The 8.2-mile out-and-back hike along Harding Icefield is a spectacular outing. Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. 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. 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. The Harding Icefield collects more than 400 inches of new snow each winter to replenish what evaporation and the glaciers take away. Please respect their hard work by sticking to the trail. Overlooking the Harding Icefield is the reward for a difficult hike. Starting on the valley floor, the trail winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passes though heather filled meadows and ultimately climbs well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the Icefield. 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. Guests are in for a remarkable day hike on an 8.2 mile loop along the Harding Icefield 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. The forest slowly opens up as the trail steepens and you start some long switchbacks. This trail is a tough day hike, gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in only 4 miles. Take precautions and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Keep your eyes open! How to Hike the Harding Icefield Trail Getting to the Harding Icefield Trail To reach the beginning of the Harding Icefield trail. Then went on to the harding icefield trail. No reservations are required. Check. 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. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October. We were blessed — such days are not common in this area. Mostly vertical, it can be a real A** whupper, but ohhhhh, the reward is sooooo worth it. From the very beginning, this trail climbs upward, starting with switchbacks through the forest. The path is a series of loops that lead out to different overlook points of the Exit Glacier. The hike starts from the foot of Exit Glacier just outside Seward and takes you to the top of the enormous Harding Icefield. Be prepared! Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. For this reason, it’s best to treat the hike as a full-day excursion and set out in the early morning! The 8.2-mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail is a spectacular day hike leaving from the Exit Glacier Area. You could, if you like “posting” which is hiking in extremely deep snow. The Harding Icefield trailhead is on the right side of the path. The nearby town of Seward averages 72 inches of rain per year. Camping is allowed off the Harding Icefield Trail … Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. How to Hike Harding Icefield - Exit Glacier | Alaska - YouTube Pack it out. And then you get to the top where you will see the incredible Harding Icefield… Be especially on the lookout for mother bears with cubs. A short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. Even a short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. 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. Hikers can expect sweeping views of the Exit Glacier area … It was a warm, sunny July day when my wife and I hiked the Harding Icefield trail. Camping is permitted along the Harding Icefield Trail corridor, but you must set up camp at least 1/8 mile from the trail on bare rock or snow. 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. 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 trail is strenuous! Throughout the entire hike … 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 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. 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. It has everything; amazing scenery and wildlife. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. When planning a trip in these conditions, we recommend that visitors have mountaineering skills, equipment, and experience to travel safely in this terrain. Avalanche hazards can exist in late spring and early summer as well. Of all the wonderful hiking trails in the Seward area, the Harding Icefield trail is my favorite. Hiker at the end of the Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs. Ability Level: Difficult. 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. Pack out all litter. Good shorter options with scenic views are Marmot Meadows (1.4 mi one way) or Top of the Cliffs (2.4 mi one way). It seemed like we hiked for hours (although only a couple) trying to make our way to the lookout over the Harding Icefield. The edges of the Exit Glacier are skirted while hiking the trail, and keen ears can listen to the cracking ice. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. Stay on the trail. 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. Harding Icefield Trail For physically fit hikers, a strenuous four-mile trail parallels the glacier’s north edge on a 3,000-foot ascent to the ice field, offering spectacular views of the glacier and surrounding mountains along the way. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. 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. The whole trail takes approximately 8 hours: about four hours to hike up and about 3-4 hours to descend. That slope down is very steep, but allows you to get very close. Be prepared! Toilet paper should be packed out with other trash. The trail ascends steeply over the 4.1 miles, gaining around 3500' of elevation. Apparently it was a toll road. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. 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. The scenery is incredible as you hike up the mountain and get increasingly better views of the glacier and the Kenai Mountains. New snow could be found on the trail during the fall. Exit Glacier … Hike with a ranger. Watch for wildlife throughout your hike, as bears, mountain goats, hoary marmots, and others, have all been seen from the trail. The Harding Icefield is the park's crown jewel, almost 714 square miles of ice up to a mile thick. Black bears are spotted almost everyday from the Harding Icefield Trail. The hike to the end of the trail is only 4.1 miles long, but you are a world away from everything else. There are ample opportunities for breaks on the way up as well either to rest or to enjoy the view and have a snack. The first quarter-mile (0.4 km) is through dense cottonwood and alder passing a few small cascades. