Alaska Stories and Tips

Hiking Exit Glacier

Harding Ice Field Photo, Alaska, United States

Laura and Richard drove into the Kenai Fiords National Park for a day of hiking. The park’s only road ends at the visitor center near the base of Exit Glacier. There are several shorter walks around the visitor center that go up near the glacier. A much longer walk climbs up the mountain to the base of the Harding Icefield. We took this trail and were treated to some incredible views of the glacier, the valley, and the surrounding mountain ranges. It was quite impressive getting a view of the glacier from above. We stopped for a break and saw some dots out on the glacier. We got out the binoculars and saw some hikers far away making slow progress up the ice sheet. On the other side of the glacier, we saw something moving much more quickly. We noticed that it was a black bear barreling along. We marveled at the ease at which it handled the uneven terrain. It covered the ground quickly and in little time, it was out of sight in the brush on the other side of the glacier. We climbed up the trail and encountered more and more snow as we got up higher. It was mid July, but not far removed from early spring in that area. Laura stopped at an overlook about 2/3 of the way up and Richard continued to the end. The trail goes over a flat area before making one final climb just past an emergency shelter. It was almost entirely covered by snow and it took some care to make sure I didn’t sink into a deep snow bank. At the top, there is an incredible panoramic view of the icefield. The glacier broadens out and stretches as far as the eye can see. Looking back toward the trailhead, it’s possible to see the glacier valley and all of the surrounding mountains. After taking about half a CF card worth of pictures (to make sure every angle and exposure were covered), Richard returned down the trail and re-joined Laura at the overlook. We encountered more people as we approached the shorter trails near the visitor center. After returning to the Beach House, we met up with Laura’s parents and had a fantastic dinner at the Exit Glacier Salmon Bake. It has a well recognized sign out front that says "Cheap Beer and Lousy Food". The food was great (featured fresh salmon and halibut) and the local Alaska microbrews were fantastic. It really hit the spot after a long day hiking.

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