*If you have any questions that aren't answered in this post, please leave them in the comments section where I do my best to answer all Alaska related questions directly!
Which Alaska Glacier Is The Best?
With over 660 glaciers in Alaska - it can be hard to narrow down which glaciers are the best and easiest to visit. When considering which glacier to add to your itinerary, it's important to consider how much time you have and what kind of activity you're looking to do at the glacier itself. Before you head out on your own, it's important to note that walking on glaciers is extremely dangerous - there can be cracks and crevasses everywhere - and if you happen to fall down through one of them it can be deadly. This is why I highly recommend joining a tour when exploring glaciers in Alaska except for the hike to Exit Glacier or Harding Icefield, which are fairly popular hiking trails. (p.s. Remember to always bring bear spray with you when heading out on a hike in Alaska!) For each glacier, I've also linked the tour I would most recommend for that glacier based on my personal experience.
The 15 Best Alaskan Glaciers to Visit
1. Exit Glacier, Seward
As one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska, if you only have time to visit one then this is the glacier I recommend. Located inside the Kenai Fjords National Park, the parks service has an excellent display that showcases just how much glaciers like this one have receded and melted since 1917. The hike itself is pretty easy to the Exit Glacier viewpoint, just over a one and a half mile loop, and brings you to a stunning overlook where you can see the glacier and river valley below. Because this is the only area of the National Park you can drive to, parking can get very busy especially in the summer months, so I recommend going early in the morning to best avoid the crowds. This is also only one of a few glaciers that you won't need a tour to visit, making it the cheapest glacier to visit as well!
2. Harding Ice Field, Seward
If you're looking for a bit of a bigger adventure, try hiking out to Harding Ice Field. This intense hike is the hardest I've ever done - an extra 4 miles each way from the Exit Glacier Trail and over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. It took Tyler and I just about the whole day to drive down from Anchorage, do the hike, and drive back, and we were truly exhausted. However, even though this hike is difficult it is 100% worth it - and I've never seen a view this incredible. The ice field just about takes up the entire horizon, with just the peaks of the mountains jutting out. A view I promise you'll never forget. Watch my hiking adventure to Harding Ice Field here!
3. Castner Glacier, Delta Junction
My actual favorite glacier, this is one of the more unique spots that I recommend visiting in the winter or early spring. Because the glacier is situated on the mouth of a river, you can only hike out to the the glacier cave when the river is fully frozen over, and I want to be clear that I do not recommend going out unless you know with certainty that the river is frozen over. Located near Delta Junction, this is a great day trip from either Fairbanks (2.5 hours each way) or Anchorage (5 hours each way). The hike itself is completely flat, and just about 2.5 miles roundtrip - and although the cave is stunning I haven't been back since the most recent collapse, which stunted the length of the cave. Watch my glacier cave adventure here!
4. Portage Glacier, Whittier
There are two ways to visit Portage Glacier, and the most important factor is dependent on what time of year you're visiting. In the summer months, cruises are run on Portage Lake - this tour brings you on a full day tour through Turnagain Arm, including the Wildlife Conservation Center, and has the best reviews. Otherwise, you can purchase the 1 hour cruise tickets onsite for $45 a person. In the late winter months, the entire lake freezes over - making it a perfect hiking and biking trail to get out to the glacier! Before heading out it is essential to make sure the ice is thick enough to walk across the entire 3 miles (each way). We typically never head out unless we see plenty of others out on the ice as well, typically January - March. We never recommend going out alone or if there are no other groups there, weather here can change very quickly and there have been stories of people getting stranded when a winter storm comes through. Watch my winter adventure to Portage Glacier here!
5. Matanuska Glacier, Glacier View
Another favorite of mine, Matanuska is a great option if you're looking to get out onto the actual glacier and walk around. Even though this 27 mile long glacier used to be open and free for visitors, the glacier is now closed and only accessible via tour. Although there's a discounted rate for locals, prices now run around $200 per person. If you don't have a ride from Anchorage, then this tour includes round trip pick up and drop off. During our tour we learned all about the "walking rocks" and spring time glacier pools, got to drink water straight from the glacier (make sure to bring a water bottle!) and even put on our own glacial silt mud masks. It was a fantastic day to be honest. Watch my Matanuska Glacier experience here!
