For years, I’ve been dreaming of kayaking Bear Glacier Lagoon. I saw amazing photos of people paddling among the towering icebergs, and I knew I had to experience it for myself.
But, getting out to this Alaska glacier is not an easy task because it requires a specialized boat and if you don’t have one of your own then you’ll have to pay for a water taxi or a guided tour.
I’m so happy that my dream finally came true this summer! I booked a kayaking trip with a tour company in Seward, and we set off in the afternoon to go glacier kayaking in Alaska.
Visiting Bear Glacier on this kayak tour was definitely a highlight of the Alaska summer!
In this post, I’m going to share everything you need to know about kayaking Bear Glacier and whether you should add it to your Seward itinerary.
- Guide: Kayaking Bear Glacier Lagoon
- Where is Bear Glacier?
- What is Bear Glacier Lagoon?
- Liquid Adventures Bear Glacier Kayak Tour
- Bear Glacier Kayak Tour Cost
- What to Expect on This Glacier Kayaking Tour
- Self-Guided Trips to Bear Glacier
- Other Ways to Visit Bear Glacier
- Bear Glacier Safety Tips
- When is the Best Time to Visit Bear Glacier?
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Guide: Kayaking Bear Glacier Lagoon
Where is Bear Glacier?
Bear Glacier is the largest glacier in the Harding Icefield, and one of the few places in Alaska where you can kayak around massive icebergs.
This tidewater glacier can be found in Kenai Fjords, just 12 miles southwest of the city of Seward.
Your best option to visit Bear Glacier is to take a boat from Seward, especially if you are a beginner kayaker. If you don’t want to kayak, you can easily see this glacier on a Kenai Fjords cruise from Seward.
What is Bear Glacier Lagoon?
Bear Glacier Lagoon is a pro-glacier lagoon, a lake that forms between a glacier and its moraine. The lagoon was created in 1961 and has more than doubled in size since then.
Today, the lagoon is a popular place to visit because you can get up close and personal with one of Alaska’s most impressive natural wonders. Paddlers can kayak, SUP, or pack raft among the massive icebergs that have calved from the glacier.
The icebergs are constantly moving and changing, so each time you visit you’ll see something new. You may even spot wildlife, such as harbor seals, sea otters, and bald eagles.
Liquid Adventures Bear Glacier Kayak Tour
There are a few different tour companies that offer trips to Bear Glacier. Liquid Adventures is a locally owned tour company based out of Seward. They offer some of the best glacier kayaking and SUP tours in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Since they are one of the few companies that offer trips out to Bear Glacier and capacity is limited to small group sizes, it’s best to reserve a tour in advance.
Bear Glacier Kayak Tour Cost
The Bear Glacier Kayak Tour costs $325 per person. You can also book the entire boat for $1800 if you want to have a private trip (up to 6 people).
For two adults, we paid $695.50, which included a City of Seward Sales Tax of $45.50.
What’s Included in This Kayaking Tour?
- Professional and knowledgable guide
- Water taxi to Bear Glacier
- Full-length drysuit (up to XXL)
- Paddle shoes and gloves
- Kayak and paddle
- Dry bag for gear
- Waterproof phone bag
Note: The tour operator only carries drysuit sizes up to XXL. If you are close to or over 6’6″ tall or 260 lbs., you may not fit into their drysuits.
What Do You Need to Bring Kayaking
- Warm layers
- Warm socks
- Water bottle
- Extra food or snacks
What to Expect on This Glacier Kayaking Tour
Check-In and Gear Up
Once you arrive to the Liquid Adventures’ office at 1013 3rd Ave in Seward, you will check in at the front desk. If you have your own vehicle, you will be asked to park in the parking lot across the street.
The first part of the tour will take you behind the front desk and into the back room. Here is where you will meet your guide for the day and get outfitted in a drysuit, with a pair of crocs and waterproof gloves. You can also get a dry bag and waterproof phone bag, if needed.
This is your last chance to use a proper toilet, so make sure you take advantage of it.
Water Taxi to Bear Glacier Lagoon
When everyone is ready to go, you will hop in a van and take a short drive the the Seward Boat Harbor.
After arriving at the boat harbor in Seward, you will have to walk down to the boat. Liquid Adventures uses a small, specialized boat that is capable of running in both open ocean, and in very shallow waters. This is what makes the trip into the lagoon possible.
The jet boat ride to the glacier was stunning. We sped through Resurrection Bay, surrounded by towering cliffs and snow-capped mountains. The coastline is beautiful and there are chances to see wildlife out here, like whales, porpoise, and seabirds.
A typical ride out to Bear Glacier Lagoon takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but this can vary depending on weather and ocean conditions. It was definitely bumpy during our boat ride out.
As we got closer to the lagoon beach on the ocean side, anyone who was sitting outside was asked to come in. Since this area is exposed to the Gulf of Alaska, it creates surf conditions, and it’s actually one of the best places to surf in Alaska.
To get through the surf and into the river, it requires a skilled boat operator and the right kind of boat. Our driver made it look easy as we weaved around the waves. I though it was super fun and thrilling because I’ve never experienced that before.
We entered the river to begin the quick trip up to the lagoon. There were a few small icebergs floating down the river, which made me excited to see the iceberg-filled lagoon.
