This summer I had the opportunity to spend some time in Alaska. Although the nature of my trip was not recreational, I did find some time to get outside and enjoy the natural, abundant, beauty of Alaska. One thing I really wanted to do was get up close to a Glacier. Talking to some locals, Exit Glacier, on the Kenai Peninsula, was highly recommended. I was told that I could take a short hike to the edge of the glacier and even get close enough to touch it. There were plenty of glaciers to see from a distance but the up-close nature of the Exit Glacier trail intrigued me. So I headed toward Kenai Fjords National Park and set off on the Exit Glacier Trail.
I soon found out that Exit Glacier is a very popular attraction. Alaska as a whole is overrun with tourists in the summer time and it is hard to find any beautiful spot without them (save paying big bucks for a bush pilot to take you out to the middle of nowhere.) On top of that Exit Glacier is the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by road. The Exit Glacier section of the park features a Nature Center, close to a mile of wheelchair accessible trails, and an easily access short hike to the edge of a remarkable glacier. All of these factors attracted far more people then I usually like to see at a park
Exit Glacier got its name from the first Harding Ice Field expedition in 1968 that used the glacier as an exit point after spending eight days crossing the Ice Field.
When I arrived at the Nature center I immediately took to the trail turning left through the cottonwood forest toward the Glacier View. Glacier View is small wheelchair accessible viewpoint featuring informative signs and mounted viewing binoculars. I continued another half mile or so up the trail toward the edge of the glacier. When I came to the end of the trail I was disappointed to find out the Glacier has receded over the last couple of years and approaching the edge has become dangerous. It looked like I wasn’t going to get to touch the glacier after all. I did, however, come to within 15 feet of the Glacier’s edge which is the closest I have come to a glacier to date.
Despite my disappointment it truly was awe inspiring to see such a large chuck of ice slowly carving its way down the mountain.
Although I didn’t have time this trip, I would have liked to hike up the 7.4-mile (round trip) Harding Icefield Trail. This trail Starts on the valley floor, winds through cottonwood and alder forests, to a wonderful view of the Harding Icefield. If you come to Exit Glacier avoid the crowds and take the Icefield trail. You will get wonderful views of the glacier on the way while still not being able to touch it.
NPS Exit Glacier Trail Map