Alaska Glacier Trail Hike with optional Ice Climbing
Hike through an ecological timeline and lush rain forest to the mighty Mendenhall Glacier! On this active adventure, you will be introduced to glacier trekking and the natural history of the area.
Your professional guide will instruct you step-by-step on how to trek in crampons and use an ice ax on glacial terrain.
The trip begins with a drive from your pick up point to the West Glacier Trailhead in the Mendenhall Valley. At the trailhead, you’ll be outfitted with a backpack that includes all of your necessary glacier gear before embarking on a 4.5 mile trail hike to the glacier through a temperate rain forest.
This hiking tour to Mendenhall Glacier begins with 4 miles through towering Sitka Spruce and Hemlock in the largest temperate rainforest in the world. The trail becomes less defined as you follow your guide through dense brush, beaver ponds, and up rock scrambles. The trail is strenuous with about 800 feet in vertical elevation gain, and requires you to be sure-footed while crossing slippery stones and rock screes. It is all worth it when you climb the final ridge, and the jagged face of the glacier bursts into view with its river of ice coursing behind it.
The glacier is in constant change and its features disappear and reappear over the course of the season. After strapping on your micro-spikes, your guide will take you on a tour of the glacier's accessible features which may include exploring the other-worldliness of an ice cave, descending into crevasses carved by melt water, or peering into the deep blue well of a moulin.
If you choose to experience the ice climb, your guide will help you suit up in your glacier gear and locate the safest point to access the glacier. Following a safety briefing, your group will spend about an hour on the ice (dependent on the group’s hiking pace and the weather). You will explore accessible features such as crevasses, ice caves, moulins, melt water streams, pools, etc.
After glacier play time, you will repack your gear and head back to the trailhead. Make sure you save energy for the return hike!
Hike duration will vary according to the speed of the group, so please expect the trip to take up to 8.5 hours from pick-up to return and do not plan any other activities immediately before or after this trip.
Privately Guided Hikes Available
- A specific amount of time on the ice cannot be guaranteed. The amount of time on the glacier is dependent on the group's pace and weather conditions.
- Visiting specific features such as ice caves, moulins, etc. cannot be guaranteed due to the constantly changing nature of the Mendenhall Glacier. Your guide will assess the hazards on the day of the trip to determine if a particular area is safe to trek upon or enter the ice caves.
- Must be capable of hiking up to 6.5 hours, covering about 9 total miles, while carrying backpack weighing about 10 lbs (backpack provided).
- Must wear sturdy hiking boots that provide good ankle support while hiking on uneven, rocky terrain.
- Minimum age of 10 years. If you have children under 10, booking a private hike is be necessary.
- All participants will be required to sign a waiver form before beginning the hike.
Trip Activities: Hiking, Glacier trekking, Optional Ice Climbing
Glacier Trek/Ice Climb Time: Sample Itinerary (about 7.5 hours total time):
- 30 minutes transportation from cruise ship harbor to trailhead
- 30 minutes Gear up and orientation
- 2 hour hike to glacier
- 30 minute introduction to glacier trekking
- 1 hour glacier trekking and ice climbing
- 2 hour hike back to trailhead
- 30 minute transportation back to cruise ship harbor
Tour Operator Provides: Certified guide, mountaineering gear, backpack, rain jacket and pants, hearty snack/bottled water, roundtrip transportation.
You Bring: Sturdy hiking shoes or boots, comfortable hiking pants (rain pants suggested), warm hat, fleece gloves, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- The amount of time on the ice cannot be guaranteed. The time available is dependent on the group's pace, skill and weather conditions.
- The glacier is always changing, so the features available to explore will vary over time. Specific features cannot be guaranteed. Your guide will assess the hazards on the day of the trip to determine if a particular area is safe to trek upon or enter the ice caves.
- This trip operates in all safe weather conditions as determined by your guide. Please dress appropriately.
- If you are interested in climbing with a top rope or wish a slower pace or more customizable hike, please request a privately guided hike. If you sign up for this hike and your pace is slow and it significantly inhibits the pace of the rest of the group, another will be hired to lead you and the tour operator will charge an additional fee of $250 per person for each person in your party.