Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. That slope down is very steep, but allows you to get very close. Allow at least 6–8 hours to hike to the end of the trail and back. Apparently it was a toll road. Go to the right to start the Harding Icefield trail. 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. From the very beginning, this trail climbs upward, starting with switchbacks through the forest. The 8.2-mile out-and-back hike along Harding Icefield is a spectacular outing. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. It is strenuous, but throughout the hike, and especially at the end, hikers are highly rewarded for their efforts. 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 trailhead is located near the nature center. The trail is strenuous! Altogether the hike to and from Harding Icefield is 8.2 miles. Hikers can expect sweeping views of the Exit Glacier area … Seward residents generally ignored the huge icefield west of town before 1922. You could, if you like “posting” which is hiking in extremely deep snow. 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. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. 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. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs. When planning a trip in these conditions, we recommend that visitors have mountaineering skills, equipment, and experience to travel safely in this terrain. 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 Harding Icefield hike in Alaska easily makes our top 3 list of most memorable and wow-factor hikes. The path is a series of loops that lead out to different overlook points of the Exit Glacier. The scenery is incredible as you hike up the mountain and get increasingly better views of the glacier and the Kenai Mountains. Duration: 5-8 hours. The hike starts from the foot of Exit Glacier just outside Seward and takes you to the top of the enormous 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). Steep hike We first did the glacier overlook which is short 0.5 mile roundtrip hike. You may see the cubs first, possibly up a tree, but the mother will be close by. NPS Photo / F. North. 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. Even a short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. Pack out all litter. Camping is not permitted in the shelter at the top of the Icefield trail – it is for emergency use only. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. The Harding Icefield is the park's crown jewel, almost 714 square miles of ice up to a mile thick. Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. A short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. It was a warm, sunny July day when my wife and I hiked the Harding Icefield trail. Guests are in for a remarkable day hike on an 8.2 mile loop along the Harding Icefield Trail. This trail is a tough day hike, gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in only 4 miles. Black bears are spotted almost everyday from the Harding Icefield Trail. How to Hike Harding Icefield - Exit Glacier | Alaska - YouTube That is just a little over 1000ft per mile, making the trail very steep and suitable only for hikers in good condition. Watch for wildlife throughout your hike, as bears, mountain goats, hoary marmots, and others, have all been seen from the trail. Take precautions and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Be sure to backfill your cat hole when you are done. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. Avalanche hazards can exist in late spring and early summer as well. Overlooking the Harding Icefield is the reward for a difficult hike. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. Hike with a ranger. Then went on to the harding icefield trail. The 8.2-mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail is a spectacular day hike leaving from the Exit Glacier Area. 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. How to Hike the Harding Icefield Trail Getting to the Harding Icefield Trail To reach the beginning of the Harding Icefield trail. The trail ascends steeply over the 4.1 miles, gaining around 3500' of elevation. Just know that if you go down, you're going to have a steep 10-15 minute hike back up to the shelter. 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. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. Necessary skills include route-finding, steep snow climbing and descending, self-arrest, and avalanche terrain recognition and rescue. 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. Throughout the entire hike … Be especially on the lookout for mother bears with cubs. The first quarter-mile (0.4 km) is through dense cottonwood and alder passing a few small cascades. This is bear country! Glaciers And Glory: The Harding Icefield Trail. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. Want some company? 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. The edges of the Exit Glacier are skirted while hiking the trail, and keen ears can listen to the cracking ice. Be prepared! 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. The whole trail takes approximately 8 hours: about four hours to hike up and about 3-4 hours to descend. 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. 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. The vegetation along the trail is dense and passes through thickets of salmonberries, a favorite food of black bears. Check. 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. Mostly vertical, it can be a real A** whupper, but ohhhhh, the reward is sooooo worth it. 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.