Knik Glacier Fat Bike Winter Trip

Alaska Knik Glacier Fat Bike

Knik Glacier is a great winter fat bike destination and a humbling experience, especially when temperatures are below freezing and you’re trying to pedal through fresh, unpacked snow.

Biking is only possible during the winter when the river is frozen over, usually the months of January and February. You never know what kind of conditions you will be facing during your trip, so always be prepared!

Knik Glacier Alaska Fat Bike

Knik Glacier Fat Bike Trip

Trail Summary

Distance: 22 miles
Time: 2-4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Quick Tips

  • Check the weather forecast before you go
  • Join the Anchorage Fat Bike Facebook group for latest trail conditions
  • Start early in the day
  • Wear insulated boots
  • Bring some trash bags to cover your boots during the water crossing
  • Use a bike with studded tires
  • Wear a helmet
  • Use snow goggles to keep your face warm
  • Bring some hand/toe warmers
  • Stay away from the face of the glacier and pressure ridges
  • Bring the right gear (first-aid kit, ice picks and 550 cord)

Where to Rent a Fat Bike

If you don’t have your own bike and can’t find one to borrow, there are a few options for bike rentals in or near Anchorage. It’s always better to rent a bike in advance because they tend to get booked out.

Anchorage

  • Alaska Pacific University: Fat bike with studded tires is $45/day for the general public. There are cheaper rates for APU students, faculty, or employees of ANTHC. If you rent a bike for the weekend, you will get Friday and Monday at no cost. Rental comes with pogies to keep your hands warm.
  • Trek Bicycle Store Anchorage: Fat bike is $45/day and includes a helmet, tire pump, and repair kit.
  • Downtown Bicycle Rental: Fat bike with studded tires is $25 if you rent and return on the same day or $35/24-hours.

Mat-Su

What You’ll Need

  • Fatbike with studded tires (Doing this trail without studded tires is possible if the conditions are right)
  • Helmet
  • Insulated/Waterproof boots
  • Trash bags (If you need to cover your boots when wading the water)
  • Snow goggles
  • Warm hat
  • Neck warmer
  • Warm gloves or pogies
  • Hand/toe warmers
  • Layers
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Repair kit
  • Safety equipment (ice pick and 550 cord)

How to Get to Knik Glacier

Knik Glacier is located 50 miles north of Anchorage. There are two access points to the glacier: Hunter Creek and Jim Creek. The Hunter Creek access is most commonly used by bikers. This trail is shorter but you have to cross the main stem of Knik River. An outhouse is available to use here.

Hunter Creek/South Access:

  1. From Anchorage, head North on the Glenn Highway
  2. Exit the highway on the right at Old Glenn Highway
  3. Follow S Old Glenn Hwy and continue onto E Knik River Rd
  4. Turn left onto Ed Rush Rd
  5. Turn right onto Buckshot Ln
  6. At the end of the road, you will find designated fat bike parking at Knik Glacier Tours

Please be respectful as this access crosses private property with permission from Knik Glacier Tours. Look for the sign out front that says “fatbike parking”.

There’s also a donation box on the little house right before the picnic area. You can leave a donation to tell Knik Glacier Tours how awesome they are for providing parking!

Jim Creek/North Access:

The Jim Creek access is mostly used by Jeeps and ATVs, so they usually pack down a good trail. This trail is twice as long (50+ miles) but doesn’t involve crossing the main stem of Knik River. There is a public parking lot with bathrooms here.

  1. From Anchorage, head North on the Glenn Highway
  2. Exit the highway on the right at Old Glenn Highway
  3. Follow S Old Glenn Hwy and continue left over the bridge
  4. Follow for one mile until the Knik River Public Use Area / Jim Creek Campground on your right.
Knik Glacier Ice Formation
Knik Glacier Ice Arch Alaska

Biking to Knik Glacier

You can access the trail from Hunter Creek or Jim Creek. However, I’m going to cover biking from Hunter Creek.

This trail to the face of the glacier is roughly 22 miles roundtrip from the Knik Glacier Tours parking lot. It can take you anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on trail conditions. Most people end up spending the whole day out there. It may even take you longer if you get stuck in a snowstorm or decide to explore further back.

Be prepared to cross open water and start early in the day as winter light is short. Plan to leave Anchorage around 7 a.m. so you have more than enough time to explore the glacier.

Check out this GPS track to Knik Glacier from 2019 to help you plan your trip.

Crossing Hunter Creek

Once you leave the parking lot at Knik Glacier Tours, you will follow the trail for half a mile until you reach Hunter Creek. This is open water and you will have to wade (or bike) across. You can bring trash bags to cover your boots while you wade across. It’s important to keep your feet dry so they don’t freeze off during your trip. A lot of people use muck boots or another waterproof/insulated type.

PRO TIP: Make sure you press your breaks immediately after crossing the creek. Otherwise, they are prone to freezing and locking up on you.

Crossing Knik River

After you follow the trail for several miles, you will have to cross the main stem of Knik River. There is usually open water here so make sure to go further upstream and look for the main snow machine trail to follow. You definitely do not want to go through the ice here!

Knik River Knik Glacier Fat Bike Trip
Fat Bike Knik Glacier Alaska Winter Trip

Exploring Knik Glacier Safely

After continuing along the trail, you will reach a wide, open area. You will start to see scattered ice formations. The face of Knik Glacier is over 5 miles long. It’s massive and feels very other-worldly here.

You should know that accidents at the glacier happen. In 2020, a Jeep fell through the ice, and a person fell through the ice as they were exploring an ice cave. Luckily, no one was harmed in either incident.

You should also know that is is really hard to get cell reception in this area. This is remote Alaska, so be prepared to handle that situation, if you need to.

Biking to Knik Glacier Alaska

There is no rulebook for how close you can get to glaciers or icebergs but when you’re exploring the glacier, please use your best judgment and really think things through. I would advise to do some research on glacier safety, stay away from the face of the glacier and look out for any signs of a pressure ridge.

The glacier can calve at any time. If you’re biking during warmer days, it is more likely to see increase calving. Calving can cause waves to be sent under the ice, and if it hits a pressure ridge, near a pinch point, it could cause slabs of ice to rise up and slam back down, leaving open water.

The environment here is unstable and unpredictable. It is usually safe to play around all of the iceberg formations you will find scattered around because they’re typically locked in the ice. But if there is a lot of little debris around the glacier, you should probably stay away from it.

Knik Glacier fat bike
Knik Glacier Fat Bike

The glacier changes every year. You never know what conditions you will encounter or what formations you will see. My best piece of advice is to bring the appropriate gear, and if it’s your first time, try to find some people to ride with that have experience.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your Knik Glacier fat bike winter adventure!



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pedro
6 months ago

great