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