Alaska has over 100,000 glaciers and seeing one is a bucket-list item for many visitors. There are so many ways to see glaciers in Alaska: by car, plane, bike, and even on foot.
Most of my favorite glaciers experiences in Alaska are when I get to hike right up to the face of the glacier! The glaciers near Anchorage are some of the most accessible and there are a ton of glacier hikes to choose from.
Here are five glacier hikes near Anchorage. I’ve listed them in order, by level of difficulty. All of these glaciers are within a 3-hour drive from Anchorage.
5 Glacier Hikes Near Anchorage
1. Matanuska Glacier
Distance: 0.5 miles
Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Very Easy
Distance From Anchorage: 99 miles north
Matanuska Glacier is a 2-hour scenic drive north of Anchorage and it’s the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States! This makes it not so much of a hike, but it’s definitely one of the easiest ways to stand on top of a glacier in Alaska.
The glacier is 27-miles long and 4-miles wide and is definitely not to be missed on your trip to Alaska, especially on a bluebird day.
However, access to this glacier is private and requires payment. You can find information on Matanuska Glacier Adventure Tours. During the summer, you can walk around unguided or go on a guided tour. It’s a great place to try ice climbing.
During the winter months, you can only access the glacier on a guided tour. If you’re on a budget, I recommend visiting a different glacier.
How to get to Matanuska Glacier from Anchorage:
Take the Glenn Highway North and exit towards Palmer. Continue to Glacier View. Turn right onto Glacier Park Road. Continue onto Island Road and stay straight. Gate access will require payment to be made inside the building to your right. Turn right to stay on Island Road. The Matanuska Glacier parking lot will be at the end.
Planning a trip to Alaska? Check out my Alaska Travel Guide.
2. Byron Glacier
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1 hour
Distance From Anchorage: 55 miles south
The hike to Byron Glacier is one of the easiest glacier hikes in Alaska. It’s also a great option if you want to explore ice caves.
The trail is mostly flat, which makes it perfect for families and all fitness levels. The main trail ends when you reach the benches, and offers views of Byron Glacier.
If you want to reach the face of the glacier, stand on top of it, or get inside some ice caves, then you will have to continue past the benches.
There is no real trail from this point on. You can scramble over the boulder field, or try to cross the river to your left and find a trail around the boulder field. This is when it can become more challenging.
Byron Glacier sits on the other side of the boulder field. This area is known for avalanches and rock falls, so explore the glacier at your own risk.
How to get to Byron Glacier from Anchorage:
Take the Glenn Highway South for 48 miles. Turn left towards Portage at Portage Glacier Road. Follow Portage Glacier Road for 6.5 miles. Keep right to continue on Portage Lake Loop, follow signs for Portage Glacier/Begich Boggs Visitor Center. Turn right onto Byron Glacier Road. The parking area for Byron Glacier trailhead will be on your right, one mile down the road.
3. Portage Glacier (Winter Hike)
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 2 hours
Distance From Anchorage: 55 miles south
Portage Glacier is only accessible on foot during the wintertime when the conditions are just right. Portage Lake needs to completely frozen over, allowing you to hike across to see the glacier hidden around the bend. This usually happens around February.
Crossing the frozen lake makes for a fun day trip. You can also ski or bike across the lake, if you wanted to.
This is a very popular winter hike, so it’s more than likely you’ll find an existing trail. If there is fresh snow on the lake and no trail, it will be much harder to cross. You will be exhausted trying to break trail.
If you want to see Portage Glacier during the summer, you can hike the Portage Pass Trail from Whittier or take a boat tour on the lake.
How to get to Portage Glacier from Anchorage:
Take the Glenn Highway South for 48 miles. Turn left towards Portage at Portage Glacier Road. Follow Portage Glacier Road for 6.5 miles. Keep right to continue on Portage Lake Loop, follow signs for Portage Glacier/Begich Boggs Visitor Center.
4. Raven Glacier
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 4 hours
Distance From Anchorage: 45 miles south
The Crow Pass Trail to Raven Glacier is one of my favorite glacier hikes in Alaska. The trail is actually 23 miles from Girdwood to Eagle River, and most people see Raven Glacier along the way. But, I really love Raven Glacier as a day hike!
The trail is easy to follow as it goes through the forest and gradually up the valley. You’ll gain around 2000 feet in elevation.
As you follow the trail, you’ll stay right of the waterfalls and make your way past Crystal Lake. You will see the Crow Pass Trail sign post and Raven Glacier is just beyond it.
This glacier is incredible to see. You can bring some crampons along if you want to walk around on it.
How to get to Raven Glacier from Anchorage: Take the Glenn Highway South and take a left at Alyeska Highway towards Girdwood. Turn left onto Crow Creek Road. Crow Creek Road turns slightly left and becomes Pack Trail. You will find parking for Crow Pass Trail at the end of the road.
5. Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield
Distance: 2 to 8.2 miles
Time: 2 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Distance From Anchorage: 132 miles south
Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield is a scenic 2.5-hour drive south of Anchorage. The Exit Glacier is a short 1-mile loop that offers easy and epic views. You can continue past the Exit Glacier area to make your way to Harding Icefield.
The Harding Icefield Trail is 8.2 miles roundtrip. You’ll climb the valley through cottonwood and alder forests until you make it well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the 700-square-mile Icefield.
The Harding Icefield trail can be challenging as you gain 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. So be prepared and bring enough water. The views are worth it.
The road to access Exit Glacier is usually closed during the winter at mile 1.3, but still accessible by ski, bike, or on foot. Make sure to plan accordingly.
How to get to Exit Glacier from Anchorage: Take the Glenn Highway South towards Seward. Turn right onto Herman Leirer Road. Continue onto Exit Glacier Road. Follow the road to the end and you will see the Exit Glacier trailhead parking.
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