The 8.2-mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail is a spectacular day hike. Starting on the valley floor, the trail winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passes though heather filled meadows and ultimately climbs well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the Icefield. The top of the trail is a window to past ice ages - a horizon of ice and snow that stretches as far as the eye can see, broken only by an occasional nunatak, or lonely peak.
This is a strenuous hike. Hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. Allow at least 6-8 hours for the hike. Although the view from the top is well worth the effort, you need not hike all the way to the top to experience the wonders of this trail. A short hike up the trail affords impressive views of the valley floor and Exit Glacier's terminus.
Keep your eyes open! Stops along the way at Marmot Meadows (1.4 miles) and Top of the Cliff (2.4 miles) provide scenic vistas to take a break during your journey or turn around for a shorter hike. Watch for wildlife throughout your hike, as bears, mountain goats, hoary marmots, and others, have all been seen from the trail.
Be prepared! Check on trail conditions before starting out - the upper portion of the trail is often covered with snow through early July, and there may be avalanche danger. Be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight, and sudden temperature changes. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Carry plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person).
Stay on the trail. Alpine vegetation is extremely fragile. Careless hikers who cut switchbacks, along with frequent summer rains, cause tremendous erosion. Volunteers help restore and maintain this trail every year. Please respect their hard work by sticking to the trail.
Turn on to Herman Leirer Road, commonly called "Exit Glacier Road," at mile 3 of the Seward Highway (AK-9). Proceed 8.4 miles. The road will end at the parking lot for the nature center. Proceed down the paved trail to the Harding Icefield Trailhead.
Last updated: August 14, 2017