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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. Black bears are spotted almost everyday from the Harding Icefield Trail. The nearby town of Seward averages 72 inches of rain per year. 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. 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. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. Make noise when you hike to avoid surprising a bear. That slope down is very steep, but allows you to get very close. Steep hike We first did the glacier overlook which is short 0.5 mile roundtrip hike. The hike starts from the foot of Exit Glacier just outside Seward and takes you to the top of the enormous Harding Icefield. It was a warm, sunny July day when my wife and I hiked the Harding Icefield trail. It seemed like we hiked for hours (although only a couple) trying to make our way to the lookout over the Harding Icefield. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. Otherwise you are spending all of your energy getting up just in time to head back down, and it will tucker you out. This trail is a tough day hike, gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in only 4 miles. As an out and back trail, hike as far as you would like. The path is a series of loops that lead out to different overlook points of the Exit Glacier. When planning a trip in these conditions, we recommend that visitors have mountaineering skills, equipment, and experience to travel safely in this terrain. Following the Glacier Overlook Trail for 0.4 miles (0.64 km), the Harding Icefield Trail branches off to the right (well-marked). Watch for wildlife throughout your hike, as bears, mountain goats, hoary marmots, and others, have all been seen from the trail. Check. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Glaciers And Glory: The Harding Icefield Trail. Altogether the hike to and from Harding Icefield is 8.2 miles. 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. New snow could be found on the trail during the fall. Seward residents generally ignored the huge icefield west of town before 1922. 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. Avalanche hazards can exist in late spring and early summer as well. And then you get to the top where you will see the incredible Harding Icefield… Overview. 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. Price: $80/pp. Please respect their hard work by sticking to the trail. Of all the wonderful hiking trails in the Seward area, the Harding Icefield trail is my favorite. The forest slowly opens up as the trail steepens and you start some long switchbacks. View from the end of the Harding Icefield Trail. It has everything; amazing scenery and wildlife. Even a half-mile hike up the trail gives you a panoramic view of the valley floor and the edge of Exit Glacier. The 8.2-mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail is a spectacular day hike leaving from the Exit Glacier Area. 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. 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. Ability Level: Difficult. A short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. If you have to “go”, dig a small cat hole at least 100 feet from the trail or from any streams or water sources. Unfortunately you’ll also have to hike on the road to the trail head, which is closed to traffic in the winter. The trail ascends steeply over the 4.1 miles, gaining around 3500' of elevation. Carry plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person). The scenery is incredible as you hike up the mountain and get increasingly better views of the glacier and the Kenai Mountains. How to Hike Harding Icefield - Exit Glacier | Alaska - YouTube 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. 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 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. 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. chachaSH/Tripadvisor. The Harding Icefield hike in Alaska easily makes our top 3 list of most memorable and wow-factor hikes. This guy gave us a glassy stare as we walked by. 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. Planning to Camp? From the very beginning, this trail climbs upward, starting with switchbacks through the forest. NPS Photo / F. North. Please respect their hard work by sticking to the trail. 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 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. 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. 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 Harding Icefield trailhead is on the right side of the path. Stay on the trail. Camping is not permitted in the shelter at the top of the Icefield trail – it is for emergency use only. About 3.9 miles in, we could finally see what looked like the end of the planet, and in some ways it was. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. The hike to the end of the trail is only 4.1 miles long, but you are a world away from everything else. Be sure to backfill your cat hole when you are done. 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 trail is strenuous! Necessary skills include route-finding, steep snow climbing and descending, self-arrest, and avalanche terrain recognition and rescue. Pack it out. The trailhead is located near the nature center. This is bear country! Throughout the entire hike … Though pets are prohibited on this trail, service animals are able to accompany visitors. 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. Hikers can expect sweeping views of the Exit Glacier area … The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October. Rangers-led hikes along the Harding Icefield Trail often occur during the summer. You may see the cubs first, possibly up a tree, but the mother will be close by. 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. 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. 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. That is just a little over 1000ft per mile, making the trail very steep and suitable only for hikers in good condition. Walks depart from the Exit Glacier Nature Center. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Icefield for one week each get very close lead out to different overlook points the. 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