Harding Icefield Hike

The Harding Icefield Hike … from rain forest to alpine meadow to ice field is an amazing hike, but it is not for the faint of heart! The Harding Icefield is an expansive icefield located in the Kenai Mountains of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. It is also partially located in Kenai Fjords National Park. It is named for United States President Warren G. Harding.

We got up this morning to find the sun shining, blue skies and light fluffy clouds…… after many days of overcast, low clouds, and rain or showers ( which meant it was impossible to see the top of the mountains), and showers. So we decided we would take advantage of the good weather and climb to the top of the Exit Glacier so we could see the famous Harding Ice Field with our own eyes.

The Harding Ice Field is over 300 square miles of ice cap, tens of thousands of years old……it’s been around for all the recent ice ages so that would mean at least 100,000 years, its thousands of feet thick, and is the source of over 40 major glaciers….Exit being the glacier just outside of Seward. It covers a vast portion of the Kenai Mountain range. When you look at the pictures you’ll see that the only part of the Kenai range that you can see under the ice field is the very tips of the mountains.

So we quickly got our gear ready, ate a quick breakfast, and drove out to the base of the Exit Glacier so we could begin our hike. It was a grueling hike….four miles and three thousand feet of elevation gain……in other words four hours of steady mountain climbing.

The last 1 1/2 miles was over snow…..hard to climb because it was so slippery, but much harder to climb down!! We were beyond exhausted by the time we got back to the car. It took us 6 hours on the climb and about 3.5 hours to return. The total hike was 8.8 miles…..4.4 miles each way since the first 0.4 miles was getting to the trail head where we actually began hiking the mountain.

The ice field was spectacular!!!!! Check out the pictures. We’re glad we did the hike but it pushed us right to the edge of our ability….and we are in pretty decent shape as walkers and hikers. All in all though…..now that it’s behind us ….it was a great day and an amazing memory for us!!! There is no doubt it will be one of the major memories of our trip to Alaska.

Limiting the number of pictures of this hike was a real challenge…..they are all so beautiful. Enjoy the pictures…..they are incredible. I promise not to post so many pictures of one hike in the future, but the shots of this hike are too pretty to leave out.

And yes……we literally could barely move on Thursday!!!….we spent the day driving from Seward down to Homer. We are moving today (Friday) but very, very slowly…… maybe tomorrow will be better.

Harding Icefield Hike in Pictures

 

Harding Icefield HikeHere we are at the beginning of the hike. This is going to be an easier hike than we thought.

Hike to Harding IcefieldOk….maybe we spoke too soon.

IMG_7011Bridge at 1/2 mile

 

IMG_7018This hike is getting serious!

IMG_7021Further up the trail

IMG_7026Exit Glacier

IMG_7027Exit Glacier hike with guide

IMG_7029This made our stomach flip just watching them. Those crevasses are deep!

Harding Icefield HikeOk… back to the hike. Groan.

IMG_7032This hike never let up… it was straight up the whole four miles!!!

IMG_7033Yes, those are steep steps coming up!

IMG_7034Entering the snow

IMG_7038 copyTrail through the snow

IMG_7039Trail through the snow

IMG_7041We are definitely well above the glacier at this point.

IMG_7042Summer flowers along the way

IMG_7043Start of the icefield

IMG_7045The scenery is getting spectacular.

IMG_7046Trail in the snow

IMG_7049Melinda is hiding her exhaustion.

IMG_7054Still going up

IMG_7059Almost there!

IMG_7060Here is the emergency ranger shelter very near the summit which is in the background.

IMG_7062Looking back

IMG_7063You can see we are definitely above most of the mountains in the Kenai Mountain range.

IMG_7070We made it. We can barely stand, but we made it!!!!!

IMG_7071Looking back from the summit.

Hike to Harding IcefieldHarding Icefield

IMG_7076The Exit Glacier from 3500 feet elevation.

IMG_7079Resting and enjoying the view.

IMG_7085This is my favorite shot of the whole trip! Flowers in the barrenness of the edge of Harding Icefield.

IMG_7095Marmot pup. These guys were covered with mosquitoes.

IMG_7099Exit Glacier in the evening sun.

IMG_7101Exit Glacier

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