Sometimes in life it is better to keep things short and sweet. This phenomenal hike to
Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park offers the perfect combination of epic beauty, easy accessibility and world-renowned vistas. There is absolutely no denying that this just might be the most beautiful hike in all of Alaska. Best of all; it’s so convenient that just about anyone can do it!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
From Alaska's largest city of Anchorage, head south on the Seward Highway. After making your way through the epic views along the gorgeous Turnagain Pass, you'll reach a turnoff where the road forks and you can head right to go towards Cooper Landing, Soldotna, Kenai and Homer. When you get here, don't turn right. Instead keep going straight towards the town of Seward on the Seward Highway.
At mile marker 3.7 of the Seward Highway, turn right onto Exit Glacier Road. You'll have just under 9 miles to drive before you hit the parking lot where you'll access the trailhead for Exit Glacier.
The views along Exit Glacier Road leading up to the parking lot and trailhead are absolutely breathtaking. The jolting Kenai Mountains tower around you as the runoff from the glacier creates a wide stream that follows along the road.
The trail is especially gorgeous during the summer and fall months as the fall foliage makes the bright blue hues of the glacial ice really pop with beauty. The trail is, however, open all year long so you can enjoy winter recreation as well as springtime adventure when the temperature is chilly and the snow is flying.
This easy hike is one of the best maintained in the entire state. The wide, paved walking path at the beginning offers tremendous views and slow progressing elevation which is excellent for all ages, shapes, sizes and comfort levels.
As the winding trail leads into the forest, be sure to watch where you step as it can be slick when there has been rainfall and rocks along the trail can make for tripping hazards if you're not being careful. The views in the distance can also be quite distracting.
This easy trail offers lots of options for all different activity levels. You can take the approximately 1.5-mile trail up to the Exit Glacier overlook (three miles round trip) which will give you an absolutely incredible up close and personal look at this beautiful glacier inside of the Kenai Fjords National Park. As one of the most easily accessible glaciers in the entire state of Alaska, visitors are continuously amazed by how close they can get in such a short, mellow trek.
As you approach closer towards the glacier you'll likely experience a couple of instant changes; the temperature will drop and the winds will increase. Although this doesn't always happen, it is pretty common as you are walking upon a glacial valley.
Although wildlife isn't incredibly common on this very well-traveled trail, it is always a possibility that you'll have an encounter. As with anywhere in Alaska, be sure to be 'bear aware' and know how to react in a calm, safe demeanor in this sort of situations before you ever go exploring.
If a three-mile round trip hike isn't enough for you and you're after a more intense workout, consider continuing your hike further by trekking up to the Harding Icefield.
Make sure that if you do want to continue onto the Harding Icefield that you're prepared to cross slippery snow paths and that you're wearing plenty of layers as the temperature will definitely drop.
All of the risks are worth the reward that you'll receive one you lay your eyes on the Harding Icefield. The icefield alone covers over 300 square miles. However if you include the 40 glaciers that the icefield spawns to, it really covers about 1,100 square miles. Totally incredible if you ask us!
Continuing onto the Harding Icefield can easily become one of the most rewarding adventures of your entire life. You'll submerge yourself deeper into the Kenai Mountains and the Kenai Fjords National Park for roughly four miles one way, or eight miles round trip.
As you take the easy Exit Glacier hike up a notch and head onto the Harding Icefield, be aware that your elevation will increase and you will have a bit tougher obstacles to overcome than you experienced on the first couple miles. But don't worry - the views make it all worth it in the end.
Depening on the time of year that you're visiting and the amount of snowfall that is still present or melting off, it is possible that you'll need to carefully cross a gushing stream of glacial runoff as it blasts down the mountain side. We always recommend that you consult with the local Fish and Game office before you go up if it is during a time that is considered 'off season' as the weather conditions can be much more unpredictable.
A rocky, winding path lead you straight up as you quickly gain elevation.
Continue up and along on switchbacks while you pass an emergency shelter along the way before reaching the summit.
As you make your way up approximately 4,000 feet you'll be greeted by one of the most jaw-dropping vistas of your life. Catch your breath and soak in the view over a picnic lunch before heading back down in time to catch a sunset at the base of the mountains.