Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Glaciers in the distance

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Glaciers Galore

Exit Glacier, in Kenai Fjords National Park, provides a stunning backdrop for a group of picnickers. The glacier, just outside of Seward, is accessible by car and then by foot. Entrance to the park by car costs $5.

Some glaciers you can literally reach out and touch, some you can walk on or climb across and some you want to observe from a very safe distance. Here are a few of the top ice capades around Southcentral Alaska.

Harvesting glacier ice

Anyone can harvest ice from Alaska's 28,800 square miles of glaciers.

Ice worms on the glacier

ON THE LEARNARD GLACIER -- Dusk was falling in a bowl above the entrance to the car-and-train tunnel at Whittier, and the ice worms were rising.

Why is glacier ice blue?

Glaciers are created when decades upon decades of snow compact themselves into ice. As the ice crystals grow, they push out the air.

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier is an easy-off, easy-on stop at Mile 28 of the Richardson Highway northeast of Valdez.

Pretty ice you'll see on your way to somewhere else

In addition to Alaska's roadside glaciers, here are some other marvels that drivers and hikers in Southcentral and Interior Alaska might see.

Portage, Byron and Explorer glaciers

At the Portage/Whittier turnoff at Mile 79 of the Seward Highway south of Anchorage.

Portage Glacier has retreated, so its snout isn't easily seen from the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. But aboard the Ptarmigan, a sightseeing ship, and from the new road to Whittier, the view is grand. Icebergs dot the glacier's lake near the visitors center, which sits astride the outflowing Portage Creek.

Burns Glacier, which appears to the left of and merges into Portage Glacier, shows up plainly.

The road to Whittier, which skirts Portage Lake, has a viewing area beyond the first (and free) tunnel. From there, people can easily seen Portage and Byron glaciers.

Byron Glacier is a three-quarter-mile hike from the road leading to the Ptarmigan's dock. There's a small parking area near where the glacier practically tumbles down the valley.

People driving toward Portage will see Explorer Glacier hanging over the valley; there's a turnout a couple of miles in from the Seward Highway. Drivers approaching from the south on the Seward Highway will have an early view of the valley's glaciers almost as soon as they drop out of Turnagain Pass into Turnagain Arm's plain. Explorer is easily seen from the Forest Service-operated Williwaw campground. The sound of its meltwater tumbling to the valley floor is loud.

In the visitors center, stay to watch the movie ''Voices from the Ice.''

Nearby, hanging glaciers are visible above Girdwood/Alyeska. They're easily seen from the Seward Highway (Mile 90) and from along the road into Girdwood. In the summer, people who ride the tram up to the Seven Glaciers Restaurant can hike up a gravel trail to a small glacier.

Ruth Glacier

Southeast of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park.

Many drivers -- including longtime Alaskans -- stop at the large pullout at Mile 135 of the Parks Highway, just north of Mary Carey's McKinley View Lodge for a view of Mount McKinley. Glacier-watchers, though, look across the nearby Chulitna River for Ruth's terminal moraine bulldozing its way out of the Alaska Range. The glacier is hard to see, because the terminal moraine blends in so well with the rest of the valley.

There is an information kiosk, and toilets are nearby.

A few miles north of the overlook, glimpses of Eldridge Glacier are visible from the highway.

Muldrow Glacier

Northeast of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park.

Denali bus riders to Eielson Visitors Center or Wonder Lake get a good view of the Muldrow Glacier, which stretches for 30 miles. The lower reaches are covered with moraine and small trees.

Polar Bear and Eklutna glaciers

Chugach State Park northeast of Anchorage.

Polar Bear Glacier hangs over the Eagle River Valley from atop a mountain southeast of the Eagle River Nature Center. Although the glacier isn't very large, it's plainly visible from its perch about 6,000 up. If the weather's good, Eagle Glacier might be visible farther up the valley; if not, a long hike up the Iditarod National Historic Trail (also known as the Crow Pass Trail) will provide a view.

A visit to Eklutna Glacier, which melts into 7-mile-long Eklutna Lake, requires a hike or ride on a bike or ATV. No cars or trucks are allowed on the easy, 9-mile trail, which follows the lakeshore and cuts across an avalanche run-out zone.

The Eagle River Nature Center is a dozen miles east of the Glenn Highway at Eagle River. To reach Eklutna Lake, turn off the Glenn at Eklutna, Mile 26, and follow a mostly gravel road for 10 miles to a state campground.

Knik Glacier

Southeast of Palmer.

This enormous glacier, which lives about 15 miles upriver from the Knik River bridge on the Old Glenn Highway south of Palmer, is best seen from high ground on the Glenn Highway north of Palmer and on the Parks Highway west of the Parks-Glenn intersection as one drives east from Wasilla.

Flightseeing and airboat tours are the best way to get close to the glacier, its gorge and lake.

Grewingk Glacier

South of Homer across Kachemak Bay.

Good views of broad Grewingk are available from high points in town and from East End Road.

Snow River Valley

North of Seward on the Seward Highway.

Look eastward from about Mile 13, where the Alaska Railroad crosses the Snow River and then passes under the highway, for glaciers on Paradise Peak.

Childs and Sheridan glaciers

East of Cordova along the Copper River Highway.

Seeing this glacier requires an investment on your part. Visitors must fly or float to Cordova, then hike, bike, ride a bus or drive the 48-mile, wildlife-heavy Copper River Highway miles to the three Childs Glacier Recreation Area viewing stations near the glacier.

Beware of falling ice, which can send a large, dangerous wave across the river and swamp the recreation area's shore.

Visitors can also traipse across the earthquake-damaged Million Dollar Bridge over the Copper River. Moose, geese and swans are frequently seen.

Sheridan Glacier can be reached via a four-mile gravel road leading north from the Copper River Highway about 12 miles east of Cordova. A four-mile trail leads to the glacier's terminus.

Tazlina and Nelchina glaciers

East of Anchorage and west of Glennallen along the Glenn Highway.

Look for these glaciers south of the Glenn Highway about a half-hour's drive west of Glennallen. They're in the Chugach Mountains 20 miles or more south of the road.

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