Harding Icefield Out and Back
ElevationAscent: 3,073' 937 m
Descent: -3,074' -937 m
High: 3,506' 1,069 m
Low: 462' 141 m
GradeAvg Grade: 14% (8°)
Max Grade: 50% (26°)
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“A Kenai Fjords Classic! Ascend high above Exit Glacier and earn stellar views in the process.”— Brian Smith
Family Friendly Although hiking this entire trail out-and-back is probably out of the question for most kids, a short trek up the initial switchbacks is not. You'll still get incredible views on a challenging trail.
Want some knowledgeable company? There are ranger-guided hikes on the Harding Icefield Trail every Saturday in July and August. You're not required to make a reservation and the outings leave from the Nature Center at 9 am.
There are no garbage receptacles or restroom facilities on the trail. Pack out all waste.
Camping is allowed along the Harding Icefield Trail, but you must travel at least 1/8 mile from the trail on bare rock or snow before setting up your camp. Camping is not permitted in the emergency hut at the end of the trail.
Starting on the valley floor, the trail meanders through alder and cottonwood forest as well as heather-filled meadows. The trail rises through the forest and ultimately ends up well above tree line to an awe-inspiring vantage point of the icefield. The peak of the trail is a peephole to ice ages past. A horizon of snow and ice stretches as far as the eye can see, broken only by an occasional lonely peak, known as a nunatak.
The trail is quite strenuous. You'll gain roughly 1,000 vertical feet over every mile. Budget somewhere around 6-8 hours for the whole outing. While the view from the top is definitely worth the extra work, you don't need to hike all the way there to experience the aspects of this trail that make it so special. A short hike up the trail provides dramatic views of the valley and Exit Glacier's end.
This is bear country! The plants along the trail are dense and include salmonberry bushes, a popular food with black bears. Black bears are seen almost every day on this trail. Take care and be conscious of your environment at all times. Making noise as you hike can help you avoid startling a bear. Be particularly alert if you encounter a mother bear with cubs. You're likely to see the cubs first, but you can be sure the mother will be close by. Never put yourself between a mother and her cubs. More info on bears can be found here.
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Land Manager: NPS - Kenai Fjords National Park