5 Amazing Glaciers in Alaska to visit

Story by: Marike Bredenhann     Date: 5 February 2021    Image by: Unsplash | Kayti Coonjohn

5 minutes reading time United States

Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, USA

The Matanuska Glacier

The Matanuska Glacier, better known as Mat-Su Glacier is only a two-hour drive from Anchorage and is the only glacier accessible by vehicle and a short walk from the road. You can see some of the beauty of the glacier beginning at the parking lot and extending all along the interpretive nature trail of the recreation site in Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site.

The Mat-Su glacier stretches almost 27 miles (43.45 km) long and up 4 miles (6.43 km) wide. She is a beast, but surely a beauty. In the summertime, you can view the beautiful elements in between the cracks and clearings of the ice. Amazingly bright greens and blues all running together. In the winter seasons, you find the fluffy white snow against the blues of the ice that forms a beauty on its own. Although pretty darn cold, you will see breathtaking sites that might not be there for much longer. The glaciers are continuously moving as the seasons’ change and you might just catch the last image that contains those features. The Mat-Su Glacier is Alaska’s most jaw-dropping glacier and a “must” see along your Alaskan tour.

Exit Glacier, Alaska

The Exit Glacier

Exactly as the name states, the glacier has a runoff between two mountains coming from the Harding Ice-field. It forms an exit flow coming from the ice field. The name was given when the first expedition over the Harding Ice-Field was exited and completed down this glacier. The Exit Glacier is also one of the most-watched glaciers as you can see the retreat of the ice visibly every year. But be sure to know, when winter comes, the glacier trails will surely close. At the exit of the glacier or also know as the terminus, the snowfall can get so heavy that you might just get stuck out there without any help.

Two and a half hours drive from Anchorage with a more or less direct road, you can spend the day in the Kenai Fjords National Park and visit this amazing glacier, you will be able to park quite close with your vehicle and then walk the rest of the way. This is such a well know glacier that even Mr. Barack Obama visited the park to view the glacier on his way through Alaska. When spring comes, be sure to add the Exit Glacier to your list of the most amazing Alaskan Glaciers to visit.

Holgate Glacier, Alaska

The Holgate Glacier

The Holgate Glacier is also located in the Kenai Fjords National Park and like the rest of them, flows from the Harding Ice-FIeld. The Harding Ice-Field is the largest icefield contained entirely within the United States and you find her in the Kenai Fjord National Park.

The Holgate Glacier is accessible by kayak and on a clear day, you will be taken aback by the majestic beauty of this glacier. This glacier is a way for wood debris and other debris to reach the bottom and because of all this debris movement, the terminus of Holgate Glacier is covered in deep gorges that break off sporadically and the thundering sound can be heard for miles on end. These broken ice pieces flow freely around you on the water surface and you can see that some of the ice is so dense that it might never fully melt. You can clearly see the different colors of the various elements that you can find in the ice. If kayaking in icy cold waters is for you, then this is the perfect glacier for you. Holgate Glacier is very active and can show you many forms in one day. Be sure to have a look at the weather and check with the local Park Rangers if it is safe for a closeup kayak sail. You don’t want to find yourself trapped in one of those gorges while the ice is breaking off all around you.

Shoup Glacier, Alaska

Shoup Glacier

Shoup Glacier is hidden away just beyond Shoup Bay which is located in the Shoup Bay State Marine Park, just of Port Valdez. You might catch a glimpse of this princess at the far end of the bay but for a close up you would need to take a kayak, small motorboat, or a helicopter. From a bird’s eye view, you would be able to see the deep gorges that have formed over the years, the drainage of Shoup Glacier was used for the gold runoff and that has caused the various colors that reflect from the ice on a clear day.

The beauty of this glacier lies in the steep fall coming off the mountains and running down into the bay. The glacier has the tendency to extend into the bay and freezing over the bay in winter seasons and retracts again come the warmer months. This glacier is extremely active and with various currents flowing into the bay and the constant melting of the ice at the terminus, you might find yourself in some very lively waters before you know and caution should be kept at all times. I find it always best to have a look at the local park websites or the glacier websites to find out what has been happening around the glacier.

Valdez Glacier, Alaska

Valdez Glacier

The Valdez Glacier is just behind the town of Valdez and can be reached just off the highway. This glacier is round about 21 miles (33.8 km) long, I say roundabout because it has been retreating at an alarming rate. In the winter you will find the terminus extending and the Valdez Glacier Lake freezes over. In the summer, the lake defrosts and the terminus retreats again. Every year retreating a little bit further back.

You can take a kayak or a small motorboat out onto the lake to get closer to the glacier and in the winter with a good amount of snow some have even hiked up to the glacier’s summit. This glacier was once a well-used manner of flushing down the runoff from the gold excavations. The runoff has caused deep gorges or also known as crevasses and can be really dangerous during the warmer months when the ice is unstable.

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