While cities in Alaska have a variety of sites and activities to see, the state (often dubbed The Last Frontier) is also recognized for its vast outdoors, particularly the enormous gleaming glaciers that captivate the imagination and are a highlight of any journey to the far north. Some of the glaciers in Alaska are the most beautiful in the world!
The state has over 100,000 glaciers covering an area the size of South Carolina. Many terrestrial glaciers are reachable with a short walk or drive. And don’t forget all of the Alaska glaciers you can check out by air charters or mountaineering treks. Trust me: there are plenty of options to see glaciers in Alaska!
If visiting glaciers in Alaska up close and personal is on your dream list, then keep reading! Here are some of the most stunning glaciers in Alaska (and our favorites!) that you shouldn’t miss.
18. Exit Glacier
You can drive to certain glaciers, but only a few are accessible by foot. BUT you can hike straight up to the Kenai Fjords National Park’s Exit Glacier, only a 10-to-15-minute drive from Seward.
Exit Glacier, one of the world’s most popular glaciers, was named after grateful backcountry visitors. It drops 3,000 feet in a few miles, creating a beautiful natural ramp for climbers leaving the massive Harding Icefield. Its grooved and crevassed hard ice sits near a visitor center Kenai Fjords National Park.
You can hike the trails, get close to an active glacier or join a ranger-led hike. It’s a site where you can see Alaskan glaciers reshape a landscape up close and discover how plant life reclaims barren rocky ground revealed by a glacier’s retreat.
The most impressive time to visit the Exit Glacier Area is during the winter when outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, fat bike riding, and snowmobiling are available.
This Alaskan glacier is easily accessible, with a 30-minute trek to the lookout and a 1.5-hour hike to its edge. If you have never seen a glacier, try this to get to see one. It’s one of our favorite glaciers in Alaska for a reason!
We especially recommend visiting this glacier if you are traveling from Seward to Anchorage.
17. Matanuska Glacier
This massive Alaskan glacier is the largest vehicle-accessible glacier in the United States. The Matanuska Glacier, one of Alaska’s most navigable glaciers, is a stable 27-mile-long river of ice that flows almost to the Glenn Highway from the Chugach Mountains.
This Alaskan glacier is the most renowned attraction between Anchorage and Glennallen, with a broad terminal visible from one of Alaska’s major highways.
Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area is south of Glacier Park at Mile 101 of the Glenn Highway. This state site offers some of the best views of the Matanuska Glacier and the river’s headwaters, including a 12-site campground.
Another popular destination in this tourist attraction is the Glacier Park at Mile 102 of the Glenn Highway. A private road leads to a parking lot at the terminal moraine where guided treks begin. These tours are accessible year-round and last 1-2 hours.
We found this glacier unforgettable. No amount of images is enough to depict the beauty you see. While there’s tons of beauty within this state, this is certainly one of the most beautiful glaciers in Alaska.
The guide was highly informative and gave us time to explore the caverns and different areas. You’ll want to go prepared because there are many choices here!
The actual glacier trek is somewhere between simple and moderate. Despite the cleats, we were more concerned about the icy patches. Overall, it took us 1 hour, but if you walk there and back, plan for at least 2 hours.
16. Worthington Glacier
Worthington Glacier is a small valley glacier with accumulation areas and terminal moraines. While it’s not as large or impressive as some of these other glaciers in Alaska, it’s really beautiful and is often extremely quiet since it’s not the most popular.
This State Recreation Site is home to one of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers. Tourists can park near the glacier and stroll it. In 1968, it was designated as a National Natural Landmark, covering 5,744 acres.
You can find this 1.6-kilometer out-and-back track near Valdez, Alaska. It takes 35 minutes to accomplish this route, which is rated difficult. This track is ideal for hiking and rock climbing, and you won’t run into many other people while exploring it due to its challenging itinerary.
The ridge trek is challenging and risky, but it’s also a lot of fun. You can go so high up that you couldn’t even stand on the trail. The view is breathtaking, but the steep and narrow pathways are a trade-off.
Pets are also permitted, provided they are leashed no longer by 9 feet. The glacier is rapidly receding, and each year the glacier’s face grows taller and steeper, so you’ll need to be well-prepared.
Worthington Glacier is a pleasant location to stretch your legs and observe a glacier. The landscape is well-kept, and the concrete route leading to a lookout is spotless, contributing to a pleasant walk. There is even a little store with a few souvenirs and extraordinary beverages.
