Harding Ice Field Trail
Harding Ice Field Trail
5

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5.0 of 5 bubbles202 reviews
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Travel_Addict_Cyprus
Michigan1,196 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Couples
Even though it was raining, we decided to go on this hike. The trailhead for the Harding Icefield trail is about 0.3m from the parking lot. Before starting we headed to the Glacier View Overlook trail which is about a mile i think. Returning from that we headed to the Harding Ice Field Trail. You need to sign-in at the box at the start of the trail.
The trail is mostly uphill, with switchbacks, and it is rocky with exposed roots. I was glad i had my hiking stick. We stopped a few times to take photos.
At Marmot Meadows (there's a sign letting you know you are there) there is a great view of the Exit Glacier on the left-hand side.
From Marmot Meadows we continued on the trail towards the Top of Cliffs, again going mostly uphill. Beautiful views at Top of the Cliffs, but it was very foggy, windy and still raining. We were soaked through our waterproof rain jackets. Water even got in our waterproof Timberland hiking boots (dripping from the rain jacket possibly) so our feet were starting to get wet. The ranger had said before we started that because of the clouds and fog it may not be worth the hike to the end of the trail. We decided to turn back at this point instead of going towards the end of the trail. We had to get back to the car to change into dry clothes. It was still an enjoyable hike, with good views, but i was disappointed that we didn't get to finish it all the way.
Since this is the only way to access the Kenai Fjords National Park on foot, i highly recommend it if you are in good physical condition. But save the two shorter trails to Exit Glacier views for the end or a different day, to save all your energy for the Harding Icefield Trail.
Written September 13, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lisa B
Burlington, VT109 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021
We just did this hike and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience! I was super worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way but I did! I m 56 yrs old and in relatively good shape, but not in great shape! We took it slow and made it to the end! We took plenty of breaks on the way up and were much faster coming back down after a long break at the top! It was sooo worth it! The views are phenomenal. Also be bear aware! 1.5 miles up we heard a startling grunt beside us on the trail. Then brush snapping and another grunt! We hustled as fast as we could to get out of that forested section! At the end we checked in with the ranger and were told it was a black bear that other hikers actually saw 15 minutes behind us on the trail. That was scary so make sure you take precautions ! Also, like others have said, we clocked the mileage and it came to 10.2. It’s longer than what you see posted! Do it- you won’t regret it!!
Written August 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

vpar4
High Point, NC180 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021 • Family
We hiked with an 8 and 12 year old and made it to Marmot Meadow. We could have gone higher but there was snow on the trail even when we stopped. Great views along the way and came surprisingly close to a black bear - so be aware on the trail. Would love to go back to reach the top.
Written June 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

JSunderland
Circleville, OH15 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021
This is one tough hike. Be prepared to spend a good portion of the day on this one. Steady uphill climb for the first 4 miles, but the views from the top are well worth it. I would suggest trekking poles, plenty of water and snacks. Our total hike from parking lot to the edge of the ice field and back was 11.5 miles. Get there early because the parking lot fills up by mid morning. This is a busy trail, so don't think you will be out there alone.,
Written September 7, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

PattyB789
Cincinnati225 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2022 • Family
Outstanding hike. Well maintained trail. Majestic views. Wish we would have trained for it. We did make it to the very top. It took us all of 8hrs and I would have liked to rest more both up and down. Trekking poles were very helpful climbing rocks and on snow near the top in mid-July. Lots of great views 1/2 to 3/4 to top, so possible to make a little shorter and still great hike. Top is amazing though.
Written July 25, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Michelle
Boston, MA33 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2022 • Friends
This ~8 mi round trip hike is absolutely worth it. It’s a bit of a tough trail at parts but doable if you pack the right gear (layers, good hiking boots, rain layers, and a good winter hat). It can get cold and rainy up on the field. The views are breathtaking and continue to get even better as you get higher and higher.

At the very top of the hike, there’s an emergency shelter where you can sit and snack and take in the scenery, look at all the people who’ve carved their names/dates into the wood, and then if you want, continue down a trail towards the glacier and Harding ice field (though you’ll want to approach with caution).
Written July 29, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mafischl
Huntington, NY3,282 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2021 • Friends
I have hiked all over the world. This is, without question, one of the best hikes I have ever done. It's hard, but absolutely magnificent. Once you get above the tree line the views are absolutely stunning. You won't regret it.
Written September 17, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Aurora09
West Windsor Township, NJ329 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2015 • Family
We hiked this trail with our 10 and 8 year old children. We were very lucky that the weather was perfect. I actually planned our Alaskan trip around this hike. I had initially wanted to come to Alaska a few years ago. But knowing that our kids wouldn’t be able to make the hike, I decided to put off our entire Alaskan trip until the kids are old enough to do it. And I am glad we made that decision. It’s a very tough hike. The total distance is about 8 miles round trip, and you gain 3000ft in elevation. The good thing is that the elevation itself is not bad, starting at 500ft, ending around 3500ft.

It starts with 0.4 miles getting from the visitor center to the trail head. This is where the trail to Exit Glacier forks. Here you can take a picture of the map, so you know where you are and what’s left, sort of. The first mile from the trail head is covered with trees, essentially in bear territory. So be sure to make noise. I’ve noticed people who hike alone sometimes play music. I also saw a couple of people carrying guns in their backpack. We asked the ranger about bear safety, and she told us that as long as you make noise frequently, it’s ok. She has never had to use bear spray on this trail.

