Hike Exit Glacier

Alaska Harding Ice Field Trailhead

Added by Stephen Matera

  • 8 mile, 3,000' out and back hike along the Exit Glacier, a glacial tongue descending from the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Excellent chance of seeing black bears
  • Wildflowers and salmonberry in season
  • Hike as much or as little as you feel like because this is an out and back
  • Option to backpack and camp overnight

It's hard to fathom how massive some Alaskan glaciers can be. But spend a day hiking along one and you'll start to get an idea of how much ice there is in Alaska. The Exit Glacier is a small tongue of glacier from the Harding Ice Field that comes down to almost sea level.

Drive the Exit Glacier Road just North of Seward to the Exit Glacier Nature Center in Kenai Fjords National Park. There are excellent views of the toe of the Exit Glacier right here, but the real reward is seen as you get higher. Begin your hike here and start the climb up the trail through cottonwood and alder forests.

Salmonberry bushes in late summer provide a tasty snack along the way, but watch for bears. They love the berries also and are regular visitors to this area as well. In fact we walked right by one only about 10 feet off the trail before we even knew it was there. Luckily he had his head buried in a bush full of salmonberries and never noticed us either.

Continue hiking uphill and the trail breaks out into the open at about 2,000' (about 1,500' above the trailhead). Hike up as far as you feel like as the views just get better and better. The end of the trail is at about 3,500'. You can continue on to the ice, but be sure to have proper mountaineering knowledge and equipment if you do.

Camping is allowed anywhere more than 1/8th of a mile off the trail. Lots of small meltwater streams are available for water but be sure to purify the water as giardia is present even way up in remote Alaska.

Return via the same trail you hiked up.

Pack List

  • Bear Spray
  • Ten Essentials
  • Water treatment system
  • Hiking Poles - the trail can be steep in places
  • Sturdy waterproof hiking boots
  • Warm clothes and rain gear, even in summer
  • Camera
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over 1 year ago

Great info and awesome pictures!

over 1 year ago

Added by Stephen Matera

Stephen is a Seattle-based outdoor adventure, lifestyle, and landscape photographer. He has worked with companies in the outdoor industry for over 15 years as well as some of the biggest national magazines in the adventure world. He travels and shoots for his clients in the western U.S., Alaska, and internationally, but is completely happy to shoot in his backyard mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

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