15. Mendenhall Glacier
The Mendenhall Glacier is one of several largest glaciers in Alaska that connect to the massive Juneau Ice Field, a 1,500-square-mile remnant of the last ice age sheltered high in the peaks of the Coast Mountains.
The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center lets you take in the beauty of Mendenhall Glacier. You can see the views of Mendenhall Lake’s 13-mile-long ice river, blue icebergs, and southeast Alaska’s Coast Mountains here.
Stairs, elevators, and a gentle slope lead from the parking lots to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center making it one of the easiest and most accessible Alaska glaciers for just about everyone to visit. Rangers from the United States Forest Service are on hand to answer inquiries and explain the landscape.
Multiple trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty lead to cascading waterfalls and salmon streams. Expect to see black bears, porcupines, beavers, bald eagles, arctic terns, waterfowl, sockeye, Coho salmon, and other species.
We highly suggest the well-planned canoe tours that are very doable, even for novices. The guide is well organized. Before starting, everyone got a full safety briefing, and during the trip, many details were given. There is also good equipment provided for you to return dry.
If you’re just starting out on your adventure journey, then this is one of our most-recommended glaciers in Alaska! It’s SO accessible and is really fun with lots of attractions and options.
14. Hubbard Glacier
At 7 miles broad, 76 miles long, and 30 stories in height above the waterline, this is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. While most glaciers are receding, Hubbard Glacier has grown.
Hubbard Glacier is one of Alaska’s most fascinating natural wonders. On a Hubbard Glacier tour, you’ll see this magnificent ice mountain from every perspective.
In an Alaskan voyage to Hubbard Glacier, you will witness a beautiful snowy landscape as your ship navigates freezing waters moving from Yakutat Bay into Disenchantment Bay. Strong currents and riptides between Gilbert Point and the glacier induce daily calving throwing ice chunks into the bay.
No words can explain the trip we experienced on this glacier. It was incredible and was a highlight of our entire Alaskan trip. It was thrilling to watch the ice shatter and fall into the lake with a resounding boom – seriously, nature is just so incredible!
The cruise is about 4 hours so you’ll need to block out half a day.
Witness this awe-inspiring spectacle in the Gulf of Alaska’s mist. You can also spot whales, harbor seals, and otters in the Disenchantment Bay. The sound of ice cracking over the sea will send shivers down your spine—an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
13. Portage Glacier
Portage Glacier is among the most accessible glaciers in Alaska, having many access points, including Portage Pass and Portage Lake. It is just a short distance from Anchorage, the gateway to Alaska for many tourists, and getting there is one of the most beautiful picturesque drives in all of Alaska.
There are several options for viewing this glacier. Day cruise, paddling opportunities, hiking options, and winter options – each provides a unique experience of the place. You’ll want to choose depending on the season you visit and your level of adventure.
The 80-foot MV Ptarmigan carries most summer guests. It’s a family-friendly boat ride with colorful guides.
You can also paddle kayaks from the north Portage Lake. Boats must stay on the north side of the lake and land at Portage Pass. The south side of the lake and glacier are off-limits. You must be very cautious of the hazardous waves and harsh winds.
If you want to hike, there is a short, steep trek to Portage Pass on the Whittier side of the tunnel, which offers a spectacular front-row view of the glacier and its ascent into the mountains. The pass is 2 miles long and 750 feet high. Be on the lookout for black bears and dress for wind and rain.
The winter experience is unique. When Portage Lake freezes, people ski, trek, ice skate, or bike three miles to Portage Glacier. From glare ice to heavy snow to sloppy overflow, conditions can vary greatly. Seeing the gleaming, beautiful glacier face on a sunny winter day can be exhilarating!
12. Columbia Glacier
The Columbia Glacier is a massive tidewater Alaskan glacier that flows south from Alaska’s Chugach Mountains to Prince William Sound. Its terminus has retreated 20 kilometers since 1980, making it one of the world’s most quickly moving glaciers.
This 550-meter-deep, 400-square-mile glacier is stunning from a boat or airplane. If you’re considering taking an airplane tour of Alaska glaciers we highly recommend this one!
We strongly recommend taking the tour to get up on the ice field on land. You can hike it alone or with a group, although it is pretty tricky.
You could ride in an “Ice Explorer” at the Glacier Experience. This truck boasts some of the largest tires you will ever see, crucial for driving down steep ice sheets. It’s definitely an extreme adventure.
