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