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Harding Icefield Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (7)

A tough trail that rewards hikers with sweeping views of the Exit Glacier.


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Map Key

3.8

Miles

6.1

KM

Point to Point

3,504' 1,068 m

High

505' 154 m

Low

3,011' 918 m

Up

19' 6 m

Down

15%

Avg Grade (9°)

49%

Max Grade (26°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The Exit Glacier Area is open year round. Around mid-November, when the snow season really begins, the road to Exit Glacier is closed to vehicles but accessible to a range of winter recreation including dogsleds, snowmobiles, XC skiers and fat bikes. The road usually stays closed until early May, so be sure to check the current conditions if you are visiting during the off season.

Description

The Harding Icefield Trailhead is located on the right about 1/3 of mile along the Exit Glacier Paved Path.

Starting on the valley floor, the trail meanders through alder and cottonwood forest as well as heather-filled meadows. The trail rises through the forest and ultimately ends up well above tree line to an awe-inspiring vantage point of the icefield. The peak of the trail is a peephole to ice ages past. A horizon of snow and ice stretches as far as the eye can see, broken only by an occasional lonely peak, known as a nunatak.

The trail is quite strenuous. You'll gain roughly 1,000 vertical feet over every mile. While the view from the top is definitely worth the extra work, you don't need to hike all the way there to experience the aspects of this trail that make it so special. A short hike up the trail provides dramatic views of the valley and Exit Glacier's end.

Flora & Fauna

Please stay on the trail. Alpine plant life is very fragile. Cutting switchbacks causes tremendous erosion. Volunteers donate their time to help maintain this trail - please respect their efforts by staying on the trail.

This is bear country! The plants along the trail are dense and include salmonberry bushes, a popular food with black bears. Black bears are seen almost every day on this trail. Take care and be conscious of your environment at all times. Making noise as you hike can help you avoid startling a bear. Be particularly alert if you encounter a mother bear with cubs. You're likely to see the cubs first, but you can be sure the mother will be close by. Never put yourself between a mother and her cubs. More info on bears can be found here.

Contacts

Shared By:

Kristen Arendt

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 7 votes

#6912

Overall
  4.6 from 7 votes
5 Star
57%
4 Star
43%
3 Star
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2 Star
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1 Star
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Trail Rankings

#78

in Alaska

#6,912

Overall
5 Views Last Month
1,749 Since Apr 22, 2016
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

There are opportunities to explore the end of the trail, especially as the snow levels recede. Take the opportunity to take in the different views, even if it means taking one of the small trails that fan out at the top.
Aug 17, 2019 near Bear Creek, AK
Exit Glacier from Harding Ice Field Trail
Sep 2, 2018 near Bear Creek, AK
As you approach the end of the trail, the Harding Icefield spreads out before you. It is an awesome sight to see the source of over 40 glaciers.
Aug 17, 2019 near Bear Creek, AK
Exit Glacier/Harding Ice Field, Seward, AK
Jul 20, 2016 near Bear Creek, AK
Harding Ice Field Trail, Kenai Fjords.
Apr 19, 2016 near Bear Creek, AK
This is the Harding Icefield Trail that runs along Exit Glacier  (you can see in the background) in Kenai Fjords National Park. The trail ends at the Harding Icefield with great panoramic view. This was about 2 miles into the 8.2 mile roundtrip out and back hike.
Apr 16, 2015 near Bear Creek, AK

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Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 89 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Jun 13, 2022
Kip Sprout
Went ice climbing on the glacier 5mi — 6h 00m
Jun 10, 2021
Moci Fan
Aug 28, 2020
Kyungmin K
Aug 19, 2019
Axiom Inc
Jun 3, 2019
Jason Draper
Sep 1, 2017
Chris Rhie
4mi
Jul 3, 2017
Kun Zheng
8.2mi
Sep 6, 2016
Saran Vellanki