Glacier View: 1-mile loop
Edge of the Glacier: 1.5-miles – one way
Surface: Accessible and More Developed
Exit Glacier is one of the thirty-five glaciers that flow off the 500-square-mile Harding Icefield, the central feature of Kenai Fjords National Park, and the Exit Glacier area is the only road-accessible section of the park. The glacier is now approximately 2.5 miles long, but it has retreated rapidly in the last couple of hundred years, in earlier days the terminus was 8 miles down the Resurrection River valley, roughly where the valley meets the Seward Highway today.
Three miles north of downtown Seward, turn west off the Seward Highway onto Herman Leier Road, drive about 8.6 miles to the Exit Glacier area of Kenai Fjords National Park and park in the parking area at the end of the road. Follow the paved trail that leads out of the parking area to begin your hike.
The Forest Service’s Resurrection River Trailhead (see the Russian Lakes hike) is on the right (north) side of the road to Exit Glacier, about 7 miles from the Seward Highway.
These two designated short trails are a good introduction to glaciers and the landscape they leave behind as they retreat-an especially hot topic these days as so many Alaska glaciers are shrinking in the warming climate. There is a seasonal ranger station and nature center near the trailhead and a small, tent-only, walk-in campground nearby. In summer park staff usually lead hikes to the glacier and give talks and children’s programs at the nature center, see the website or contact the park for details.
The first 0.2 mile of the trail system is paved and accessible, leading to an interpretive shelter that houses displays about the glacier and the animals that live in the glacier’s neighborhood. Beyond the shelter, the two forks of the trail system divide. Walking all the trails adds up to a stroll of roughly 4 miles.
As far as hikes go, I often refer to this trail as the ‘Disney Park Trail’ as you will encounter large groups of slowly meandering people, and gaggles of baby-strollers that you will have to navigate past.
The Glacier View Trail is an accessible loop winding through the forest to a sweeping view of the Exit Glacier valley The overlook provides a panoramic view of Exit Glacier flowing from the Harding Ice field, to the toe at the outwash plain.
The more moderate Edge of the Glacier Trail leads over deglaciated bedrock to the edge of the glacier.A wall of blue ice looms ahead as you stroll to a close up view point: For safety’s sake, keep your distance: A number of years ago falling ice killed a visitor posing for a photo next to the face of the glacier. While exploring the Exit Glacier area, look to the north of the glacier for black bears and mountain goats feeding on the brushy slope. You’re more likely to spot animals here early in the summer, they follow the retreating snow line up, feeding on new green growth as it emerges.Also look and listen for warblers, magpies, swallows, and golden-crowned sparrows near the trails.
The trail to the Harding Icefield overlook branches off the Exit Glacier trails.
The Exit Glacier trails are open only to foot and wheelchair traffic, and no pets are allowed. There are several shuttle-service options from Seward to Exit Glacier for travelers without vehicles, check the park website or contact the park for details.
It is not recommended that visitors go to the terminus of the glacier because the creek is deep, fast moving, and constantly changing.