Mother Nature truly outdid herself in Alaska, where glaciers tower over the surrounding seas, making their steep incline seem insurmountable.
Aside from the wonder of seeing these colossal ice walls from up close, it’s also a spectacle to watch pieces of them break down and fall thunderously into the sea; a natural phenomenon known as calving.
Here are nine of the best glaciers in Alaska to visit on your next vacation.
Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. It was named for Gardiner Hubbard, the founder of the National Geographic Society and National Geographic Magazine.
Hubbard Glacier is over 76 miles long, seven miles wide, and as tall as a 30-story building. The first time you see its enormous facade, it will take your breath away.
While many other glaciers around the world are retreating, Hubbard Glacier continues to thicken and grow (a process known as advancing), making it one of the best glaciers to see in Alaska. Hubbard calves nearly every day, making for dramatic views as ice crashes into Disenchantment Bay.
Dawes Glacier opens into one of Alaska’s lesser-known gems, Endicott Arm Fjord. A popular way to enjoy this rugged wild frontier is by sailing through the 30-mile stretch of Endicott Arm, where you’ll see towering granite cliffs, dozens of gushing waterfalls, and wildlife including harbor seals, bald eagles, sea ducks, and maybe even moose.
The journey ends at the spectacular Dawes Glacier, which stands at over 600 feet tall and a half-mile wide. You’ll watch as this mammoth glacier dramatically sheds icebergs into the sea below.
Out of the over 40 glaciers that make up the Juneau Icefield, Mendenhall Glacier is possibly the most recognizable and one of the best glaciers in Alaska to visit. It’s located in Tongass National Forest, the largest protected forest in the United States, which spans almost 17 million acres.
Inside Tongass National Forest, you can hike up one of the trails to see incredible vistas of the Mendenhall Glacier, as well as spot local wildlife, including the park’s famous beavers.
Denver Glacier is nestled nearly six miles into the coastal rainforest of Alaska, closest to the town of Skagway, a small town that retains a feel of the old WIld West.
After touring the town, take a helicopter to snow-capped Denver Glacier and go on an exciting ride with a dog sled team led by a professional guide. After all, Skagway is known as one of the dog sledding capitals of the world.
While in Seward, make sure to visit Kenai Fjords National Park, one of the youngest national parks in the U.S. More than half of the acreage of the park is ice.
Exit Glacier is the only glacier accessible via car at the park. Even if you’re not driving, you can walk from the park’s entrance to the toe of the glacier.
Witness the beauty of Exit Glacier’s sparkling blue ice and see how much it has receded in the last 120 years. During a guided tour, learn all about the plant life that has taken over the terrain after the glacier’s ice melted away. If you’re feeling adventurous, choose one of the several hiking trails available at the park that provide stunning views of the glacier.
Another popular Alaskan tidewater glacier is Holgate Glacier, which is also within Kenai Fjords National Park. Though it’s not Alaska’s biggest glacier, Holgate offers dramatic views as it calves almost a river of ice.
Aialik is one of the largest tidewater glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park. During the journey to the glacier, keep your eyes open for animals like sea lions, porpoises, and sea otters. Though Aialik is not as active as Holgate Glacier, it is possible to see the large glacier calving, mainly in May and June.
While in Anchorage, see glaciers and wildlife while soaring up in the sky on a flightseeing tour. Head to the Chugach Mountains, where you’ll find Knik Glacier spanning over 28 miles long.
This mighty glacier used to advance every winter, and by the spring, it would dump millions of gallons of melted ice into Lake George, causing it to overflow. While this natural phenomenon no longer takes place, you can still enjoy the large lake that lives on at the face of Knik Glacier.
What You Should Know Before Hiking A Glacier In Alaska
Before you visit one of these Alaskan glaciers, make sure you understand the logistics and safety protocol of scaling these incredible natural wonders.
There are two main types of glaciers: dry and wet. Dry glaciers are primarily icy and not covered in snow, so hikers can predict the landscape and find potential weak spots as they walk. Wet glaciers, on the other hand, are blanketed in powdery snow and can be harder to navigate, since the snow can conceal changes in terrain.
Hiking a glacier requires special equipment and gear, such as crampons, ice axes, and helmets that make it possible to safely navigate the ice.
You can visit the best glaciers in Alaska on our luxury cruises and cruisetours. Admire these stunning natural wonders from the comfort of a private veranda and embark on shore excursions to see them up close.
Book your Alaska cruise on our website or call one of our vacation specialists at 1-800-852-8086.