Kayak Portage Lake to Portage Glacier

If you are planning to kayak Portage Lake then you’ll want to keep reading!

Portage Lake to Portage Glacier is a 3 mile one-way paddle in Alaska’s Portage Valley, just one hour south of Anchorage.

This kayak trip starts from the Portage Lake kayak launch and hugs the coastline before reaching the face of Portage Glacier.

This trip can either be a relatively chill and easy-going 3 hour roundtrip adventure or it can become a brutal and dangerous paddle real quick.

Since Portage Glacier is a cold, glacial lake, this trip is recommended for intermediate paddlers only!

In this post, I’m going to share everything you need to know for kayaking Portage Lake to Portage Glacier.

Portage Lake Trip Summary

Traditional Land: Dena’ina, Alutiiq, Dënéndeh (Visit Native-Land.ca to identify whose land you live, work, and play on.)
Distance: 3 miles one-way
Time: 1 hours and 20 minutes
Difficulty: Moderate

Quick Tips

  • Start early!
  • Launch your boat from the east side
  • Best for intermediate paddlers
  • Check the weather and wind forecasts
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Dry suit recommended

How to Get to Portage Lake

Portage Lake kayak launch is located 55 miles south of Anchorage and it’ll take you about 60 minutes to drive there.

  1. From Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway
  2. Turn left onto Portage Glacier Road
  3. Continue driving until you reach the Portage Lake Overlook

Portage Lake to Portage Glacier Map

The total mileage to paddle from the Portage Lake Overlook put-in to Portage Glacier is 3 miles one-way.

kayak paddle Portage Lake Alaska map to Portage Glacier

Kayaking Portage Lake in Alaska

Portage Lake Overlook Put-In

You will put in your canoe, kayak, packraft, or other non-motorized boat at the Portage Lake Overlook to start this roundtrip paddle. Portage Lake is a medium-sized lake and you will have to paddle around the lake to reach the face of the glacier.

The trail to the put-in can be found to the back right side of the overlook parking lot. From there, it’ll take just a few minutes to carry your boat and gear down to the lake.

You can park your car in the lot for free if you plan on staying overnight.

It’s also possible to put-in from the west side but there is a cruise boat that tours the area and you just don’t want to get in the way of that.

iceberg kayaking alaska

Hugging the Coastline

After putting in your boat, you can start to follow the coastline around the lake to the south side, which is where the glacier is located.

Why should I follow the coastline?

Portage Lake is a glacial lake, which means the water is freezing! It would not be fun or safe to capsize in the middle of the lake. It’s much safer to stay closer to shore in case of any incidents.

Also, since it’s a glacial lake, the glacier puts out a lot of cold air and as the sun rises and the temps rise with it, a glacier wind is created from the temperature differences. This is what also creates the waves, which are worse in the middle of the lake.

What this means is that you want to start paddling earlier in the day because the wind picks up later in the day.

I would recommend starting to paddle by 10 a.m. and I definitely DO NOT recommend starting to paddle anytime after 12 p.m.

This is even more important if your boat of choice is anything other than a sea kayak. Learn from my mistakes.. I started after noon and I paddled in an open sea-surf kayak on the way out.. let’s just say I had to get pulled by a sea kayak around one of the outcrops because the headwind was so strong and I couldn’t paddle hard enough!

portage lake kayak
portage lake waterfall

Reaching Portage Glacier

After paddling for 3 miles, you’ll reach the face of Portage Glacier. If you planned it right, it should take you one hour to get there! If not.. it may take you three hours.

There are so many beautiful waterfalls that you can get close up to. If you are wearing a dry suit, you could even take a swim underneath one.

You may also find a few icebergs floating around. Make sure to keep some distance as it can roll over at any time.

Once you reach the glacier, you can sit with wonder and watch for any glacier calving. You can also beach your kayak to the left side of the glacier and go for a quick hike to get up close to it. I definitely recommend doing this because it’s amazing!

portage glacier alaska

Camping at Portage Glacier

If you want to plan an overnight camping trip at Portage Glacier, you have a couple of options. You can camp on the beach below Portage Pass, which can also be accessed by foot.

Or, you can camp just to the left of the glacier. It’s harder to reach this area on foot because of the creek that must be crossed.

There’s also a really cool waterfall that you can quickly hike to if you follow the creek up. We didn’t see any signs of bears but always be bear aware.

portage glacier camping
paddle portage glacier lake

Happy paddling!

Additional Information

Can you kayak on Portage Lake Alaska?

Yes, you can kayak on Portage Lake all the way to Portage Glacier.

Are boats allowed on Portage Lake Alaska?

Only non-motarized boats are allowed on Portage Lake.

Can you swim in Portage Lake Alaska?

You can swim in Portage Lake but it’s a glacial lake so you wouldn’t last very long without a dry suit or wetsuit.


Always wear a life jacket. Start before 10 a.m. Be mindful of headwinds. Check the weather and wind forecast prior to your trip!


It’s helpful to have some sort of navigation on any adventure. I use a few different outdoor apps like Gaia and Earthmate. If you don’t have any apps, download Google Maps offline.

Read More

How to See Portage Glacier: Summer vs Winter

Overnight Kayak Trip Packing List: Everything I Packed

Kayaking Jim Lake to Knik River

Pin For Later

Alaska is one of the best places in the world to visit if you want to paddle next to a massive glacier or around a few icebergs. You can drive from Anchorage to Portage Valley and paddle for 3 miles along Portage Lake to reach the face of Portage Glacier.

Do you have any questions about Kayaking Portage Lake to Portage Glacier Alaska? Let me know in the comments.

About Andrea Kuuipo

I was born and raised in Anchorage and have been able to travel to many places around Alaska. As an Alaska Travel Blogger, I love sharing my favorite things to see and do in my home state to help others plan an incredible trip!

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