A tour boat from Valdez can bring you near (or close enough) to the face of the Columbia Glacier. Watch out for the chunks of ice that the glacier loses, approximately 13 million tons of ice per day! These enormous chunks of ice will fall from the glacier into the lake below every day, meaning you’ll definitely get to witness this.
It was exciting to slip all-around ice and see everyone snapping photos. We recommend you check it out.
11. Holgate Glacier
The Holgate glacier runs through Kenai National Park for three miles. It began in the Harding Icefield, covering 300 square miles (770 square kilometers), and is the United States’ largest icefield.
This coastal glacier is a favorite location for visitors looking for a beautiful ice adventure. It is a day’s trip from the city of Seward. Its calving events reverberate like distant thunder of the sheer fjord walls, blanketing the surrounding seas with brash jewel ice.
Seals and seabirds frequently hunt among the ice sheets for their next meal in the nutrient-rich seas.
Kayaking from a safe distance of this Alaskan glacier will give you an awesome experience of its natural scenery. The sight of glacial calving or the process in which enormous sections of the glacier fall into the water is just insane.
We loved the stunning view and the crew we had on the tour. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks were available for purchase. We also recommend bringing binoculars to enjoy the scenery to the next level.
10. Ruth Glacier
With ice up to 3,800 feet thick, the Ruth Glacier fills the bottom of the mile-wide gorge. The glacier drops from 5,200 feet to 3,200 feet in the 10-mile gorge, moving at a glacial rate of 3.3 feet per day.
One of the most magnificent canyons on the planet is the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier. This gorge is flanked on both sides by massive granite cliffs that rise 5,000 feet above the glacier’s surface, is beautiful, and offers world-class mountaineering opportunities.
The Great Gorge’s walls are lined with several mountains: Mount Barrile, Mount Bradley, Mount Church, Mount Dickey, Mount Grosvenor, Mount Johnson, Mount Wake, Peak 9100, Bear Tooth, Broken Tooth, Eye Tooth, Sugar Tooth, Wisdom Tooth, The Shield, and Rooster Comb.
You can adore these in the comfort of Air Taxi, which is the most popular mode of transport for visiting the Great Gorge. We definitely recommend this Alaskan glacier if you want to visit by air! Year-round, mountaineering rangers with firsthand knowledge of the national park are ready to assist visitors with trip planning and route selection.
Camping is also an option here, unlike many other Alaska glaciers. Remember to choose your campsite carefully, as icefalls and avalanches are common in the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier.
9. Byron Glacier
A short day trek provides expansive views of the Byron Glacier and begins just a few hundred meters from the Begich Boggs Visitor Center. The glacier is just beyond the terminus of a level, well-maintained trail that ascends a short, glacier-carved valley south of Portage Lake.
Byron Glacier originates from the same ice field that supplies Portage Glacier and Blackstone Glacier.
The trail is a living example of how an ecosystem recovers from the glacial period, with large trees and yielding forest way to alder thickets. The retreating ice has only recently been revealed.
The upper valley is harsh and untamed, with silt-blackened detritus covering the ice, evoking a sense of adventure amid Alaska’s coastal interior.
It is an ideal trail for families! Anyone of any age may attend. It is a short, easy, and level dirt walk. We observed senior persons, children, pets, etc., sharing this walk with ease. It’s one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska for those who do want to walk.
Plus, it’s entertaining to have an impromptu snowball fight in snowfields left behind by winter avalanches or to follow one of the numerous side trails that will lead you to the edge of the valley, where bouldering opportunities exist.
We find the trek here easy. The average individual can complete the three-mile trail in approximately thirty minutes round. We suggest taking your time to do the walk to enjoy the landscape.
This valley is notorious for trapping clouds that generate everything from steady drizzles to less frequent (but pelting) rainfalls. Don’t forget your rain gear and you are good to go!
8. Castner Glacier
Castner Glacier is one of several accessible glaciers along the Richardson Highway. It is also a rare location where you can climb gigantic ice caves!
Around 2.5 hours away, Fairbanks is the nearest major city to the glacier. Take the Richardson Highway to mile marker 217, where the entrance to the glacier and its ice caves is located.
The Castner Glacier is approximately a 2.2-mile round-trip hike with breathtaking mountain views.
Be cautious when approaching the ice caves! You should only enter if you are accompanied by expert mountaineers or park personnel, as it might be pretty dangerous.
It was quite a spectacle to reach the ice caves. You can see many hues of blue ice accumulated on the top of the cave, like gemstones.
The difficulty of getting there, the frosty weather, and the fact that we had to walk back was forgotten entirely when we reached it. Every struggle to get to these caves is worth it because they’re incredible.
