Foggy morning at Knik Glacier, near Palmer in the Mat-Su Valley
Alaskan GlaciersAlaska is big place, twice the size of Texas, filled with big things - Kodiak bears, Denali, cabbage bigger than kindergartners, and glaciers. Over 100,000 glaciers, ice falls, ice masses and ice bergs. And many are quite accessible, so we heartily recommend you include time on your Alaska trip to visit glaciers. You will be awed, impressed and put in your place about size. We still haven't figured out how to capture glacial immensity in a photo, but give it a go. We try every time we go out.
What is a Glacier?
An enduring ice mass which moves over land. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow and ice exceeds erosion and melting over many years.
Glacier ice is the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth, and is second only to oceans as the largest reservoir of total water.
Continental glaciers spread out from a central mass while alpine glaciers or descend from a high valley.
- Tidewater glaciers
Glaciers that reach the sea.
- Freshwater glaciers
Glaciers that end in a lake.
- Valley glaciers
Glaciers that end in a ... yes, you guessed it.
- Hanging glaciers
Glaciers that descend partway down mountain sides.
- Receding glaciers
Glaciers that are melting faster than they are advancing.
The accumulated earth and stones deposited by a glacier
- Terminal moraine
The ridge of soil that marks the furthest advance of a glacier before it began to recede.
- Medial moraine
When two alpine glaciers flow together their lateral moraines join to form a medial moraine. Medial moraines can also form downstream from rock outcrops extending up through the surface of alpine glaciers.
A steep part of a glacier resembling a frozen waterfall.
- Ice mass
Um, it's a large mass of ice.
The upper part of a glacier where the snow turns to ice.
and check out
Hubbard Glacier, near Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula
Top 15 Glaciers in Southcentral Alaska
Girdwood, 55 min from Anchorage
See hanging glaciers! This one spreads about 100 feet into Portage Lake, so it's best to see by boat. It's a 5-for-1! Check out these 4 hanging glaciers while you're at Portage, too.
You can see it from the visitors center; the one you're going to think is Portage Glacier [which is just to your right].
Lots of folks like to hike this one! The Trailhead is off the parking lot between the visitor center and the boat launch.
Explorer Glacier & Middle Glacier
Now, hop back in your car and drive 6 miles to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. You'll see the glaciers along the way and then chek out the visitor center, which is built on the terminal moraine left by the Portage Glacier
about 40 miles east of Anchorage
A really big glacier! [28 miles long and 5 miles wide] No roads lead directly to the glacier, but serveral tours will get you there.
MM 102 on the Glenn Highway 2 hours from Anchorage
Appreciate distant and close-up views of this 27-mile long glacier on your drive and at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation site. Hiking the 4-mile wide face can be done at a private park with an outfitter guide.
accessible via train out of Anchorage
This is the glacier that makes the train trip! Highly visible and lovely to look at, the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop provides opportunities to hike in closer to the glacier.
KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK
just north of Seward
See glaciers by land, sea and air! Plan on a day at the park and take advantage of the many tour options!
The biggest of the 38 glaciers in the park at 15.5-miles long.
Walk right up to this glacier! Named as the exit for the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield.
The Harding Ice Field
300 square miles of tidewater glacier; check it out aboard tour boats.
A piece of blue ice calves off a glacier in Aialik Bay, Kenai Fjords
Top 15 Glaciers in Southcentral Alaska
Kennicott and McCarthy
See an inland glacier! This glacier slips down the Wrangell Mountains, joins Root Glacier, passes the town of Kennicott and terminates near McCarthy, where you can cross the footbridge and walk the easy trail to good views. For better views, you'll have to hike 5+ miles to Kennicott. For easy views, head to the Kennicott Glacier Lodge.
seen by departing from Valdez or Whittier
A king daddy tidewater glacier! View the glacier via boats or flightseeing. You can't get too close to the face because of a build-up of terminal moraine.
Insider's tip - if your flying to Anchorage from Seattle, ask for a seat on the right side of the plane to view the Columbia Glacier from the air
viewed by boat out of Valdez
Not that big, but so pretty! Boat tours include he massive Columbia Glacier and then head up the Unakwik Inlet where the mile wide face calves.
28 miles northeast of Valdez on the Richardson Hwy
Drive right up! This is one of the most accessible glaciers and is a valley glacier in the Chugach Mountains.
1 hour from Cordova, at the end of the Copper River Hwy
The calving glacier! Throughout summer, this glacier can drop massive icebergs as frequently as 4 times per hour. This must see is a drive-up glacier, too!
Falling into a crevasse, humoungous waves caused by calving glaciers, dropping ice bergs, avalanches - oh my!
Yes, indeed, glaciers can pose some potential problems and may be downright dangerous.
Snow can mask deep crevasses in glaciers, causing unexpected falls. Calving icebergs cause sudden waves, up to 10-feet high, that can roll, tip or submerge small boats. Ice crumbling can be dangerous, too. Every year, a handful of people walk under hanging ice cliffs and get hit by falling ice chunks. A visitor to Exit Glacier several years ago was killed when ice fell on her. And then there are avalanches that quickly bury everything in there path.
We just want you to be safe out there.