Otherwise you are spending all of your energy getting up just in time to head back down, and it will tucker you out. While doing the entire hike of 8.2-miles up to the icefield is sure to be unforgettable, even a shorter hike affords amazing views of the valley below and Exit Glacier’s terminus. Hiker at the end of the Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. The Harding Icefield collects more than 400 inches of new snow each winter to replenish what evaporation and the glaciers take away. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Check on trail conditions before starting out - the upper portion of the trail is often covered with snow through early July, and there may be avalanche danger. It was a warm, sunny July day when my wife and I hiked the Harding Icefield trail. NPS Photo / F. North. The top of the trail is a window to past ice ages - a horizon of ice and snow that stretches as far as the eye can see, broken only by an occasional nunatak, or lonely peak. Altogether the hike to and from Harding Icefield is 8.2 miles. Of all the wonderful hiking trails in the Seward area, the Harding Icefield trail is my favorite. Looking over a corner of the ice field is a humbling experience, one that leaves behind a sense of magnitude and awe that stays with visitors for a long time after they leave Alaska. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. The hike starts out in lush meadows; it was late June and the snow had recently melted off leaving beautiful wildflowers in it's wake. Please respect their hard work by sticking to the trail. Although the view from the top is well worth the effort, you need not hike all the way to the top to experience the wonders of this trail. Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information. Looking across Exit Glacier The trail winds its way through brush for a ways and eventually leads above the tree line. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs. Hiking Harding Ice Field means getting up above the Exit Glacier and onto the Ice Field, which for me would mean one or more overnights up there to make it worth while. No reservations are required. Our group size will be limited to 6 clients for each trip and will spend our time exploring the vast main body of the Harding. The 8.2-mile roundtrip hike to the Harding Icefield overlook is strenuous—you’ll gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with each of the four miles to the top. The Harding Icefield at the top is the real treat, with scenic views over same ice that covered much of Alaska 23,000 years ago in the Pleistocene Epoch, although the trail offers more awe-inspiring experiences along the way. If you have to “go”, dig a small cat hole at least 100 feet from the trail or from any streams or water sources. Overlooking the Harding Icefield is the reward for a difficult hike. How to Hike the Harding Icefield Trail Getting to the Harding Icefield Trail To reach the beginning of the Harding Icefield trail. The first quarter-mile (0.4 km) is through dense cottonwood and alder passing a few small cascades. Check. The vegetation along the trail is dense and passes through thickets of salmonberries, a favorite food of black bears. For this reason, it’s best to treat the hike as a full-day excursion and set out in the early morning! Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Located in the Kenai Fjords National Park, the Harding Icefield Trail is 8.8 miles long and is quite strenuous, with an elevation gain of 3,953 feet. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. Steep hike We first did the glacier overlook which is short 0.5 mile roundtrip hike. We were blessed — such days are not common in this area. This guy gave us a glassy stare as we walked by. End of the TrailAbout 3,500 feet above the valley, the trail ends at the edge of Harding Icefield, a vast expanse of snow and ice stretching as far as the eye can see. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. Exit Glacier … Unfortunately you’ll also have to hike on the road to the trail head, which is closed to traffic in the winter. There are ample opportunities for breaks on the way up as well either to rest or to enjoy the view and have a snack. Be especially on the lookout for mother bears with cubs. Stops along the way at Marmot Meadows (1.4 miles) and Top of the Cliff (2.4 miles) provide scenic vistas to take a break during your journey or turn around for a shorter hike. Overview. Even a half-mile hike up the trail gives you a panoramic view of the valley floor and the edge of Exit Glacier. Toilet paper should be packed out with other trash. The trail itself is only 3.8 miles out, but you'll need to access it via the Exit Glacier Paved Path, which adds to the overall distance. The edges of the Exit Glacier are skirted while hiking the trail, and keen ears can listen to the cracking ice. The hike starts from the foot of Exit Glacier just outside Seward and takes you to the top of the enormous Harding Icefield. Total Length: 8.2 Miles RT 3000 ft Elevation Gain. Pack it out. The total distance of the trail is 1.8 miles, however, depending on how many of the loops you take and optional add-ons to the Harding Icefield, you can easily shorten or lengthen the route to meet your hiking group’s needs. