In Photos: The Glaciers of Alaska

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Everyone knows Alaska has bears. And moose. And whales. And miles and miles of untamed wilderness.

But did you know that GLACIERS are actually Alaska's top tourist attraction? Yes, big slabs of slow-moving ice. Who knew??

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

There are more than 600 named glaciers in Alaska, and the ice masses cover roughly 5 percent of the state. That doesn't sound like a lot, but remember that Alaska is HUGE.

The area covered by glaciers in Alaska is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. !!! Talk about mind-blowing.

Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

I've now been to Alaska three times, and on each visit have had the chance to get up close and personal with some of its glaciers.

Here are some of my favorites.

Some of the best glaciers in Alaska

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Located in eastern Alaska (and part of the Yukon Territory) with its face extending into Disenchantment Bay, the Hubbard Glacier is a monster at 76 miles long. The blue-white ice surges and calves constantly, moving up to 5 feet per day.

I saw this glacier from a cruise ship; we spent hours slipping through water filled with “bergy bits” until we were about a mile from the glacier's 7-mile-wide face. There we sat pivoting for hours, watching for harbor seals and listening for the thunder-like rumbles and crackles that accompanied calving.

This glacier is super active, and we saw tons (literally) of ice fall into the water.

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Harbor seal spotted at Hubbard Glacier in Alaska
A cheeky harbor seal
Hubbard Glacier in Alaska
Lots of bergy bits and growlers in the water near the glacier

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Fun fact about the Hubbard Glacier: It takes ice 400 years to come down all 76 miles. Meaning the ice we saw falling into the bay was older than the United States of America.

Hubbard Glacier calving in Alaska

Matanuska Glacier

Found about 100 miles north of Anchorage, the 27-mile-long Matanuska Glacier is located in a valley and is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States.

I visited this glacier back in 2012, when my sister and I actually went ice trekking on top of it! It's a pretty awesome backdrop for any sort of adventure activity, but hearing the crunch crunch of ice beneath crampons was particularly satisfying.

Matanuska HDR

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Glacier Bay National Park

On my latest Alaskan cruise, I was lucky enough to spend a day in Glacier Bay — a national park and preserve, and also the largest UNESCO-protected biosphere in the world.

You might assume the park gets its name from the 15 tidewater glaciers found within its protected borders, but it actually was formed by a much larger glacier — the Grand Pacific Glacier — that carved out and shaped the bay over the past 200 years. 

I was able to see quite a few glaciers in the park (as well as learn a lot about the area from the National Park Rangers that boarded our cruise ship), including:

Margerie Glacier

Our massive cruise ship got ridiculously close to the face of this glacier, allowing us to truly appreciate its size. Unlike other glaciers in Glacier Bay that are receding, scientists consider the Margerie Glacier to be “stable.”

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Lamplugh Glacier

The smallest glacier I've seen in Alaska (clocking in at only 8 miles long), the Lamplugh Glacier was nonetheless really impressive simply because of its surroundings. Seriously. Look at these mountains!

Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier

Not far from downtown Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier is a popular side trip from Alaska's state capital. The glacier's face ends at a lake, and there's a waterfall (Nugget Falls) nearby, too.

I've been to this glacier twice now, and I must say that the glacier + waterfall element makes it really unique!

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

Nugget Falls
Nugget Falls
Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska
Chunks of glacier ice

 

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

And to think… there are SO MANY MORE glaciers in Alaska, each one completely different from the next.

If you ever get the chance to travel to Alaska, be sure to go glacier spotting!

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Is Alaska on your travel wish list? How about seeing glaciers?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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39 Comments on “In Photos: The Glaciers of Alaska

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  1. So many glaciers! I loved the ones in Alaska, along with the ones in Patagonia! Your photos turned out great even though I remember you posting that it rained a good portion of your trip!

