Exit Glacier Hike in Alaska, the Ultimate Guide

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Exit Glacier Hike

If you are planning a trip to Alaska, and looking to add the Exit Glacier Hiker, here you can find all you need to know to plan your trip safely. When you hike the Exit Glacier, you can explore the stunning trails, walk very close to an active glacier and learn how the glaciers re-shape a landscape by a glacier’s retreat.

During my 10-day Road Trip in Alaska, my last stop was Seward, and also, it was my favorite place to visit in Alaska. With so much to explore in this area, including the Exit Glacier Hike, makes it a must-stop for any adventure lover.

Located in the Kenai Fjords National Park, the Exit Glacier is a very accessible glacier and you can get to it by car, and it is a very popular destination because of its natural beauty, and easy hikes.

Besides the Exit Glacier being breathtaking to witness, and its beauty is undeniable. But it is also where I felt the effects of the climate change most profoundly and even, depressing when I learned that the glacial retreat at an average rate of 125 feet a year – that is even scary to comprehend. So visit it, and hike the Exit Glacier while you still can – and feel gifted with a glimpse of a disappearing frozen Planet!

In this Exit Glacier Hike guide, you will find all the information about the hikes, the best time to visit, what to pack, and all the helpful tips to make your visit easy and safe.

Enjoy this Valdez, Alaska Guide, and Safe Travels!

exit glacier hike in Alaska

DON’T MISS: The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary

Exit Glacier Hike Overview

LOCATION: Exit Glacier is located in Kenai Fjords National Park, 3.7 miles north of Seward.


WHY EXIT GLACIER: Exit Glacier is one of the 35 glaciers that pour over the Harding Icefield, and it was named after being used as an exit in the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield back in 1968.


HIKING LEVEL: Easy level | Day hiking | Good for kids and families | If you are looking for a challenging hike, you have the option to go hike the Harding Icefield Hiking which is a strenuous hike, also in the area.


TYPE: The Exit Glacier hike is an easy hike with a single train, with a couple of viewpoints and walk loops in nature. There are some steeps on Glacier Overlook Trail.


HIKING LENGTH: 1-mile hike to the Glacier View Loop | 1.8 miles to the Glacier Overlook Trail | 8.2 miles to the Harding Icefield Trail


ELEVATION GAIN: 429 Feet to the Glacier Overlook Trail


FACILITIES: A warming hut with a wood stove and benches is available for day use when visiting the Exit Glacier Area. Pit toilets are also available, located just off the parking area. No potable water is available, so all drinking water should be brought in or properly treated before drinking. Pets ARE NOT allowed on trails.


BEST ACTIVITIES: the trail to the glacier is one of the best places in the country to get a strong visual of the alarming effects of climate change and a chance to attempt to understand how glaciers affect landscapes. It’s the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by road.


BEST TIME TO VISIT: The best time to go to the Exit Glacier is May to October. June-August is the high season. Should seasons are May and September. The roads close during wintertime around the end of October, but the area is open all year round. The Harding Icefield trail closes during winter. Check here for the weather conditions.


CELL PHONE SERVICE: There is no cell phone service at the Exit Glacier.


CHECK THE DAY FORECAST: Before you head to the Exit Glacier and start your hiking, make sure to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly in case it is too cold or raining.

exit glacier hike in Alaska

How to get to the Exit Glacier Hike

Prepare for a scenic drive, with beautiful views, and keep an eye for the chance to see the typical Alaskan wildlife crossing right in front of you.

Exit Glacier is only a two-and-a-half-hour (125 miles) drive from Anchorage, and 3.7 miles north of Seward. Located at the end of the Herman Leirer Road, also known as the Exit Glacier Road (off mile 3 of the Seward Highway AK-9), is the only road in Kenai Fjords National Park

You will see a clear sign signaling the turnoff from Seward  Highway, and the Exit Glacier Road is about 8 miles long scenic drive, with the glacier and the Exit Glacier Nature Center at the end.

If you are driving your own car, you can park at the Parking lot in front of the Nature Center. But note that there is limited parking at Exit Glacier – the busiest hours are from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm.

You can consider taking a bicycle or taking a taxi or shuttle from Seward to the Exit Glacier area – The shuttles leave every hour from downtown Seward, and you can Click here for all the information on the shuttle service.

exit glacier hike in Alaska

Start your Exit Glacier Hike at the Nature Center

  • OPEN DAYS: from the Memorial Day weekend to the Monday of Labor Day weekend.

As soon as you arrive at the parking, you will already see the Nature Center, and here is a great place to start. You can find all the information about the Exit Glacier, the history of this place, and the best hiking trails for you. Also, while here you can check on the Alaska Geographic bookstore.

I hiked the Exit Glacier at the end of September, and even if the Nature Center was already closed for the season, I could find all the information displayed outside of the Visitor’s Center. Here you can find a visual map of the glacier’s location.

Your Exit Glacier hike starts here – The network of short trails that lead from the parking lot at the end of the road include an easy one-mile loop that’s wheelchair friendly. For the more adventurous, the challenging Harding Icefield Trail is a must.

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier View Loop Hike

  • LENGTH: 1 Miles
  • ELEVATION GAIN: 330 and 400 ft
  • ACCESABILITY: Easy hike suitable for for family with children

This is a very easy Exit Glacier hike starting at the Nature Center. It is only 1-mile loop flat hiking and it is accessible for wheelchairs. If you are traveling with kids it is suitable for hiking. Also suitable for elderly people.

I really enjoyed seeing and reading all the signs along the trail where you can read more about the Glacier history, geography, and the effects of the glacier retreating.

Also, you will some signs with numbers and wonder what they are – You will be shocked when finding out that the signs date back to the late 1800s and they indicate where the ice had been in each year and they show how fast the retreating is happening. The signs start along the paved road that leads past the Seward Windsong Lodge to the glacier.

