Worth a Trip: Exit Glacier

The marquee attraction of Kenai Fjords National Park is Exit Glacier, named by explorers crossing the Harding Ice Field who found the glacier a suitable way to ‘exit’ the ice and mountains.

From the Exit Glacier Nature Center, the Outwash Plain Trail is an easy three-quarter-mile walk to the glacier’s alluvial plain – a flat expanse of pulverized silt and gravel, cut through by braids of gray meltwater. The Edge of the Glacier Trail leaves the first loop and climbs steeply to an overlook at the side of the glacier before returning. Both trails make for a short hike that will take one or two hours; you can return along the half-mile nature trail through cottonwood forest, alder thickets and old glacial moraines before emerging at the ranger station. Note how the land becomes more vegetated the further you get from the ice, the result of having had more time to recover from its glacial scouring. Signs indicate how far the glacier extended.

If you have the time and legs for it, the hike up to the Harding Ice Field is well worth it; where else can you see a large remnant of the Pleistocene Ice Age?