Ultimate Guide to Exit Glacier Hike in Alaska

If you are wondering how to get to visit and hike the Exit Glacier in Alaska, then you have come to the right place. After my Road Trip to Alaska exploring the best things to do, I am here to share all my best insider tips to help you plan an epic trip of your own!

Located in the Kenai Fjords National Park, just outside the town of Seward, 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. But if you are looking for a more challenging hike, you can include the Harding Icefield Trail, as the start point is the same as the Exit Glacier.

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

This is the most comprehensive guide you will find on the internet about how to visit and hike the Exit Glacier. This guide is packed with very helpful information. Here you will find all you need to know about the hikes, the best time to visit, what to pack, and all the helpful tips to make your visit easy and safe. So let’s dive in!

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exit glacier hike in Alaska

Read More: The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary

Exit Glacier Overview

LOCATION: Exit Glacier is located in Kenai Fjords National Park, 3.7 miles north of Seward. If you are planning to visit Exit Glacier, the best place to stay is in 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. The Exit Glacier hike is an easy hike with a single train, a couple of viewpoints, and walk loops in nature. There are some steps 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 is 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. There is no cell phone service at the Exit Glacier.
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.ils.
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 be 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. 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.
WEATHER: Check here for the weather conditions. 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.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Hike the Harding Icefield Trail

exit glacier hike in Alaska

Read More: 30 Amazing Things to do in Seward, Alaska

How to get to the Exit Glacier

Prepare for a scenic drive, with beautiful views, and keep an eye out for the chance to see the typical Alaskan wildlife crossing right in front of you. Exit Glacier is also considered one of the best hikes in Alaska, along with the hikes in Denali National Park.

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. This is also the same location you need to come to if you are planning to hike the Harding Icefield Trail.

If you are driving your own car, you can park in 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 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 includes 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 Mile
  • ELEVATION GAIN: 330 and 400 ft
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Easy hike suitable for families with children

This is a very easy Exit Glacier hike starting at the Nature Center. It is only 1-mile loop of 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’s 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, and falling ice, and also, is susceptible to sudden outburst flood events which can cause sudden surges of water, ice, and rock!

Exit Glacier Hike

Exit Glacier Overlook Trail Hike

  • LENGTH: 1.8 Miles
  • ELEVATION GAIN: 330 and 400 ft
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Easy hike suitable for families 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, and 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 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 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 takes an average of 8 hours and includes professional guides and the gear you will use for the hiking. Check availability here.

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

Where to Stay in Seward, AK

If you are planning to visit and hike the Exit Glacier, the best place to stay is at Seward. There are plenty of great accommodation options in Seward, for every taste and budget, and here are my top recommendations:

Photo courtesy: Booking.com

TOP OVERALL PICK: Bear Lake Lodgings B&B

Rated: 9.7 Exceptional

This B&B is one of the best situated and most scenic in Seward. It boasts spectacular views of the lake. With a fantastic breakfast available, and a terrace to relax after a full day of activity such as fishing, hiking, and canoeing.

BEST COASTAL STAY: Resurrection Lodge on the Bay

Rated: 9.4 Superb

This stunning lodge faces the beachfront in Seward and mountain and glacier views, making a perfect stay if you want to connect with nature. The rooms are very comfortable, and if you are lucky, you can see humpback whales from the deck.

BEST BUDGET: Seward Adventure Lodge

Rated: 9.5 Exceptional

If you are looking for a great place to stay that fits your budget, you will love this lodge. It is spotlessly clean, nice, modern, and at a great location. Quiet, but right in town close to attractions and restaurants


Rated: 10 Exceptional

If you are looking for an entire place to stay in Seward, this tiny home is the best option for you. This adorable house is in an excellent location and offers a fully equipped kitchen, making it an ideal place to enjoy the mountain views for a memorable stay.

Read More: The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary

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 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 hiking 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 a difference in keeping the Exit Glacier pristine.
best hikes in Alaska
Exit Glacier Hike

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. Alaska is known for its fantastic hikes, and this one certainly isn’t a trail you want to miss.

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 over 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?

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Exit Glacier Hike in Alaska itinerary

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2 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Exit Glacier Hike in Alaska”

  1. Thanks for the useful information. I’m thinking about taking the shuttle from Seward and doing the Harding Icefield hike. However, I’m not sure that there is enough time between the earliest shuttle arrival at Exit Glacier and the latest shuttle departure. Is there some other type of transportation that could be used? I’m not sure how you could arrange a taxi or “Uber” return if there is no cellular service at Exit Glacier.

  2. Hello Creig, I recommend you to check direct at this site and maybe email them asking for their information – https://www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/shuttle-bus-and-taxi-service.htm – I drove my own car, so it was easier to not have to rush the hiking. Depends on the time of the year, the hiking can be challenging and take longer than what you expect. During the time I hiked, it was snowing and the path was covered by snow and it took me longer to cross some areas, as I had to be extra careful.

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