"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.
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.
Drive through the nearby Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel for a 4.5-hour glacier cruise from Whittier. The ship heads into Prince William Sound for views of Beloit and Blackstone glaciers in Blackstone Bay.
As you snap photos and take in the vista, you might notice a crewmember with a net hoisting a small berg aboard. You’re in for a treat; the crew shares the haul. There’s often a show and tell with ice aboard ship. On boats with a galley, ask for glacier ice in a soft drink or as a signature glacier margarita.
Good times with glaciers continue over dinner. Stop off in Girdwood and ride the tram up to Seven Glaciers Restaurant. The restaurant pairs one of the best wine cellars in the state with views of seven hanging glaciers in the Chugach Mountains.
Day 2: Steel and Ice
Order breakfast at a local spot and have them box up some sandwiches for later. Then board the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train at the Anchorage depot.
Find out why they call one section of the ride Grandview. The train departs the city and rolls south past Spencer, Bartlett and Trail glaciers. If you’re up for more exercise, book a stop at the Spencer Glacier whistle stop for kayaking amid the icebergs or rafting on the Placer River.
Glaciers make more than just ice. The finest spas use glacial mud in their treatments. Schedule a session late in the day back in Anchorage or pick some up glacial mud in a local boutique to take home.
Day 3: Footprints on a Glacier
By the third day you’ve seen more glaciers than you can count (you’ve even tasted one). 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 in the shadow of North America’s tallest mountains. You can venture out for a snow day in the middle of summer.
Even Anchorage’s tap water is from a glacial lake. 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.