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Harding Icefield Hike: 4 Incredible Facts about This Fun Adventure

Harding Icefield hike is an ideal location for a day hike when you are up to an adventure or are bored. 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 sights are famous among travelers.

This is one of the most visited glaciers in the world, where you can learn about the natural history and how the glaciers are retreating due to climate change.

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 access this trail during spring, summer, and winter, although, dogs are not permitted here.

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

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

Things to Look Forward to:

1. The Beautiful Terrains

Initially, you can only see bushy trees and beautiful scenery. But later on, you will see trees overlooking the ice field. These views are soul-satisfying, and 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 ice field. 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, but 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.

Don’t forget to take an ample amount of water sustenance, stick to the trail, and don’t cut the switchbacks.

Summer rains and fragile conditions lead to erosion on the Harding Icefield hike and volunteers are an integral part of the maintenance of the trail.

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

The trail is dirty, covered with snow, or rocky in 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 of 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.

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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 carry any waste you may have.

Remember to 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.

2. Skills Required

  • Route finding
  • Hiking skills
  • Steep snow climbing
  • Rescue
  • Terrain recognition
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Photo by Rafelia Kurniawan on Unsplash. Copyright 2019

3. 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.

4. Wildlife

The thick vegetation filled with several berries leads to the inhabitation of black bears. You can see them almost every day, but always be alert. Having a presence of mind can help a lot in protecting yourself from a bear attack.

Look out for beats with the cubs, because 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 to keep them at bay.


Giving yourself a little adventure that 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, you can also simply take a guided tour if needed.

Explore this wonderland which features ice, glaciers, and ocean all together!

Check out the current conditions of the trail before your visit, as it may save you a lot of effort and time in case the trail is closed.


Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by ayeshayusuf

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