Glaciers have left their marks all across the world by carving valleys, lakes, and fjords out of the ground. They can form over centuries through the accumulation of densely-packed frozen snow and they can shrink and grow with the heating and cooling of the Earth. While glaciers are currently retreating at a rapid rate due to the effects of climate change, they still inspire awe from adventurous travelers and explorers. One of the best places to view these ancient giants is in Alaska, home to one of the most famous and accessible glaciers in the world, Exit Glacier. Well-maintained hiking trails allow people to get so close that they can hear it crackling as the ice moves and shifts. You can hike Exit Glacier for yourself on our Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure!
A Living Alaskan Glacier
Exit Glacier is one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska. The bright blue ice snakes down the side of the mountain like a river, attracting visitors in from all over the world. The glacier itself is fed by a larger and older mass of ice called the Harding Icefield, which covers more than 700 square miles in the Kenai Mountains and feeds over 30 other glaciers. But unlike other glaciers, Exit has been made easily accessible to visitors all year round with its hiking trails. It’s also one of the few places where the history of glacial changes have been mapped out over the last 200 years.
All glaciers are dynamic, changing and shifting with surrounding temperatures. It’s almost as if they’re alive, sometimes growing, sometimes shrinking, but always moving. As they move, they change the environment around them, both geologically and ecologically. Nowhere else is this more apparent than at Exit Glacier. Posts along the trail mark the spots where the glacier once reached in previous years. It is a stark visual that illustrates the real impact of the changing climate on the environment.
Hiking Exit Glacier
One of the biggest draws to Exit Glacier are the hiking trails that surround it. Travelers of all ability levels can explore the area on one or more of these trails. Most people start with the Edge of the Glacier Trail. This is a paved path that people with wheelchairs and strollers should be able to navigate. As you travel along the path, you’ll be following the route of the glacier’s retreat and will find markers showing how far the glacier had reached in years past. You’ll end up at the glacier’s edge, a fantastic place to take photos and see the contrast of the dense blue ice against the green foliage. You might even be able to catch a glimpse of calving, where large blocks of ice break off and crash to the ground.
If you’d like more of a challenge, you could also take the Harding Icefield Trail. This hike is 8.4 miles round-trip and climbs over 3500 feet in elevation. It’s not for the faint of heart and it’s recommended to give yourself six to eight hours to complete, but the view from the top is a stunning panorama of Harding icefield stretching out for miles across the Kenai mountains.
Gondwana Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure
Hiking to Exit Glacier is just one of the exciting stops on Gondwana’s Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure. This tour takes you throughout Alaska’s Katmai National Park and the Kenai Peninsula where you can enjoy a variety of activities including grizzly bear viewing at the famous Brooks Lodge, kayaking in Resurrection Bay, a catamaran trip through the Kenai Fjords, a visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and some of the best food and accommodations that Alaska has to offer! Almost everything is included in the price of the tour except for airfare to Alaska and a few meals. So if you want to have the quintessential Alaskan experience, then check out the Grizzlies & Glaciers Adventure tour page today!