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. Allow at least 6–8 hours to hike to the end of the trail and back. Avalanche hazards can exist in late spring and early summer as well. A short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. The trail is strenuous! Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. View from the end of the Harding Icefield Trail. It feeds nearly three dozen glaciers flowing out of the mountains, six of them to tidewater. you can either drive and park at Exit Glacier Car Park or take the Exit Glacier Shuttle that costs $10 return with a few different times to choose from. Recommended equipment includes (but is not limited to) sturdy, warm, waterproof footwear, cold weather clothing including synthetic layers and waterproofing, communication devices (no cell service), trekking poles, ice axe, snowshoes or skis, avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel. During the winter, the Harding Icefield Trail is covered in snow and is considered a “mountaineering route.” You can expect to find steep, snow-covered slopes, difficult route-finding, and avalanche hazards. The scenery is incredible as you hike up the mountain and get increasingly better views of the glacier and the Kenai Mountains. chachaSH/Tripadvisor. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October. Harding Icefield Trail at about 1 mile of the hike and 1000 ft elevation gain Above the treeline, thick wildflowers start to appear, and the combination of alpine glaciated peaks, the forest below, glaciers, river flowing across the valley floor and wildlflowers made it feel like almost hiking in heaven. There are no garbage cans or toilet facilities along the trail. Though pets are prohibited on this trail, service animals are able to accompany visitors. The trailhead is located near the nature center. Camping is allowed off the Harding Icefield Trail … Throughout the entire hike … Apparently it was a toll road. Seward residents generally ignored the huge icefield west of town before 1922. That is just a little over 1000ft per mile, making the trail very steep and suitable only for hikers in good condition. Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. It is strenuous, but throughout the hike, and especially at the end, hikers are highly rewarded for their efforts. Camping is not permitted in the shelter at the top of the Icefield trail – it is for emergency use only. As an out and back trail, hike as far as you would like. Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. How to Hike Harding Icefield - Exit Glacier | Alaska - YouTube In the spring of 2016 Exit Glacier Guides will be offering two expeditions onto the Harding Icefield for one week each. Mostly vertical, it can be a real A** whupper, but ohhhhh, the reward is sooooo worth it. This trail is a tough day hike, gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in only 4 miles. Planning to Camp? The whole trail takes approximately 8 hours: about four hours to hike up and about 3-4 hours to descend. Black bears are spotted almost everyday from the Harding Icefield Trail. The 8.2-mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail is a spectacular day hike leaving from the Exit Glacier Area. Carry plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person). The 8.2-mile out-and-back hike along Harding Icefield is a spectacular outing. It seemed like we hiked for hours (although only a couple) trying to make our way to the lookout over the Harding Icefield. Good shorter options with scenic views are Marmot Meadows (1.4 mi one way) or Top of the Cliffs (2.4 mi one way). Following the Glacier Overlook Trail for 0.4 miles (0.64 km), the Harding Icefield Trail branches off to the right (well-marked). You may see the cubs first, possibly up a tree, but the mother will be close by. The Harding Icefield trailhead is on the right side of the path. Winding through the valley floor, the trail passes through a forest of alder and cottonwood, over meadows abundant in heather with a climactic ascent above the tree line to a stunning vista of the Harding Icefield. After passing the emergency shelter, you can climb up a little more, and then after that, it just goes down and down toward the ice. The hike to the end of the trail is only 4.1 miles long, but you are a world away from everything else. Be sure to backfill your cat hole when you are done. Necessary skills include route-finding, steep snow climbing and descending, self-arrest, and avalanche terrain recognition and rescue. The forest slowly opens up as the trail steepens and you start some long switchbacks. Check on trail conditions before starting out - the upper portion of the trail is often covered with snow through early July and there may be avalanche danger. Be prepared! Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield Are Conveniently Located And Easy To Get To. Stay on the trail. Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. The wildlife on this trail includes plenty of marmots, but there is a very good chance you will see bears and mountain goats as well.