Photo Credit: Harvard Glacier | Whittier

The Best Glaciers in Prince William Sound

Watching a magnificent river of blue ice as it cascades down a slope while seemingly standing still: the experience of witnessing a glacier is truly awe-inspiring.

Fortunately, it’s easy to see glaciers in Alaska—especially in a place like Prince William Sound. Here, you’ll find some 150 of them packed into an area just 70 miles wide, often tucked into mountain peaks (though still visible). And 17 of these icy behemoths are tidewater glaciers, meaning they touch the water. These are the drama queens of the glacier world: they calve and crash into the water, creating icebergs that you can sail or paddle around.

Getting to this glacier hot spot is easy as well: you can take day tours into the fjords from two towns on the road system—Whittier (1.5 hours from Anchorage) and Valdez (6.5 hours from Anchorage). Reaching a third town, Cordova, requires a ferry ride or a quick forty minute flight from Anchorage, but offers access to glaciers as well.

Once in Valdez or Whittier, a day cruise is the most popular way to see glaciers. You could also take a small plane or helicopter ride and look down on these spectacles of nature. Or have a super-personal experience with a glacier on a kayak or Jet Ski tour. You’ll also find other glaciers worth exploring in the Prince William Sound region; some you can see with a short trail hike.

Here are our picks for the most spectacular glaciers in the Prince William Sound region—and how you can see them.

On the Water

Blackstone Glacier | Whittier

Blackstone Glacier | Whittier

Blackstone Bay

Just 45 minutes from Whittier, this super-accessible area in the Sound features two (count ’em) tidewater glaciers plus a hanging glacier. You can check them out on a day cruise, or by sea kayaking or Jet Skiing.

Depart From

Whittier

Tour Cost

$–$$$

Tours

Whittier Day Cruises, Whittier Sea Kayaking Tours, Whittier Jet Ski Tours

Harvard Glacier

Harvard Glacier | Whittier

Harvard Glacier | Whittier

This massive glacier in College Fjord is a real treat, as it calves all the time. But the drama actually begins on your way there from Whittier; you’ll pass glaciers on both sides of the fjord. When the tide goes out, icebergs end up on the beaches—a truly unique and impressive sight. Sometimes in early summer there’s so much ice that it’s hard to get close to the face! You can get there via a 1.5- to 2-hour boat ride from Whittier.

Depart From

Whittier

Tour Cost

$$

Tours

Whittier Day Cruises

Columbia Glacier

Columbia Glacier | Valdez

Columbia Glacier | Valdez

This glacier is so massive it’s practically its own little world! Most guests visit from Valdez; it’s about 3 hours each way by boat. You could also leave from Whittier; it takes about 3 hours by boat to reach the glacier.

Depart From

Valdez or Whittier

Tour Cost

$$–$$$

Tours

Stan Stephens, Lazy Otter Charters, Anadyr Adventures

Meares Glacier

Meares Glacier | Valdez

Meares Glacier | Valdez

This impressive tidewater glacier, at the head of the Unakwik Inlet, is actually advancing. You’ll even see evidence of the movement—trees knocked over along the sides of the mountain. It’s about 2 hours from Whittier; you can also see it on an 8.5-hour tour from Valdez with Stan Stephens.

Depart From

Valdez or Whittier

Tour Cost

$$–$$$

Tours

Stan Stephens, Lazy Otter Charters

Shoup Glacier | Valdez

Shoup Glacier | Valdez

Shoup Glacier

This gorgeous glacier is located in Shoup Bay, where most people come to stay at one of three public use cabins—all of which are only accessible by kayak or boat. But bring a kayak, even if you arrive by boat: The glacier isn’t visible from the cabins, but if you paddle out into the lagoon, you’ll be treated to a beautiful view…likely with no one else around.

Depart From

Valdez

Tour Cost

$$

Worthington Glacier | Valdez

Worthington Glacier | Valdez

Tours

Anadyr Adventures

On the Road System

Worthington Glacier

About 30 miles north of Valdez, you’ll see this glacier right from the Richardson Highway, making for a spectacular stop on your drive there. A viewing platform overlooks the glacier; the ice itself is accessible by a short hike on paved, wheelchair-accessible trail.

Where

30 miles north of Valdez on the Richardson Highway

Access Cost

$5 parking fee

Valdez Glacier | Valdez

Valdez Glacier | Valdez

Valdez Glacier

This glacier terminates in Valdez Glacier Lake, which is a quick, 15-minute drive from downtown Valdez. It’s one of Alaska’s best places to see icebergs without getting on a boat! You’ll only see the glacier itself by taking a kayak tour, but you can stand on the shore and marvel at the magnifcent sight of icebergs bobbing water.

Where

Valdez

Access Cost

0 - $$

Tour Company

Anadyr Adventures

Sheridan Glacier | Cordova

Sheridan Glacier | Cordova

By Trail

Sheridan Glacier

You can see this glacier on an easy, 1.5-mile stroll down to a lake. (Or take the more challenging route on a USFS trail to the ridge above for a view of the glacier and the sprawling Copper River delta. Trail is 5 miles round-trip.) And if you’re here in winter, bring your ice skates for some wilderness ice skating! You’ll have the unique experience of skating out among bright blue icebergs that have calved off the glacier and are frozen in place.

Where

Cordova

Access Cost

None

Getting There

To get there, follow the Copper River Highway to mile 13.7, just beyond the airport. Take a left on Sheridan Mountain Road at USFS recreation site marker. At the far end of the parking lot, you’ll see two trails: The one on left leads to Sheridan Mountain; the one on the right takes you to the glacier.

Portage Glacier | Whittier

Portage Glacier | Whittier

Portage Glacier

This glacier was once visible from the shores of Portage Lake at Begich Boggs Portage Visitor Center; getting to it today requires a 4-mile round-trip hike (on a family-friendly trail). That’s the distance to Portage Lake, where you’ll be directly across from the glacier. But you can also see it from the top of the pass, which takes about 45 minutes to reach.

Where

Whittier, 1.5 hr drive south of Anchorage.

Access Cost

$13 to drive through the Whittier Tunnel. No cost for trailhead parking.

Remote

Childs Glacier

Childs Glacier | Cordova

Childs Glacier | Cordova

This glacier was once accessible via the Copper River Highway, but a bridge at Mile 36 of the Copper River Highway is currently impassable, and repairs aren’t expected for several years. The only way to reach Childs Glacier today is by boat or plane. But if you make the journey, you’ll be rewarded with an impressive glacier that meets the river and is known for its active calving events. Picnic tables, firepits, campsites and outhouses are available to day-trip visitors or overnight campers.

Where

Cordova

Access Cost

$$$

Tours

Here’s a list of outfitters who can get you to Childs Glacier

Show Map

The Best Glacier Experiences in Prince William Sound

One the Water

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). 

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. 

Gor­geous tide­wa­ter glacier. 

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

On the Road System

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, and a cov­ered pavil­ion with a mod­el of the glac­i­er and inter­pre­tive signs, all close to small lake.

If you’ve yet to set eyes on an ice­berg, this is your chance: Gor­geous Valdez Glac­i­er Lake is often home to large chunks of float­ing ice that have calved off from the Valdez Glac­i­er. Appre­ci­ate the chunks of ice from shore, or join a guid­ed kayak expe­di­tion to pad­dle around the ice

By Trail

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

Remote

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