Harrison and I took an amazing 11-day trip to Alaska and got to see some of the best glaciers in Alaska!
We did a lot of driving (over 33 hours during the course of our trip!) to pack in as much beautiful sightseeing as possible!
We did our best to capture plenty of gorgeous glaciers on camera. While we didn’t make it to all 17 on this list, we hope to see them all someday!
If you get a chance to visit the stunningly beautiful state of Alaska, I hope you put some of these glaciers on your itinerary!
1. Matanuska Glacier
I have to start with my favorite glacier in Alaska: the Matanuska Glacier!
You can easily make a day trip to see the Matanuska Glacier from Anchorage, Alaska.
The glacier is named after the Matanuska River Valley which it calls home.
It is only an hour north of the city along the Glenn Highway and is very accessible.
You’ll see a turn off in the road for Matanuska Glacier tours- follow that road until you reach the parking area at the end.
Go into the office and purchase either a self-guided tour or a guided tour.
The self-guided option is $30 per person (as I write this) and is what I’d recommend. You can see so much of the glacier on your own by following their orange and yellow cones. The cones show you where is safe to step. You don’t need crampons (shoe spikes, I know- worst name ever) but it gets really slippery at some points!
I particularly liked the self-guided option because I could stop whenever I wanted for photos!
The guided tour is $100 and is for those who want the full climbing on a glacier experience. We saw small groups of people in full gear with their tour guide. They provide the crampons and whatever gear you’ll need.
Also, the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site has a number of camping spots available along with nature trails and glacier trekking activities!
By the way, the river is also a great place to get in a bit of river rafting in the summertime!
2. Knik Glacier
Here’s a photo of me lying down on the Knik Glacier. Was I cold? Yes. Would I do it again for a photo? Heck, yes. #doitforthegram 🙂
The Knik Glacier is a 400-foot wall of ice in the Chugach Mountains to the east of Anchorage.
The melting glacier has created a massive lake at its face which occupies an area of six square miles. (What you see in the photo above is a glacier pool, not the lake).
The Knik Glacier is best known for appearing in Hollywood movies including Avalanche and Star Trek V, but it’s mostly a great place to visit on a helicopter or flightseeing trip or while dog-mushing near the Glenn Highway!
We did an awesome helicopter tour with Alaska Helicopter Tours and boy was it epic! In fact, it was my favorite activity we did in Alaska!
When we landed on the glacier, our pilot put shoe spikes on our feet so that we could explore. (It was insanely slippery without them!)
3. Worthington Glacier
Worthington Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska and you can find it near Valdez, Alaska.
It is 4 miles wide and quite stunning!
Take the Richardson Highway for 29 miles northeast of Valdez until you reach milepost 29. There, you will find the Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site, which contains the observation point.
When you walk to the observation point, you’ll see a sign on your right that says ‘hike at your own risk.’ You’ll notice a dirt path leading away from the observation area. It will take you all the way to the glacier!
We walked to it and it took about 1.5 hours to get there and back. It’s an easy hike, but quite rocky.
4. Exit Glacier
No trip to the Kenai Fjords National Park is complete without a visit to the Exit Glacier!
You can reach the glacier by road or hiking trail year-round.
The Exit Glacier Area is best seen in the winter when you can take part in some outdoorsy activities nearby such as cross-country skiing, fat bike riding, or snowmobiling.
If you would rather visit in warmer weather, take the Seward Highway to Exit Glacier Road until you reach the parking area.
A large network of trails known as the Harding Icefield Trail stretches across the area offering different views of the Exit Glacier as well as the Harding Icefield.
It is one of the most famous hikes in the Kenai Peninsula, so of course, we had to do it! Or, at least part of it. We made it up to the halfway point known as the Cliffs.
But before you go calling me a wimp, I’ll have you know that there is 1,000 feet of elevation gain per mile! And the whole hike is 8.4 miles. There was also a storm coming our way. Now can you blame me for only going halfway? 🙂
5. Portage Glacier
Take the Seward Highway 50 miles south of Anchorage until you reach the Chugach National Forest. Inside, you will find the Portage Glacier, an icy giant in retreat.
What you see in the photo above is Portage Lake, and behind me is actually Shakespeare Glacier.
The Portage Glacier has been retreating for decades to the point where it can no longer be seen from the visitor center observation platform.
Not to worry, you can still get close to the Portage Glacier on a boat cruise on Portage Lake!
Additionally, you can choose to hike a number of trails from the visitor center that will bring you closer to the glacier’s walls.
6. Byron Glacier
If you want a hike that will take you straight to a glacier in the Portage Glacier area, do the Byron Glacier hike!
It’s the only glacier you can hike to in this area and takes about three hours round trip.
7. Valdez Glacier
Before the Valdez Glacier was a tourist destination, it was a stop for prospectors during the Gold Rush of the late 19th century.
Today, you can visit the Valdez Glacier in the Chugach Mountains to the east of the town of Valdez. The glacier is 20 miles long and feeds the nearby Valdez Glacier Lake.
This glacier lake is 640 feet deep at its lowest point.
The lake can be traversed by kayak in the spring or on ice skates in the winter!
Much of the surrounding area is popular with winter sports enthusiasts who want nothing more than to snowmobile or ski with an impressive glacial view!
