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. Altogether the hike to and from Harding Icefield is 8.2 miles. Throughout the entire hike … Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. As an out and back trail, hike as far as you would like. Our group size will be limited to 6 clients for each trip and will spend our time exploring the vast main body of the Harding. 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. Be especially on the lookout for mother bears with cubs. It seemed like we hiked for hours (although only a couple) trying to make our way to the lookout over the Harding Icefield. That is just a little over 1000ft per mile, making the trail very steep and suitable only for hikers in good condition. Seward residents generally ignored the huge icefield west of town before 1922. The 8.2-mile out-and-back hike along Harding Icefield is a spectacular outing. 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. Camping is not permitted in the shelter at the top of the Icefield trail – it is for emergency use only. A short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus. chachaSH/Tripadvisor. Even a half-mile hike up the trail gives you a panoramic view of the valley floor and the edge of Exit Glacier. That slope down is very steep, but allows you to get very close. If you have to “go”, dig a small cat hole at least 100 feet from the trail or from any streams or water sources. 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. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. The trail is strenuous! It was a warm, sunny July day when my wife and I hiked the Harding Icefield trail. The first quarter-mile (0.4 km) is through dense cottonwood and alder passing a few small cascades. 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. 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. Good shorter options with scenic views are Marmot Meadows (1.4 mi one way) or Top of the Cliffs (2.4 mi one way). Camping is allowed off the Harding Icefield Trail … Walks depart from the Exit Glacier Nature Center. 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. 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. The scenery is incredible as you hike up the mountain and get increasingly better views of the glacier and the Kenai Mountains. When planning a trip in these conditions, we recommend that visitors have mountaineering skills, equipment, and experience to travel safely in this terrain. Go to the right to start the Harding Icefield trail. The 8.2-mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail is a spectacular day hike leaving from the Exit Glacier Area. Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information. Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. The surface can be muddy, slippery, rocky and include snow and ice depending on the time of year. Total Length: 8.2 Miles RT 3000 ft Elevation Gain. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Many of these challenges exist during the shoulder seasons (Oct, Nov, May, Jun) as well, when the trail will be covered in varying amounts of snow. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. The trailhead is located near the nature center. Pack out all litter. Black bears are spotted almost everyday from the Harding Icefield Trail. Steep hike We first did the glacier overlook which is short 0.5 mile roundtrip hike. Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. Following the Glacier Overlook Trail for 0.4 miles (0.64 km), the Harding Icefield Trail branches off to the right (well-marked). 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. The construction of the Spruce Creek trail that year, however, made it possible to view the upper portions of the icecap, and President Harding's promise to visit the territory was sufficient to bestow his name on the feature.