Carving an ancient path through Chugach National Forest, Spencer Glacier towers over iceberg-studded Spencer Lake and the surrounding recreational area, where visitors can kayak, hike, camp, and soak up only-in-Alaska natural splendor.
It’s located approximately 60 miles south of Anchorage, and accessible in the summer via a whistle stop on the Alaska Railroad’s regularly scheduled Glacier Discovery Train. Ride the train along the Turnagain Arm coast, through boreal forest and past breathtaking mountain range, then up the Placer River Valley, where a short hike takes visitors to the edge of the lake and the foot of the glacier.
In the winter, visitors can reach the glacier via snowmobile tour, zipping across the frozen lake past pillars of crystalline blue ice.
The developed recreation area is a relatively new addition to the national forest, with the whistle stop completed in 2007. Explore it solo or with a guide: The U.S. Forest Service offers regularly scheduled guided walking tours in the summer, and independent guide services lead float trips across the lake and down the Placer River. Paddle up to eye-level glacier views, stretch your legs with a stroll along the shoreline, or find an unexpected architectural uniquity — the nearby 280-foot Placer River Pedestrian Bridge, “believed to be the longest clear-span glulam timber truss bridge in North America,” according to Architect Magazine.
Visitors craving a longer trek can make the climb up the Spencer Bench Trail toward the Spencer Bench public use cabin (available for advance reservations). The trail ascends approximately 1,800 feet over the course of three miles, and the cabin comes with sprawling views of the glacier and the river valley below.
Area campsites provide an additional overnight option (bookable via the Alaska Railroad), and the Spencer Glacier whistle stop also hosts a covered shelter and restroom facilities.