8. Columbia Glacier
If you ever find yourself in Prince William Sound, you should visit the Columbia Glacier!
The glacier is one of Alaska’s most famous glaciers, covering an area of 400 square miles. Whether by boat, foot, or helicopter, the Columbia Glacier is a gargantuan natural marvel you don’t want to miss!
You can get close (or close enough) to the face of the Columbia Glacier on a tour boat from Valdez. The face of the glacier loses roughly 13 million tons of ice daily! That’s right, every single day, massive slabs of ice will fall off the glacier and into the water below.
And while you’re in the Valdez area of the Prince William Sound, check out Meares Glacier and Shoup Glacier! You can see more details on those glaciers on this guide to Valdez!
9. Castner Glacier
The Castner Glacier is one of many glaciers accessible along the Richardson Highway. It is also one of the few places where you can hike trails leading to colossal ice caves!
The closest major city to the glacier is Fairbanks, roughly 2.5 hours away. Take the Richardson Highway to milepost 217 where you will find the main trailhead to the glacier and its ice caves.
The hike to the Castner Glacier is roughly 2.2 miles round trip and includes stunning mountain views.
Be careful when going near the ice caves! You should only go inside if you are with experienced mountaineers or park staff since it can be very dangerous.
10. Margerie Glacier
The Margerie Glacier is 21 miles long, 250 feet high, and is best seen by boat!
A cruise to the face of the glacier offers visitors impressive views of the blue colored ice which looks like it’s floating on the water, though it has a 100-foot base below.
You can find the Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. What makes the Margerie Glacier impressive is that it is one of only eight glaciers in North America that is actually advancing, instead of receding, adding 30 feet per year!
11. Holgate Glacier
The Holgate Glacier is one of the many great natural marvels within Kenai Fjords National Park. The glacier is both a tidewater and mountain glacier, located in Aialik Bay.
Like the Margerie Glacier, it is one of only eight glaciers that is advancing and filling up with ice!
You can take a cruise to see it up close, with daily departures from Seward taking you to the glacier’s face.
Another way to visit is to kayak to a safe distance where you can observe glacial calving; a process where massive chunks fall off the glacier into the water below!
12. Aialik Glacier
The Aialik Glacier is also found in Kenai Fjords National Park and is the largest glacier located in Aialik Bay.
The glacier is a popular site for kayaking, cruises, and whale watching!
If you’re not up for kayaking, a two-hour cruise to see the glacier and migrating humpbacks and orcas is a great activity to pop into your Alaskan itinerary!
13. Spencer Glacier
The blue ice you see here is the result of calving- and the paddler in the photo is much further away from the glacier than you’d think. All the magic of telephoto lenses!
You can hike, camp, or paddle near the Spencer Glacier in the Chugach National Forest.
The Spencer Glacier is just 60 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, and sits in the Placer River Valley surrounded by tall mountain peaks!
The glacier looks like a massive natural slope that rises 3,500 feet from its lowest point in the wilderness of Alaska.
You can see see the floating icebergs left behind by the retreating glacier on Spencer Lake or camp in the Chugach National Forest backcountry for a more outdoorsy experience!
14. Ruth Glacier
When visiting Denali National Park and Preserve, make sure you check out Ruth Glacier!
This glacier is roughly 40 miles long and 3,800 feet thick, with a Great Gorge that is a mile wide and 10 miles long. That’s the world’s deepest glacial gorge!
The best way to see the Ruth Glacier, short of making a climb at Mount Denali is to take an air taxi from Talkeetna; a journey that will give you unparalleled views of the Great Gorge!
15. Mendenhall Glacier
At roughly 13.5 miles in length, the Mendenhall Glacier is an absolutely massive chunk of ice only 12 miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska.
You can get to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest by taking a bus or taxi from the downtown area. A bus trip costs only $30 roundtrip, while a taxi will cost you double.
To get the best view of the Mendenhall Glacier, follow the East Glacier Trail along a 3.5-mile loop to get a look at it from above.
16. Twin Sawyers in Tracy Arm
You can see two glaciers in one trip at Tracy Arm, Alaska!
The Tracy Arm, pictured above, is a fjord with two ancient glaciers known as the Twin Sawyers or Sawyer Glaciers. The fjord is 23 miles long with the two massive hunks of ice both inching along the surfaces and calving at their ends.
You can reach the Tracy Arm within 45 miles to the south of Juneau and both the North Sawyer and South Sawyer at the end of the fjord.
17. Hubbard Glacier
The supermassive Hubbard Glacier touches Alaska, Canada, and the North Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Alaska!
This glacier is 200 miles northwest of Juneau, near the town of Yakutat. The Hubbard Glacier is a popular destination for calving cruises, where visitors can watch massive ice chunks break away from the glacier and fall into Disenchantment Bay.
The Hubbard Glacier sits next to the Valerie Glacier to its northwest and is one of only a handful of glaciers that is advancing.
Are there any beautiful Alaskan glaciers you’ve seen that aren’t on this list?
Let me know in the comments!
And if you’re heading to Alaska, here are some posts you might find useful:
- The Ultimate Alaska Itinerary
- 50 Best Places to Visit in Alaska
- 36 Things to Do On the Kenai Peninsula
- Guide to Valdez: 21 Things to Do in Valdez