Glacier in the Sky: Harding Icefield Trail

Harding Icefield

I’ve always been fascinated with glaciers; their polar blue color and deep crevasses are hypnotizing. And when there’s a chance to hike to the top of one? Icing on the cake!

The Harding Icefield Trail starts at the Visitor Center at the Kenai Fjords National Park Exit Glacier area just outside Seward, Alaska. It begins right at the base of the Exit Glacier, a massive river of ice that looms over the valley. You can view the glacier up close at the Visitor Center; it seems almost alive as it crackles and bits of it calve off into the riverbed below.

The trail veers away from the glacier and follows a ridge alongside the valley. During the summer months, it’s lush with wildflowers growing out of control in the 24 hour sunlight. Keep an eye out for bears; it’s a good idea to keep talking while you walk to warn them of your presence. You’re more likely to encounter marmot though. We saw a huge one that wasn’t the least bit afraid of us; it didn’t budge as we passed within a few feet. Take a rest now and then and look back as you climb; you’ll be rewarded with marvelous views of the valley below.

At the top of the trail the view is nothing short of magnificent. The entire icefield surrounds you, the glacier winding around the mountain and down the valley. The ethereal blue and deep crevasses in the ice will draw your eye in and take your breath away (if the 4 mile hike hasn’t done that for you already.)

The trail is 8.2 miles round trip. Be sure to wear mosquito repellant and sunscreen, and carry plenty of water. The trail starts at close to sea level but climbs 1000 feet per mile and depending on the year, you most likely will have to traverse snow at some point during the hike.


  1. This is one of the first places my husband and I hiked after we met. Such an incredible place.

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