Alaska Might Be Nicknamed The Last Frontier But The 49th U.S. State Is certainly not lacking in gorgeous sites and exciting experiences for the first time visitor.
The towering mountains, wildlife, the Northern Lights. These are just some of the must-sees while you are in Alaska. However, there is another natural wonder that is worth traveling for and having a glimpse of.
Glaciers. These thickened ice masses made of fallen snow can be found all over Alaska. In fact, there are an estimated 100,000 glaciers within the state. Most of these are inaccessible but there is a handful that tourists can easily get to. These include Byron Glacier, Matanuska Glacier, Mendenhall Glacier, and Exit Glacier.
Why should you go to glacier sightseeing?
The majority of the state is land, with an area approximately 2.5 times the size of Texas. Some peaks have never been climbed by people and the sweeping, mountainous panorama suggests an unshakable permanence. However, the reality is that much of this landscape is shifting at an alarming pace. So if you had the opportunity to see the wonders of Alaska, now is definitely the time to do it.
How can you see these famed glaciers?
Alaska’s famed glaciers can be viewed from different vantage points: water, air, and land. Lets take a closer look at each of these options.
Kayaking, Rafting, Canoeing, and Jet Skiing.
The water offers the most intimate way to experience the awesome scale of Alaska’s glaciers.
For example, tidewater glaciers on Prince William Sound and the Kenai Fjords extend down from mountain peaks and out into the sea. One of the most dramatic phenomena you can witness here is the unleashing of a house-sized block of ice into the ocean. These massive hunks of ice can be hundreds of feet high and miles long, so you can hear ice crackling and sizzling as trapped air bubbles slowly escape.
Kayakers should keep a safe distance because the resulting icebergs can create enormous waves when they hit and can continue bobbing up and down for a full day or more until they float out into open waters or beach themselves along the Alaskan shoreline.
From the air, you won’t feel the power of calving, but you will be able to see icefields. These massive icy sheets that are dozens of miles long.
They spill into valleys to create glaciers. A classic example would be The Harding Icefield near Seward and it is one of the few icefields easily accessible on foot. You can see reach the edge of the icefield at Exit Glacier near Seward.
Also best seen from a plane are piedmont glaciers in Southeast Alaska. Piedmont glaciers are made up of several glaciers that join at the foot of a mountain range, creating a fan-like pattern of ice and rock.
Roadside Glaciers, ATV Tours, Hikes, and Ice Climbs.
Joining a land-based tour allows you to have direct access to glaciers. You can take an ATV explore the Alaskan terrain or drive over rocks, splash through the mud.
Some tours allow you to drive right up to the face of the glacier so you can gaze at the peaks of blue ice surrounding you.
Alternatively, you can explore ice caves and crevasses on foot with a guided hiking tour that will take you up to, and sometimes directly onto a glacier.
No matter how you decide to explore Alaska’s glaciers, you won’t be disapointed with these amazing natural wonders. Glaciers are truly one of the best things to do in Alaska.