The end of this trail takes you to the glacier viewing area. You can also access the glacier toe from the glacier viewing area which is another 0.5 miles.

But there is no trail, and you will have to cross braided rivers, and if you are not an experienced hiker it is recommended to stick to the trails.

PRO-TIP: Approaching the ice at the toe of the glacier is very dangerous, as there are loose rocks, falling ice, and also, is susceptible to sudden outburst flood events which can cause sudden surges of water, ice, and rock!

Exit Glacier Overlook Trail Hike

  • LENGTH: 1.8 Miles
  • ELEVATION GAIN: 330 and 400 ft
  • ACCESABILITY: Easy hike suitbable for family and children

The Glacier Overlook Trail offers even more magnificent views of the Exit Glacier. This hike is still considered an easy hike, but it has some moderately steep sections.

This hiking is also a loop trail of 1.8 miles and adding the Glacier View Loop another 0.2 miles – and it is among the local forest where you can observe the beautiful local fauna, cross a little stream of water on a wooden bridge.

Exit Glacier is receding at an average rate of 125 feet a year, for the past 200 years. An average of 1.55 miles (2.5 km) from the Little Ice Age Maximum, and the retreat has accelerated to 27 ft per year from 2011 to 2015 from 18 ft per year during the previous 5 years.

exit glacier hike in Alaska

What are the other activities on the Exit Glacier?

Ranger Led Walk

Only during the summertime, you can choose to go on a variety of ranger-led walks at the Exit Glacier, where the ranges narrate about the nature in this area, and all about the glacier melting. You can check at the Exit Glacier Alaska to find out more information and the schedules.


Exit Glacier Ice Climbing

If you are looking for more adventure, you can plan to go on Ice Climbing at the Exit Glacier – I have done Ice Climbing in Iceland before, and it is a fantastic experience when you go with experienced guides that will take you to the best adventure of your life.

This tour is perfect if you love adventure – you will rappel into deep blue crevasses and feel an incredible sense of accomplishment as you climb back up to the glacier. Check prices and availability here


Exit Glacier Hiking

You can also choose to go hiking the Exit Glacier glaciers with an experienced guide. This tour is recommended for adventurous hikers. It starts with a steep hike that gets you off-the-beaten-path and away from the hoards of tourists that flock to more accessible glaciers.

This tour is about $200 per person and it takes an average of 8-hours and includes professional guides and the gear you will use for the hiking. Check availability here.

Alaska Glacier
The Ultimate guide for the Exit Glacier Hike plus all the tips for your visit to one of the most beautiful places in Alaska

What to wear during the Exit Glacier Hike

It will depend on what time of the year you are going to hike the Exit Glacier. You want to wear comfortable clothes and layers, with sturdy shoes and a day pack.

Don’t forget your water bottle and pack plenty of water. if you are visiting during summertime, carry the sunblock and a hat with you.

For a full list of what to pack in Alaska check this detailed guide, plus get a FREE Printable Packing List for Alaska to make your plans easy.

CLICK HERE: Packing List for Alaska + FREE Printable

Exit Glacier Alaska

5 Safety Tips before you go hike at Exit Glacier

TIP #1: You will find a sign-in book at the beginning of the hiking, where you are encouraged to sign in your name and add your contact information, in case anything happens.

TIP #2: Bring plenty of water with you, and keep sipping your water during your hiking, even if you are not thirsty. It is very important to keep hydrated during any outdoor activities, it doesn’t matter if it is summer or wintertime.

TIP #3: If you want to experience the glacier from a closer distance, and/or go hike or ice climbing the glaciers you must hire an experienced guide. Glaciers are very dangerous, with hidden crevasses and shifting ice.

TIP #4: Don’t forget that you are in the wild and animals live here. Carry bear spray with you, talk loudly and never surprise a bear. Just the day I was hiking the Exit Glacier, we had a report of a solo hiker who was surprised by a black bear only 10 ft from her.

TIP #5: You will notice that at the beginning of the trail, next to the signs and sign-up spot, some bushes on the ground. It is recommended to brush off your boots before heading out on the trail to help stop the spread of non-native plants. A small effort on all of our parts makes a bit of difference in keeping the Exit Glacier pristine.

Travel Insurance: Simple & Flexible

I never leave my home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. Things can go wrong, and you don’t want to get stuck paying tons of money if you get sick or have an accident without travel insurance. 

World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover their trip essentials. Especially if you are like me, travel insurance is ideal for adventurous travelers.

Travel smarter and safer – You can do your quick quote below and find out how little you can pay for the essential benefit of Travel Insurance for your next trip!

Exit Glacier Hike Conclusion

If you are visiting Alaska I strongly recommend you add to your itinerary the Exit Glacier Hike, it is an easy hike, suitable for almost everyone, and where you can easily access the hiking trail and get close to the glacier.

The hike is easy, passing by the woods where you can enjoy the stunning local fauna and the incredible view of the glacier. When you go hike the Exit Glacier you will be rewarded with spectacular views, and also, learn more about where the glacier used to be at different years for the past 200 years.

If you have any further questions, leave a comment below. Have you visited Alaska before? What was your favorite thing in Alaska?

You may also enjoy reading:

10-Day Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary in Alaska

21 Best Things to do in Valdez

23 Best Things to do in Fairbanks

What to pack for Alaska + FREE Printable pack list

Exit Glacier Hike in Alaska itinerary

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Hi, I am Paula

Marketer, Blogger & Athlete

I'm a Brazilian native who calls U.S. home.

Travel & be healthy is my philosophy for a happy life balance, and for this purpose, I embarked on a journey to inspire and empower others to seek new adventures and live an active and healthy lifestyle..

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