Harding Icefield Hike: 4 Things About The Fun Adventure

4 mins read

Harding Icefield hike is an ideal location for a day hike. This icefield trail is 8.2 miles long and gets you to a high elevation where you can enjoy the most amazing views.

If you love hiking, Harding Icefield is a must-visit place in Alaska. The shiny blue glaciers and the breathtaking views are famous among travelers.

You can see the glaciers and ice fields. This is one of the most visited glaciers in the world. You can hear its crackling sound. You can know about the natural history and how the glaciers are retreating due to climate change.

What Is Harding Icefield?

Situated in the Kenai mountains, Harding Icefield is one of the four remaining icefields in the USA. Named after the United States President- Warren. G. Harding, this icefield is the largest and is entirely situated in the USA. This icefield is a part of the Kenai Fjords National Park.

The most notable glaciers in this icefield are Exit glacier, McCarty glacier, and Tustumena. Harding Icefield covers over 700 square miles of area.

You can enjoy the winter ambiance during your Harding Icefield hike. The view from the top is worth all the trouble, and you won’t be disappointed.

Learn more about Harding icefield.

Harding Icefield Hike

Harding Icefield hike
Photo by Huzefa Bagwala on Unsplash. Copyright 2019

Even though it’s a 6-8 hours hike, the Harding Icefield trail is worth a try. It is a challenging hike that stretches around 8.2 miles. You can use this trail during spring, summer, and winter. Dogs are not permitted.

The weather can be harsh at times. Therefore you have to dress accordingly. Be prepared for strong winds and storms.

This adventurous journey begins at the Exit glacier area. You can find the trailhead near the exit glacier nature center.

The Beautiful Terrains

Initially, you could see bushy trees and beautiful scenery. Later on, you will see trees overlooking the icefield. These views are soul-satisfying, snd they’ll give you the motivation to keep going.

This hike is not easy as it has a lot of elevation gain. Resisting yourself from stepping on the icefield or glaciers is highly treacherous. You will reach the alpine meadow, and from there, you can get a better view of the place. Finally, you will descend and reach Harding icefield.

You can spend some time there and grasp each glance of the icefield. If you have hiking experience and if you are fit enough, you could do this.

You can also see black bears and bald eagles; make sure you beware of them and take adequate measures to survive in this bear country. Ranger-led walks are also available. It would be best if you did not leave a trace. Camping is allowed only 1/8 mile from the trail on bare land.

Only an emergency shelter is provided in this snow-filled area. The trail conditions may vary according to the time of your visit. The view from the top will give you an idea about the past conditions of the ice field. Always remember to check on the trail conditions before you start your journey.

During July, the trail is usually covered in snow. Don’t forget to take an ample amount of water sustenance.

Stick to the trail and don’t cut switchbacks and cause erosion. Summer rains and fragile conditions lead to erosion on the Harding Icefield hike. Volunteers are an integral part of the maintenance of the trail.

If you don’t have the needed experience, avoid hiking during winters as it is incredibly hazardous. Carry the required equipment and stay safe.

The trail is dirty, covered with snow, or is rocky at certain places. The initial half of your Harding Icefield hike will be through the greenery, and the views will be breathtaking.

The latter half will be terrains. There is a chance for splitting, and you may have to take a new route. So please beware of the eroding land and don’t take shortcuts unless the situation demands it.

oi1 scaled
Photo by Huzefa Bagwala on Unsplash. Copyright 2019

When you reach Harding Icefield, the climate will be entirely different from what you have experienced on the trail. The icy landscape is mind-blowing, and it fascinates a lot of tourists.

You have to be aware of the fragile conditions of the area. High winds, sudden storms, or temperature changes can occur. Sometimes the intensity of sunlight may get higher. Don’t attempt to get into the ice if you are not experienced in glacial travel.

There are no trash cans or restrooms on the trail. So you have to pack out every waste.

Have a good breakfast in the morning before you get to the trail. The Harding Icefield hike is not ideal for a family outing, and children under 15 are not allowed.

Learn more about Harding icefield trail.

Skills Required

  • Route finding
  • Hiking skills
  • Steep snow climbing
  • Rescue
  • Terrain recognition

oi2 scaled
Photo by Rafelia Kurniawan on Unsplash. Copyright 2019

Equipment Required

  • Waterproof footwear
  • Layers of clothing
  • Devices for communication
  • Ice ax
  • Snow gear
  • Shovel
  • Trekking poles
  • Rain jacket and pants

The list given is not entirely exhaustive, so make sure you’re taking all needed precautions before commencing the Harding Icefield hike.


The thick vegetation filled with several berries leads to the inhabitation of black bears. You can see them almost every day. Always be alert. Having a presence of mind can help a lot.

Look out for beats with cubs. If you see a bear cub, then it’s a mother who will probably be near it. Never try to feed them or get close to them. Making noise through your hike is also beneficial.


Giving yourself a little adventure is essential for a healthy soul. Harding Icefield hike will give you a fascinating experience. Even though this is a strenuous hike, it is doable.

The unbelievable views and altitude give a wonderful experience for all the tourists. Be prepared for this hike of a lifetime. Respect the environment and don’t cause any damage. Take a guided tour if needed. Follow the instructions and be safe.

Explore this wonderland, which has ice, glaciers, and ocean all together! The formation of glaciers is evident by observing the place.

Get the Alaskan experience by hiking this adventurous trail. Check out the current conditions of the trail before your visit. You will understand the effects of global warming and what will happen if this condition progresses.

For more Alaskan destinations, click here.

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