"How close is the glacier?" Ask in Anchorage, and you might get a chuckle. The local's answer – “which one?” – hints at how many are nearby.
With more than 60 glaciers within a day’s travel from Anchorage, this three-day adventure visits some of the biggest and best and includes many different ways to enjoy them without a lot of effort.
Day 1: Hike It, Then Drink It All In
Start the day in Portage Valley with an easy walk to Byron Glacier. The hanging glacier’s name honors famous poet Lord Byron. The view might spark poetic inspiration, but the short, flat trail won’t cause any perspiration. Stop off at the Begich-Boggs visitor center after the hike for more info on the special connection between the Portage Valley and glaciers.
Get a different perspective on Portage’s glaciers. A ship named the Ptarmigan cruises the lake to the face of Portage Glacier, the largest glacier in the valley and one of the most popular in all of Alaska. You’ll learn how Portage Glacier carved the landscape, leaving features etched in rock on its retreat.
The face of the glacier is filled with photo ops, grab a life ring with the ship’s name, or pose with a piece of crystal clear ice hauled up on the deck.
From rumble of glaciers to crack of the bat, head back to Anchorage for a sun-filled evening of baseball. The Anchorage Glacier Pilots play all summer long, and Mulcahy Stadium has a mellow, family vibe perfect for the national past time.
Day 2: Steel and Ice
Order breakfast at a local spot and have the restaurant box up some sandwiches for later. Then board the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train at the Anchorage depot.
Find out why they call a section of the journey “Grandview.” The train rolls south along Turnagain Arm, then tucks into the mountains where few travel without the railroad.
It’s just the first great vista of many. Next up is the past Spencer, Bartlett, and Trail glaciers. Imagine what it must have been like to travel the passes, cross glacial crevasses, and negotiate steep mountains before the age of steam reached Alaska.
Finally, the train enters a big curve designed to slowly tackle the elevation change. The rear cars are a good spot to snap photos of your own train flanked by mountains. In the historic loop district, the train retraces its path back to Anchorage.
Find a cool treat at a local bakery or sweet shop. Still want to chill out, even after the glaciers? You are in good company; Alaskans purchase more ice cream per capita than any other state!
Day 3: Footprints on a Glacier
By the third morning, you’ve seen half a dozen glaciers. Now it’s time to walk on one.
Helicopter or fixed wing flights take off from Anchorage for glaciers views. Even from the air, glaciers seem to stretch on almost to the horizon. Floatplanes from Lake Hood touch down on glacial lagoons in the Chugach Mountains.
Helicopters and planes equipped with skis can land on the glaciers themselves. Step out on to Knik, Colony or other nearby glaciers. Many flightseeing trips to Denali National Park also offer glacier landings. Stand in the shadow of North America’s tallest mountains on Ruth, Kahiltna, Pika or Eldridge glaciers. You can venture out for a snow day in the middle of summer.
Even Anchorage’s water is from glacial Eklutna Lake. It’s great from the tap. Local brewers point to the water quality as a big perk of brewing in the Last Frontier. Find out for yourself. Local brews are the perfect end to your icy escapades. There are more than a dozen craft breweries in Anchorage and nearby. Cheers!