What Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska Glaciers?

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PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS

Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!

Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour

Winter Trips To Alaska
See The Northern Lights

Summer Trips To Alaska
Denali Discovery Adventure

What Is A Glacier?

A trip to Alaska is not complete without a sightseeing stop at one of the state’s many glaciers. Alaska has the most glaciers in the nation; in fact, 100,000 of them cover 30,000 square miles! However, only 616 of them are named, and even less are marketed toward visitors.

Glaciers are formed by the gradual, powerful forces of layer upon layer of snow. The snow gets compressed into ice over many centuries, and the mass begins to move slowly down from the pull of gravity. In Alaska, there are several different types of glaciers, but the tidewater, hanging, and cirque glaciers are the most easily accessible and most frequented types of glaciers for tour operators to visit.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska Glaciers?

One of the most exciting ways to explore Alaska’s glaciers is to hike across their icy surfaces. The best time to take a glacier hike is from May to September, when the weather conditions are most favorable. In fact, some of the most famous glaciers in Alaska are best accessed in the warmer months, including popular ones like Spencer Glacier, McBride Glacier, Raven Glacier, Hubbard Glacier, and Holgate Glacier. In general, these months are the best time of year for weather conditions overall in Alaska.

Of course, what you want to do on your trip will help you decide what the best time to visit Alaska glaciers is. Depending on the experience you’re looking to have in Alaska, you may even consider a visit during the “shoulder months.” Certain glaciers are only accessible for ice climbing or glacier hiking during the fall and winter when conditions are a little chilly. However, if you’re a wildlife lover and want to see Alaska’s native species in addition to a glacier, July is the best month to visit Alaska. From sea birds to sea lions, walruses, harbor seals, and sea otters, the peak summer season is the best time to view wildlife.

Where To See An Alaska Glacier

One of the easiest ways to see a glacier in Alaska is to fly into Anchorage and use the city as a jumping-off point to adventure. In fact, there are 60 glaciers within 50 miles of Anchorage. Seward is also a great city to establish a base camp, since the Kenai Fjords National Park is so close, and Exit Glacier is right outside the city limits. With so many options, it’s always the best time to visit Alaskan glaciers. Here are more ideas to help you plan your trip!

  • Seward – if you start in Seward, you can book a day cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park. This is a great way to experience the park’s glaciers and wildlife, especially since it is so difficult to access by land. You can even take a kayak trip from your cruise boat, to see a massive glacier up close! If cruising does not appeal to you, a hike around Exit Glacier Nature Center and down the Exit Glacier Nature Trail to see the Exit Glacier is another option.
  • Anchorage – if you’re looking for a more active adventure, try the Matanuska Glacier Walk. This guided tour departs from Anchorage and offers an all-day introduction to glacier trekking. It even offers the option to fly to the top of a mountain to hike along the ridge lines above a cirque glacier! Other guided tours offer the opportunity to visit a summer sled dog training camp at the top of a glacier for a uniquely Alaskan Adventure.
  • Talkeetna – from this town, you can take a flight to Denali National Park. There, you can touch down on an Alaska Range Glacier for a truly unforgettable experience.

Glacier tours are a one-of-a-kind experience for Alaska visitors. You can reserve half-day or full-day tours, with guides experienced in glacier trekking. Some tour operators even have rental options for trekking gear, so visitors have the necessary equipment needed to stay safe on a glacier hike.

What Is The Best Way To See An Alaska Glacier?

There are many ways to see an Alaska glacier, but each one depends on what you want to do, how adventurous you feel, your proximity to one of these amazing ice masses, and the time of year you visit Alaska. Here are a few options that will get you up close to a glacier, from laid-back cruises to adventurous treks across a frozen icefield:

  • Day cruises – take a catamaran from Seward to get a close-up look at massive tidewater glaciers. This intimate experience is different from the one you would have from the deck of a multi-story cruise ship, and often included narration from the ship’s captain. A bonus is that you may also see whales, bears, and mountain goats!
  • Kayaking – many day cruise packages include the option to drop a kayak from the deck for a trip around the perimeter of a glacier! There’s nothing like hearing the creak of the ice and seeing the massive structure from the water level.
  • Flightseeing – take off from a more land-locked location for the opportunity to soar over Alaska’s beautiful countryside and waterways. Then, touch down on the glacier, and explore it on foot.
  • ATV – tour operators offer the opportunity for visitors to take an ATV over the frozen countryside to the foot of the glacier for a unique adventure.
  • Hike – reserve your spot with an experienced trekking guide for a once-in-a-lifetime experience ice-climbing and hiking across these massive formations.
  • Train Tour – depending on your location, you can reserve a spot on the Alaska Railway and ride to the nearest town with an accessible glacier. That way, you can sightsee your way across the countryside and end your trip with a glacier sighting!
  • Drive – in many places, you can drive to a particular site for the chance to see a glacier. Exit Glacier, for example, is within driving distance of Seward. Once you leave the main highway and take a sideroad toward the glacier, you have only a short hike on the Exit Glacier Trail before you are at the foot of this glacier.

Now that you know where to find an Alaskan Glacier and how to access it, you can see that the best time to visit Alaskan Glaciers depends on your choice of activity. What you want to see, where you want to go, and how long you have to spend in this beautiful state are also factors in planning your trip. Just remember to pack your winter gear and get ready for an amazing adventure!

Download all three Alaska tour brochures for tour dates and pricing.