glac­i­er forms a dra­mat­ic and noisy back­drop to Black Sand Beach. It’s not as active as either Cas­cade or Bar­ry, but it packs enough punch to awak­en even the deep­est sleep­er when it cracks and thun­ders just a quar­ter mile away from camp. There are sev­er­al decent camp­sites with head-on views of the glacier.

Look down Col­lege Fjord to Har­vard and Yale Glac­i­ers, 20 miles away. Col­lege Fjord gash­es into the heart of the Chugach Moun­tains. Har­ri­man named the glac­i­ers along the left of the fjord after East Coast Ivy League wom­en’s col­leges and those on the right after men’s colleges.

A pair of south­west-look­ing pho­tographs, both tak­en from the same loca­tion adja­cent to Lam­plugh Glac­i­er, show the changes which have occurred at the low­er end of Lamplugh’s inlet dur­ing the 62 years between August 1941 and Sep­tem­ber 8, 2003. The 1941 pho­to­graph by William O. Field shows the calv­ing ter­mi­nus of Lam­plugh Glac­i­er extend­ing to with­in 0.5 miles of the pho­to point. 

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.

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 12 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! 

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.   ...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. 

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 pho­tographed, Yalik Glac­i­er had a gen­tly slop­ing ter­mi­nus with…  ...more

Billings Glac­i­er is named for British Com­modore Joseph Billings who com­mand­ed a Russ­ian explor­ing and sur­vey­ing expe­di­tion in 1791 and 92. He pub­lished no known account of his voyage.

Look­ing beyond the penin­su­la you can see snow­capped moun­tains. Here you have a glimpse into the edge of the Hard­ing Ice­field. This ice­field is the main fea­ture of the Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park. Formed dur­ing the ice age some 20,000 years ago, the Hard­ing Ice­field is 30 miles wide by 50 miles long and in places pre­sumed to be 3000 – 5000 feet thick. There are at least 38 rivers of ice or glac­i­ers that flow out of the Hard­ing Ice­field. From here…  ...more

A pop­u­lar place for cruis­es and kayak­ing. You can stop along the shore, pitch a tent and enjoy the soli­tude and scenic views for a day or two.

Around a hun­dred years ago, Black­stone Glac­i­er extend­ed all the way out to here. You see rock ridges deposit­ed every­where by the glac­i­er before it retreat­ed 4 miles to its cur­rent location.

Look for three alpine glac­i­ers back in Thumb Cove. Alpine glac­i­ers keep their ice in the alpine region of a moun­tain and don’t descend to a val­ley floor or the tide­wa­ter’s edge. From the left the three are Prospect, Spoon and Por­cu­pine glac­i­ers. Notice the love­ly cab­in on the edge of Thumb Cove. The land of the Res­ur­rec­tion Penin­su­la is divid­ed between state park, nation­al for­est and pri­vate in-hold­ings. You will see sev­er­al pri­vate cabins.…  ...more

This is your vir­tu­al class­room in glacia­tion. From this van­tage point, you can see the three types of Alas­ka glac­i­ers: pied­mont, hang­ing, and tidewater. 

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 and retreat­ing and was sur­round­ed by a large bedrock barren…  ...more

Train Access

Only accessible via The Alaska Railroad

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!

Remote Glaciers

Best seen from a flightseeing tour

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 damming up a lake that would flood each sum­mer. (And it’s been…  ...more

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 and retreat­ing and was sur­round­ed by a large bedrock barren…  ...more

The two includ­ed pho­tographs were tak­en on the north­east side of Wachusett Inlet, Saint Elias Moun­tains, Alas­ka. The Sep­tem­ber 9, 1961 pho­to­graph shows the low­er reach­es of Plateau Glac­i­er, then a tide­wa­ter calv­ing val­ley glac­i­er with parts of its ter­mi­nus being land based on either side of the fiord. The cen­tral part of the ter­mi­nus is capped with séracs and ris­es about 35 meters (115 feet) above tide­wa­ter. The ter­mi­nus has a large…  ...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 gold-min­ing area since the ear­ly 1900s. A win­ter wag­on road from Talkeetna…  ...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 climbers and air taxis. Dur­ing the busy climb­ing sea­son, there can be…  ...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 Amphithe­atre is hard to fath­om. You’ll feel like you can reach and out touch the…  ...more

Tebenkof Glac­i­er is named for Mikhail Demitrievich Tebenkof. He gov­erned Alas­ka from 1845 through 1850 and was the first car­tog­ra­ph­er to pub­lish charts of the waters of the North Pacif­ic all the way from the West­ern Aleu­tians down to Fort Ross, California.

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 may be the world’s most impres­sive gran­ite mono­liths. You’ll stare in dis­be­lief at…  ...more

These three pho­tographs show the sig­nif­i­cant changes that Tazli­na Glac­i­er has under­gone in recent years. Read their respec­tive cap­tions for more information.

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 neigh­bor­ing moun­tains on the slow jour­ney from Denal­i’s (Mt. McKin­ley’s) flank.…  ...more

Stephens Glac­i­er is one of many Alaskan glac­i­ers that is rapid­ly shrink­ing. In the pho­to you can see the retreat­ing ter­mi­nus of Stephens Glac­i­er with sev­er­al of its retreat­ing unnamed val­ley glac­i­er trib­u­taries. The east­ern­most for­mer trib­u­tary lost con­tact with Stephens Glac­i­er dur­ing the lat­er part of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Note the fresh moraine deposits on the val­ley floor. Pho­to­graph tak­en by Bruce F. Mol­nia, USGS.

Fly­ing down the medi­al moraine of the Ruth Glac­i­er is mes­mer­iz­ing. This 25 – 50 foot high ridge of rock debris looks like an exca­va­tion pit that extends for miles down the cen­ter of the glac­i­er. Keep on the look­out for deep blue pools of ice melt. Look for lat­er­al moraines on the sides of the glac­i­er and the ter­mi­nal moraine at the toe of the glac­i­er… You’ll know the ter­mi­nus of the Ruth when you see it: the con­tor­tions of earth and ice resemble…  ...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 mater’s name­sake glac­i­er is some­what of a runt. 

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.

This is your vir­tu­al class­room in glacia­tion. From this van­tage point, you can see the three types of Alas­ka glac­i­ers: pied­mont, hang­ing, and tidewater. 

One hun­dred and fifty years ago the val­ley now occu­pied by the ship facil­i­ty and cor­rec­tion­al cen­ter was filled with the ice of God­win Glac­i­er. If you look just below the 4 moun­tain peaks to the left side of the val­ley you can see the ice of God­win glac­i­er. In the year 1850 this glac­i­er calved ice­bergs into Res­ur­rec­tion Bay waters. Now a days God­win glac­i­er is a val­ley glac­i­er and behind the low hills you see in the fore­ground God­win glacier…  ...more

To the east is anoth­er Ice Age crea­ture known as a rock glac­i­er. Orig­i­nat­ing in a bowl, or cirque, of the moun­tain, this undu­lat­ing tongue of rock frag­ments moves much like a glac­i­er. But, unlike a glac­i­er, a rock glac­i­er is com­posed most­ly of rocks and has only a core of ice.

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