Kayak in Bear Glacier Lagoon
As we motored into the lagoon, it was an incredible sight. The lagoon was filled with giant icebergs and I had never seen so many in my life!
Once we were in the lagoon, we made our way to their stored gear cache. We hopped out of the jet boat, grabbed a PFD, paddle, and launched tandem sit on top kayaks.
I didn’t realize we would be using tandem kayaks and I was a bit bummed about it, but it actually was nice to have my friend paddle and navigate while I took my own photos and videos of the icebergs.
Since the environment is dynamic and the icebergs change daily, each trip into the lagoon is a unique experience. We visited the glacier in mid-June and the icebergs were everywhere, which made it a bit challenging to make our way around the lake.
Our guide was really great at helping us in and out of our kayaks. We followed her around the shoreline as we paddled among the giant icebergs. There were moments when our guide got out of her kayak to move the icebergs with her bare hands!
Along the way, we heard a calving and a huge iceberg flipped over! We paddled for about an hour before we beached the kayaks and got out to enjoy a short break. Our guide brought some hot water for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate as well as some small snacks.
After our break, we paddled back to where we began our trip. I checked my GPS smartwatch and realized we only kayaked one mile in total! I was surprised that it was so little mileage.
Water Taxi to Seward
The boat arrived at the same time we did. We stored the gear and hopped back onto the boat so we could make our way back to Seward.
After exiting the river, we had to navigate the surf again. Our boat driver told us he had to time it perfectly and that he was unsure if he would have to turn around suddenly to try again.
Honestly, he made it look super easy again! I think we were all glad to have an experienced driver.
It took us about the same amount of time to get back. I spent time sitting out the back of the boat because the sun was shining and it felt amazing.
We arrived back at the harbor, and got into the van to make our way back to the office. It didn’t take long to take off the drysuits and finish the tour!
In total, the tour is about 5.5 hours long, with two hours spent kayaking.
Self-Guided Trips to Bear Glacier
Most people visit Bear Glacier on a guided tour, but it’s possible to plan a self-guided trip. If you want to go on your own, you will need a lot of experience and local knowledge.
You will need to have the proper gear to make your way all the way out to Bear Glacier from Seward. You will also need to understand the local tides so that you can safely navigate the surf from the ocean into the river.
The weather also effects trips out here, so it’s important to read the forecast and lan accordingly.
If you don’t want to paddle out here on your own, you can hire a water taxi to take you and a kayak into the lagoon. The water taxi costs $250, so if you’re only looking to save money then you might consider booking a tour.
If you plan to stay overnight, you have lots of options. Many people camp on the outer beach to enjoy the glacier views but increase their chances of seeing other wildlife. There are also islands in the lagoon, which also make great campsites.
Other Ways to Visit Bear Glacier
Kayaking around Bear Glacier was an unforgettable experience. It was a chance to get up close and personal with one of Alaska’s most impressive natural wonders.
This trip is one of the best things to do in Seward, but I think a lot of it came down to the location and not necessarily the tour itself.
Liquid Adventures’ kayak tour isn’t the only way to visit Bear Glacier. You can also combine a kayaking trip with a heli flight over Kenai Fjords, which will give you incredible views of the glacier and more time in the water.
You can also just choose to see the iceberg-filled lagoon from the sky. There are plenty of scenic flights to Bear Glacier from Seward.
Bear Glacier Safety Tips
Glaciers are unpredictable and there are many things to be aware of when paddling around them and next to icebergs, especially the ones the size of buildings that you’ll find in Bear Glacier Lagoon.
I’m sure you’ve heard that 90% of an iceberg is underwater and you can’t see it from the surface. Since icebergs are slowly melting they can roll and break at any moment. You’ll want to remain twice the height or width away from the icebergs and avoid paddling between two large icebergs or underneath any arches.
Glaciers can calve at any moment. Calving can create large waves that can pull your boat and gear into the water. You’ll want to remain half a mile from the face of the glacier and land your kayak two miles away from the glacier. If you must land close to the glacier, do it quickly and be ready to leave ASAP.
If you plan to camp overnight, make sure you choose a spot that is two miles away from the glacier. Set up your campsite well above the waterline of the lagoon as large waves can occur at any time and engulf your campsite.
Bear Glacier Lagoon is frequently blanketed in fog. Be aware that foggy conditions make it difficult to navigate so maintain a safe distance from the face of the glacier and icebergs.
A Glacier lake outburst floods (GLOF) is another dangerous event that you want to lookout for. A GLOF in 2010 caused a 5.9-foot rise in water levels in Bear Glacier Lagoon. In 2014, a GLOF event caused the lagoon to breach the moraine that separates it from Resurrection Bay. This caused increased glacier calving. Be aware of any sudden changes in water flow, level, or clarity.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bear Glacier?
Summer is the best time to visit Bear Glacier. Most tour operators only run from May to September during the heavy tourism season. When I visited in June, there were a ton of icebergs, but this made it difficult to navigate. If you visit earlier than June, you may have trouble getting up river and into into the lagoon because of the amount of icebergs.
The icebergs melt as the summer goes on. If you visit Bear Glacier Lagoon in August or September, it would be much easier to kayak to the glacier because you won’t have to navigate around as many icebergs.
I definitely recommend adding a visit to Bear Glacier to your Seward, Alaska Itinerary! If you have any questions about kayaking Bear Glacier, let me know in the comments.
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