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blueBlack Harding Icefield Trail

Trail

3.8 mile 6.1 kilometer point to point
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 3,011' 918 m
Descent: -19' -6 m
High: 3,504' 1,068 m
Low: 505' 154 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 15% (9°)
Max Grade: 49% (26°)

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Trail shared by Kristen Arendt

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A tough trail that rewards hikers with sweeping views of the Exit Glacier.

Kristen Arendt

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The Exit Glacier Area is open year round. Around mid-November, when the snow season really begins, the road to Exit Glacier is closed to vehicles but accessible to a range of winter recreation including dogsleds, snowmobiles, XC skiers and fat bikes. The road usually stays closed until early May, so be sure to check the current conditions if you are visiting during the off season.

Description

The Harding Icefield Trailhead is located on the right about 1/3 of mile along the Exit Glacier Paved Path.

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. 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.

Flora & Fauna

Please stay on the trail. Alpine plant life is very fragile. Cutting switchbacks causes tremendous erosion. Volunteers donate their time to help maintain this trail - please respect their efforts by staying on the trail.

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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Check-Ins

Jun 3, 2019
Jason Draper
Sep 1, 2017
Chris Rhie
4mi
Jul 3, 2017
Kun Zheng
8.2mi
Sep 6, 2016
Saran Vellanki
Jul 25, 2016
Hrishi Chandanpurkar
7.6mi — 7h 41m
Jul 12, 2016
Megan Lee
Got about about 0.5 mi. from end. Too much snow for just hiking not boots. Could have made it with poles and crampons. Very strenuous but worth it.
Jul 14, 2014
Liz Nelson

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 4 votes

#5190

Overall
  4.5 from 4 votes
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Trail Rankings

#70

in Alaska

#5,190

Overall
97 Views Last Month
1,186 Since Apr 22, 2016
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult

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