At about 1.5 mile marker, we reach Marmot Meadow. Here is a great view of Exit Glacier and an open spot for picnic lunch. From here on, the next mile is the toughest in my opinion. The view starts to open up and it's really beautiful. You can see pretty far ahead what the trail will look like, which is daunting. We saw many dall sheep on the cliff. This part is a steady ascend, and you don’t know how much is left. But eventually, we get to an area where these is less ascend but more ups and downs. But the most important thing is that from there, we can see the shelter, which is 0.2 miles from the end. Once we are able to see the shelter, it gets easy.

OK, it’s not really easy. Not sure if it’s like this everyday. But it was very windy when we were up there. I had to hold my 8 year old’s hand, or else she might be blown off the ridge, seriously. Other than that, this part does get more interesting. We get to cross streams and walk on snow. But seeing the goal is what really made the difference for us.

The icefield is amazing. It doesn’t look that great on picture, because it’s a lot of white nothingness. But it’s an amazing sight to see. Oh, an added benefit, cellphone works once you’ve climbed 2000ft. For us, T-Mobile worked and Verizon didn’t.

The hike down is not necessarily easy. It is easier than ascend, but it is pretty steep, so it’s hard on the knees. And for my younger child, with short legs, the descend is hard. Our total hike time was about 6-7 hours. And my legs were sore for the next 3 days. But it’s totally worth it. We saw almost no other kids on the trail. But I’ve seen an couple in their mid 70s. Alaska is an amazing place.

This turned out to be one of my top experiences in Alaska. The other one that ties with this is flightseeing around Denali.
Written September 10, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

LivingForTravel
Princeton, NJ81 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2014 • Family
There are various descriptions of how long this hike is. According to my experience, the trail head is 0.4 miles from the visitor center, and the trail is 3.9 miles one way. So in total it’s 8.6 miles from the visitor center. There is also a little over 3000 feet elevation gain from the visitor center to the end of the trail. The mile markers in my review are all from the trail head. Mile 1.3 is the Marmot Meadows viewpoint. There is a giant relatively flat rock just a little off the trail that you can see Exit Glacier very well. This point is a little over 1000 feet elevation gain, so the hike up to this point is certainly not considered easy at all. This is the first good point for you to turn back. The next good turning back point is at mile 1.6, Bottom of Cliffs. The final turn back point is at mile 2.3, Top of the Cliffs. The difficult hike becomes really strenuous after this point and honestly the view of the Glacier does not get better until you get all the up to the end of the trail. The day we were there, it was misty to begin with, and it became a steady rain by the time we got to the Top of the Cliffs. We came prepared with rain poncho. I want to give a shout-out to my kids, ages 9 and 13. I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for the fact that they were so much ahead of me and couldn’t hear me calling them back, so I was left with no choice but to keep climbing up with the rain right in my face and wind blew against me. I want to emphasize the hike up is STRENUOUS and you really need good hiking shoes to keep you from slipping and your feet from getting wet. There are areas on this trail where you don’t see Exit Glacier at all, and it’s all black rock that made me feel like I was on Mars. I am beyond proud that we made it all the way up. There is an emergency shelter at mile 3.6. It’s small shelter with a couple of snow shovels. There is no bench or anything to sit on. It was an interesting read of who’s being there from the writings on the wall as I sat on the floor to rest.
It’s amazing to look down and see the clouds coming up at you. The mountain, the glacier and everything else was there a minute ago, and then gets covered by the clouds and completely gone the next minute. It’s such an incredible feeling to know how it feels to be in the clouds. It feels wet :)
We enjoyed this hike a lot. My advice is to know your limit and do the best you can. In my opinion, the glacier view from the top is not really that much better than the viewpoints I mentioned above. Matanuska Glacier near Palmer is much more stunning and you can even walk on the glacier. You walk along the glacier at this one until you are at the end of the trail. I am not sure how many people have the strength to walk off tail to the ice field after that. The reward for us is knowing we pushed our limits successfully. This is not only the longest hike I have ever done and the first time in the rain. There was nowhere to sit to rest along the way at all because of the rain. It took us 8 hours 45 minutes altogether. It rained for about 4-5 hours with little breaks here and there. We took 45 minutes at Marmot Meadows for “lunch” and 15 minutes snack break in the shelter. I would not recommend this to anyone who is not serious about hiking.
Definitely dress in layers. For us, it got hot quick on the way up before the rain started. It was quite cold once the rain started and after we got to the top. My hiking shoes worked very well against the rain, but I didn’t have a pair of rain pants and the bottom of my pants was wet, so it got the top of my socks wet. Really wished I had brought an extra pair of socks.
Written September 15, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

WeiChat
Orange County, CA121 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2015 • Family
We hiked the trail in mid-July. We started out late in the early afternoon. Due to the long day light hours in the summer of Alaska, we made it back before it was getting dark. The trail is not easy but manageable. Our 9 to 13 year-old kids and their 75 year-old grandma made all the way to the ice field. The first part was hot. The middle part was hard since some of the large rocks were hard to climb for a young kid and elder. The last part was easy but cold. So dress in layers and bring enough water and some snacks. The view was changing along the way which was absolutely mesmerizing. The view at the ice field was breathtaking. We spent a couple of hours at the top. Along the trail, we saw a lot of mountain goats and had two close encounters with two black bears. Each time, the bear just run away. The hiking experience and the breathtaking views are worth all efforts. Definitely a must if your family enjoy hiking.
Written November 24, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Harding Ice Field Trail - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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