7. Margerie Glacier
Margerie Glacier is located near the northernmost tip of Tarr Inlet, at the end of the Glacier Bay canal. The glacier is situated in a spectacular location, creating a steep valley through high mountain peaks and abruptly ending at the sea’s shore.
Since it reaches the ocean, Margerie Glacier is a tidewater glacier, described as a glacier that interacts with salt water from the sea.
From its beginning in the Fairweather Mountain Range at altitudes greater than 9000 feet, the Margerie Glacier is approximately 21 miles long. Due to mountain snowfall and slope steepness, Margerie Glacier is expected to flow 6 feet each day.
This glacier is best observed by boat. A trip to the glacier’s face offers spectacular views of the blue ice, which floats on the lake despite a 100-foot foundation.
The Margerie Glacier is located in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. It is one of just eight glaciers in North America that is actively advancing, rather than retreating, at 30 feet per year!
The view of this massive glacier was so worth it! You can spend hours gazing at and shooting several photographs of it. Ensure that this is an integral component of your voyage!
6. Aialik Glacier
Aialik Glacier is the biggest glacier in Aialik Bay and sits in Kenai Fjords National Park. While very steady, the glacier is most active during May and June.
Take a cruise from Seward to Aialik, or paddle your way through! Watch for whales, porpoises, and seals while you are there. You can even spot bears on the beach.
The glacier is an excellent location for kayaking, whale watching, and cruises! A two-hour cruise lets you observe the glacier and migratory humpbacks and orcas. It’s a terrific addition to your Alaskan itinerary if you’re not up for kayaking.
A full-day excursion in this glacier can feature different activities such as iceberg-filled fjords, breathtaking scenery, majestic alpine and tidewater glaciers, towering waterfalls, and world-class wildlife. It is one of the most popular single-day sea kayaking adventures among tourists.
The trip to this glacier can begin with a water taxi ride close to Aialik Bay. You can encounter incredible wildlife, including humpback whales, stellar sea lions, tufted puffins, seagulls, harbor seals, etc. It is a stellar opportunity to see not just stunning landscapes but also to observe wildlife!
Aialik Glacier was calving during our tour, and we will never forget the sound of that white thunder as the ice chunks plummeted into the lake. Plus, we encountered an entire pod of orca whales. The experience was literally insane!
5. Spencer Glacier
Spencer Glacier climbs 3,500 feet from a lagoon of royal-blue icebergs 60 miles to the south of Anchorage. This ice-age setting has mile-high peaks, vertical headwalls, waterfalls, and braided rivers.
The site offers lodging, hiking, glacier exploration, ecological hikes, paddling, and sightseeing.
An entire rail ride takes you from Turnagain Arm to Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. A roofed shelter, facilities, and the trailhead for a 1.3-mile well-maintained path to the Spencer Glacier viewpoint on the Shore of Spencer Lake are all available at the Whistle Stop.
Before boarding the train back to civilization, travelers are open to exploring on their own or participating in one of the many guided excursions provided at Spencer Glacier. Staying overnight is also possible at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, which has campsites and a public use lodge.
Hiking, guided and unguided at Spencer, is common along with kayaking. There is a 9-10 hour adventure with guided hiking that includes a helicopter trip, an alpine trek, a glacier lake tour, river rafting, and a train ride! It’s an extensive, bold tour de force from Alaska for those of you who want the full experience.
Independent travelers with advanced glacier travel skills may venture up the glacier to an ice field at a higher elevation. The same accumulation zones feed the spectacular tidewater glaciers of Blackstone Bay in Prince William Sound as Spencer.
On Spencer Lake, you can witness the floating icebergs left behind by the retreating glacier or camp in the Chugach National Forest backcountry for a more adventurous time!
4. Twin Sawyers Glacier
One of the most popular destinations on many Alaska cruise itineraries is the Tracy Arm Fjord. Scenic cruising through the area, which is known for its brilliantly blue icebergs, waterfalls, and the Sawyer Glaciers, is something you’ll want to include in your cruise itinerary.
Tracy Arm is the heart and most frequented fjord of the 653,000-acre Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, located 45 miles south of Juneau.
North Sawyer Glacier and South Sawyer Glacier, otherwise known as Twin Sawyers Glacier, are about 30 miles long and are located in the fjord named after Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Franklin Tracy, who served under President Harrison.