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. NPS Photo / F. North. It feeds nearly three dozen glaciers flowing out of the mountains, six of them to tidewater. The vegetation along the trail is dense and passes through thickets of salmonberries, a favorite food of black bears. Duration: 5-8 hours. Even a half-mile hike up the trail gives you a panoramic view of the valley floor and the edge of Exit Glacier. Unfortunately you’ll also have to hike on the road to the trail head, which is closed to traffic in the winter. 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. 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. You may see the cubs first, possibly up a tree, but the mother will be close by. Allow at least 6–8 hours to hike to the end of the trail and back. Camping is not permitted in the shelter at the top of the Icefield trail – it is for emergency use only. Carry plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person), or bring along a filter - untreated water from streams along the trail may contain Giardia, a parasite that can cause severe abdominal distress. The hike up to the Harding Icefield is a strenuous, 7.7 mile roundtrip, hike that gains 3000 feet. Please respect their hard work by sticking to the trail. This is bear country! Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. Planning to Camp? The trailhead is located near the nature center. 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. The surface can be muddy, slippery, rocky and include snow and ice depending on the time of year. 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. It is strenuous, but throughout the hike, and especially at the end, hikers are highly rewarded for their efforts. Stay on the trail. Price: $80/pp. Some of it melts but a lot of it does not, and it’s compressed into dark blue ice over the next three or four decades. Snow can often still be found on the trail until late-June to early-July. Otherwise you are spending all of your energy getting up just in time to head back down, and it will tucker you out. Seward residents generally ignored the huge icefield west of town before 1922. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. View from the end of the Harding Icefield Trail. Total Length: 8.2 Miles RT 3000 ft Elevation Gain. Follow the principles of Leave No Trace – limit group size, find a camp spot that is out of sight from the trail, and avoid crushing fragile vegetation. 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. Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield Are Conveniently Located And Easy To Get To. As an out and back trail, hike as far as you would like. Make noise when you hike to avoid surprising a bear. Rangers-led hikes along the Harding Icefield Trail often occur during the summer. Altogether the hike to and from Harding Icefield is 8.2 miles. There are no garbage cans or toilet facilities along the trail. 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. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. 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. The Harding Icefield hike in Alaska easily makes our top 3 list of most memorable and wow-factor hikes. About 3.9 miles in, we could finally see what looked like the end of the planet, and in some ways it was. Trail Guide: Hiking to Alaska’s Exit Glacier & Harding Icefield (8.2 miles / 3500′ / 6+ hours) Trail Guides October 19, 2017 Long before I reached the last marker post, the Harding Icefield Trail at Exit Glacier had earned a place as one of my top 5-day hikes ever. The construction of the Spruce Creek trail that year, however, made it possible to view the upper portions of the icecap, and President Harding's promise to visit the territory was sufficient to bestow his name on the feature. 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. Just know that if you go down, you're going to have a steep 10-15 minute hike back up to the shelter. Harding Ice Field Trail is a 8.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Seward, Alaska that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. That is just a little over 1000ft per mile, making the trail very steep and suitable only for hikers in good condition. Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information. Walks depart from the Exit Glacier Nature Center. Many of these challenges exist during the shoulder seasons (Oct, Nov, May, Jun) as well, when the trail will be covered in varying amounts of snow. Want some company? This guy gave us a glassy stare as we walked by. Looking across Exit Glacier The trail winds its way through brush for a ways and eventually leads above the tree line. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. If you have to “go”, dig a small cat hole at least 100 feet from the trail or from any streams or water sources. 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. Glaciers And Glory: The Harding Icefield Trail. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Go to the right to start the Harding Icefield trail. Following the Glacier Overlook Trail for 0.4 miles (0.64 km), the Harding Icefield Trail branches off to the right (well-marked). Carry plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person). Necessary skills include route-finding, steep snow climbing and descending, self-arrest, and avalanche terrain recognition and rescue. 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. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. Steep hike We first did the glacier overlook which is short 0.5 mile roundtrip hike. Length 8.2 mi Elevation gain 3,812 ft Route type Out & Back The trail is strenuous! chachaSH/Tripadvisor. Be sure to backfill your cat hole when you are done. In the spring of 2016 Exit Glacier Guides will be offering two expeditions onto the Harding Icefield for one week each. Though pets are prohibited on this trail, service animals are able to accompany visitors.