      Yeah, it was cloudy nearly every day, though it didn’t rain too much while we were actually AT the glaciers. And, believe it or not, cloudy days are the best for glacier viewing because the blues tend to come out more!

    what beautiful photos! Alaska really is like a dream to me

      Thanks, Rebecca. Alaska is a dream destination for many people, and it’s not difficult to understand why!

    This is literally so interesting I would love to go see this in Alaska someday, thanks for the inspiration! Your photos are brilliant too, 10 points from me. 🙂 xo

      If you ever get the chance, definitely go! Alaska is really special. And thanks for the compliment on my photos! I took sooooo many on this trip, it was nearly impossible to narrow them down for this post!

    I am planning to spend at least a month in Alaska next summer, taking ferries up from Canada and this post gets me really excited about it! I will definitely be checking out the glaciers!

      That sounds awesome! What an adventure you’ll have!

    Alaska is definitely on my list. I’ve seen glaciars in Argentina and New Zealand but that doesn’t mean they don’t fascinate me anymore. And also Alaska has bears, whales and wilderness, what else do you wish for an adventurous trip 😛

      Yup, Alaska really does have it all if you love the wilderness!

    I visited Glacier Bay on an Alaska cruise as well, and it was a highlight of my trip. That place is like another world and it’s so beautiful! Great photos!

      I think it (and going to the Hubbard Glacier) was the highlight for me, too! (Well, and whale watching since we saw orcas!) But yes, definitely a great perk to going on an Alaskan cruise!

    I went to Alaska last summer and got to see Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska. Although I didn’t get to actually walk on the glacier, walking along the side and seeing it was truly amazing. Like in your pictures, I never knew that glaciers were actually “blue” until I saw one in person! I’d love to go back and see the glaciers you got to see!

      I love how different glaciers can look based on the weather and the fact that they are constantly moving!

    Currently writing an article on Iceland’s glaciers and suddenly wishing they were Alaska glaciers; the names are so much more simple! Beautiful photos though, I love how the vibrant blue contrasts against the white skies.

      Haha oh gosh, yeah, those Icelandic names are insane!!

    Those photos are amazing! I can’t imagine how beautiful it was to see everything in person.

      It was awesome (if a little chilly) to see it in person! Especially when we saw the glaciers calve – that was SO COOL!

    What incredible photos! The closest I’ve ever gotten to a glacier was from an airplane and looking down at them on my way to Asia! These are so beautiful though, I especially love the ones that show both them and green earth spaces.

    P.S. The one of the “cheeky” seal is precious!

      Glaciers really are incredible – especially when you consider that most of the northern hemisphere used to be covered in them! Glaciers have carved out so many of the places we know and love today; it’s fascinating.

    Mind bending colours on the glaciers … just ridiculous of how a river of ice could be up to 76 miles long!

      I know, right?? So cool though. And the fact that the ice at the front is so OLD blows my mind.

    That is amazing! In my (European) mind, Alaska equals snow, but this? I had no idea. I’ve got to see it one day…

      Believe it or not, many places in Alaska (especially the coastal parts) don’t actually get a ton of snow or cold temperatures!

    Wow! What amazing pictures. Seeing the glaciers up close is on the top of my bucket list, hopefully soon!

      They are pretty darn incredible!

    What stunning views!! Glaciers are so majestic..And apparently old too. I was just in the Alps and saw a lot of sign of glaciers retrieving, and even spots where there used to be a glacier -It’s really sad! Most of those glaciers in Alaska seem to be doing pretty well, although I guess they are all getting smaller and smaller. I’m afraid that one day glaciers are going to be one of these ‘go while it’s still possible to see’ – type of thing!

      Definitely – glaciers are receding all around the world, from the Alps to New Zealand to Alaska, too!

    Gorgeous photos, I’ve wanted to go to Alaska for years! My husband has been a few times on fishing trips with his dad, but I wasn’t able to go. I need to get there soon!

      It’s incredible; so different from most of the other places I’ve traveled to. And the glaciers are just amazing!

    Thanks enjoy watching the beautiful Glacier hopefully one day I will be able to visit Alaska and see the glacier in person

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