6. Root Glacier, Kennicott (Wrangell St. Elias National Park)
Maybe the hardest glacier to visit on our list, this glacier is best for those already planning to visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park during their time in Alaska. Once you're in the park, you'll have to head towards McCarthy (7 hour drive from Anchorage) - from here you'll have to take the free shuttle to the historic mining town of Kennicott. From the edge of town, the hike itself is about 1.5 miles each way, and chances of seeing a moose are quite high. However, even though this glacier is difficult to get to, I 100% recommend heading out here if you're able to. One of the few glaciers you can still visit without a tour, you're still able to explore and walk on the glacier all by yourself. (I recommend bringing ice cleats or "crampons" like these.) If you're not comfortable exploring on your own, then I recommend taking this guided half day tour along the glacier. Watch my Wrangell St. Elias adventures here!
7. Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau
If you're visiting the Juneau area, most likely on a cruise, then Mendenhall Glacier is the glacier for you. Most cruises will have a day excursion for this glacier, meaning in the summer months it can get very crowded. However, it's definitely doable on your own as well! Just head to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, and you can actually see the glacier from the parking lot! Of course, you can also hike out to a clearer observation point or take a canoe tour to get closer than any other visitors! If you're in the area, I also recommend hiking out to Nugget Falls! Watch my adventures in Juneau here!
8. Columbia Glacier & 9. Mears Glacier, Valdez
Two glaciers that require no extra work from you - the Columbia and Mears Glaciers can be seen from the comfort of a Stan Stephans Glacier Cruise in Alaska. In addition to many of the other glaciers seen on this cruise (and all the wildlife - especially orcas!), you get up close and personal to these two - and the most special of all? This is the only time I ever saw a glacier calving. An incredible experience. Based on my experience I only recommend heading out on this 8 hour tour with Stan Stephens, they even include a lunch and snack! The only downside is this cruise begins in Valdez, which is about a 5 and a half hour drive from Anchorage.
10. Aialik Glacier & 11. Holgate Glaciers, Seward
If Valdez is a bit too far, then my next best recommendations for seeing glaciers via a boat cruise would be to head down to Seward. I'll be honest, this might be the easiest way to see a glacier in Alaska, especially if you're not to keen on hiking. I've been out on a Major Marine Tour 3 times, all different tours they offer, and I highly recommend taking their longest tour for your best chance at experiencing the glaciers and all the the wildlife that Kenai Fjords National Park has to offer. I've also taken their half day 4 hour tour in the past, which is a great taster if you're short on time, but it really doesn't compare.
12. Sawyer Glacier & 13. Hubbard Glacier, Cruising Southeast Passage
Did you know over 1 million visitors to Alaska explore via cruise? I honestly didn't either. However, most cruising guests will explore the Southeast Passages - meaning chances are if you're on a cruise then you'll more than likely happen to sail by Sawyer and Hubbard Glaciers. Want to know another fun fact? Hubbard Glacier is North America's longest glacier at a whopping 75 miles long! I'll be honest from a cruising viewpoint the views were stunning, but compared to how close you can get to a glacier in other areas of Alaska, then we were pretty far away. Either way, still stunning!
14. Spencer Glacier & 15. Trail Glacier, Moose Pass
At the very bottom of our lists are the Spencer and Trail Glaciers. Seen from the comfort of the Alaska Railroad, these glaciers are easy for guests on the train to see...but to be completely honest, I wouldn't recommend. I'm always transparent about my experiences and my experience on the roundtrip train ride from Anchorage to Seward just didn't live up to my expectations. You can just barely see the glaciers from the train through all the trees, and even though the train stops to view each glacier - you really just don't get the jaw dropping feeling of being amazed like you should when you see a glacier. But, is it easy? Definitely.
16. Knik Glacier, Palmer
A BONUS GLACIER?! You bet! Honestly, the only reason I didn't originally plan to include the Knik Glacier is because this is the one glacier on my list I haven't been to myself yet. As a glacier that most people take a helicopter ride out to, I'll just say this is one of the most expensive glaciers you can visit in the Anchorage area. Even though I haven't visited yet, everyone I've talked to highly recommends heading out on this 60 minute tour and glacier landing experience!
Other Alaska blog posts you might be interested in :
-> 11 Best Waterfalls in Anchorage and Beyond
-> Where to Rent Bear Spray in Alaska
-> 7 Tours Not to Miss in Alaska
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In 2021 my husband Tyler convinced me to move to Alaska. After living there for a year (then leaving to take a year long world trip) we realized there was no place we loved more. So now we're back - and I'm here to share all my best tips and hidden gems to make
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