Migratory orcas and sea lions are frequently sighted at the Sawyer Glaciers, which are twin glaciers. Harbor seals have been reported to rear their young pups in the region throughout June.
Mountain goats, black and brown bears, and bald eagles can also be seen exploring the shorelines when cruising there.
The Tracy Arm Fjord contains the Twin Sawyer Glacier is 23 miles long, with two large chunks creeping over the surface and calving at their ends.
Calving made the river change hues at least three times and was so calm that you could see the neighboring mountains reflected in it when we visited. Simply stunning!
3. Kennicott Glacier
Kennicott Glacier is an ice badland with silt mounds, visible fins, lateral moraines, odd landforms, and exposed ice patches. This glacier dominates all views west of Kennecott, a historic mill town in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (essentially “across the street” from the Kennicott Glacier Lodge).
Due to the town’s placement halfway up the mountainside above the glacier, virtually every location in Kennecott offers a view of Kennicott Glacier.
From McCarthy, walk, ride a bicycle, or take a shuttle approximately five miles up the road to the Kennecott town and tourist center; then, seek out any vantage point with a view to the west.
The ice will yawn beneath your feet! A second alternative entails a 1.5-mile hike from McCarthy to the glacier’s toe, not far upstream of the Kennicott River crossing.
The Wrangell St. Elias National Park is huge. 13.2 million acres in size, to be precise! Taking a supervised aerial hike to the Kennicott Glacier is the best way to appreciate the unspoiled natural splendor of this fantastic park.
An aerial trip will enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular Kennicott Glacier and the blue pools. You can observe the glacial scenery, Donoho Peak, and the ancient Erie Mine Bunkhouse.
Besides the scenery, the actual cabins were attractive and brimming with intriguing documents and antiques from the old mill. The entire crew was courteous and helpful. We were astounded that they could provide such fresh and varied cuisine in such a distant place.
The accommodations were adequate, but we spent as much time outdoors as possible and explored the surroundings. This is the perfect way to connect with nature and have a break from the technology-driven world.
2. Taku Glacier
A tidewater glacier along the rugged Southeast Alaska coast, 30 kilometers northeast of Juneau, has generally defied global trends by gradually advancing for most of the last century while most glaciers on Earth retreated.
Taku Glacier is a 55-kilometer-long and almost 1,500-meter-thick tidewater glacier that has been the subject of ongoing scientific analysis for over 70 years. Some records date back to the mid-eighteenth century.
Taku provides an unparalleled location to study tidewater glaciers and their response to Earth’s fast-changing climate, thanks to its lengthy observation record, year-round accessibility, and closeness to Juneau and nearby research facilities.
With one of the top Juneau helicopter tours, you can explore Juneau’s largest glacier by helicopter, airboat, and foot all at once!
An exhilarating airboat trip along the Taku River and right up to the face of the glacier is included in the Taku Glacier Adventure by Air, Water, and Ice. This three-part journey consists of a glacier hike and a breathtaking helicopter flight over the Icefield.
The trip here is truly fantastic and is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime chance worth it. After flying over the glaciers and landing at the lodge, a meal was served, and everything about it was delicious! Plus, there is an excellent short hiking route with a waterfall and a couple of local bears.
We highly suggest this Alaskan glacier if you want the full experience in less time. It’s great for tourists who are semi-adventurous but not too athletic.
1. Knik Glacier
25-mile-long Knik Glacier flows out of the Chugach Mountains and into an iceberg-studded lake that feeds Knik River. With a 5-mile-wide front and regular calving, the glacier is a stunning sight. 400-foot-tall ice walls emerge from a lake where icebergs float, spin, and break apart.
This glacier used to cause havoc in the Mat-Su Valley by damming a lake that flooded each summer which was considered a National Natural Landmark. But the glacial recession has stopped the floods and produced a 6-square-mile lake at the glacier slope.
The Knik Glacier is an easy excursion from Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley (90-minute round-trip flights), and there are beautiful tours to get you close to sight. You can enjoy the scenery here by land or by air.
Also known as Alaska’s “sunny glacier,” its peculiar microclimate or “rain shadow” has generated a remarkably diversified environment. A northern desert surrounded by snow-capped peaks, hanging glaciers, and waterfalls awaits!
The tour is great for people of all ages. The experience was entertaining without being dangerous at ALL. Try this one with your kids and loved ones if you want an awesome excursion to one of the top glaciers in Alaska.
Alaska has so many beautiful glaciers to offer. Whether you want to sightsee by land, sea, or air, there are plenty of options that you can choose based on your preference.