seward alaska exit glacier and the harding ice fields

Located just a few miles outside the town of Seward, Exit Glacier is part of Kenai Fjords National Park, and is the only section of the park accessible by road. The glacier is an arm of the vast Harding Icefield, 300 square miles of compressed snow, and one of four major ice caps in the United States. It is also a powerful reminder of glacial recession due to its visibility, as visitors to the park are able to see the glacier’s past and present locations through interpretive programs and hands-on information.

Exit Glacier sees more people during the summer months, enjoying miles of hiking trails, abundant wildlife, and the opportunity to photograph the glacier itself. An advantage of this area of the park is its close proximity to the city of Seward, and regular shuttle services operate between May and September for those wanting to make a quick day trip.

The park is open year round, however, for adventurous individuals and groups wanting a true Alaska experience. Many winter guests strap on skis, pedal fat bikes, or join companies like Seavey’s Ididaride for a dogsled trip along the park road in around its forested landscape.

Looking to explore the Exit Glacier area during your trip to Seward? Try these tips to maximize your time at this popular section of Kenai Fjords National Park.

  • Start at the beginning. Of the road, that is. As you travel the park road (officially named Herman Leirer, but locally referred to as ‘Exit Glacier Road’), note the little brown signs along the way, showing dates of the glacier’s location in proximity to town. You might be surprised.
  • Take in the exhibits at Exit Glacier Nature Center, where rangers answer questions, lead hikes and walks, and visitors can purchase items at the Alaska Geographic bookstore.
  • Hike a trail. A series of loop and out-and-back trails lead all the way up to Harding Icefield, if one desires. Most hikers, though, take a shorter route up to the toe of Exit Glacier itself, where the katabatic breezes (icy wind off the glacier) blow, and a stunning view of the ice can be seen. Along the nature trail closer to the visitor center, look for more date signs noting the glacier’s retreat.
  • Stay overnight. A tent-only campground is located near the Nature Center, where 12 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Two sites are accessible.
  • Learn a bit of history. Kenai Fjords National Park, and Exit Glacier have provided for humans for more than 10,000 years. From subsistence hunting to mineral extraction, this section of the Kenai Peninsula has been home to people like the Sugpiaq Native groups; Seward homesteaders, and even artists.

Explore more of the park. Stop by the main Kenai Fjords National Park visitor center in downtown Seward to discover alternate means of becoming acquainted with the park’s other areas.