Walking on Ice- the Matanuska Glacier

I was only there for three days, but I can tell you now that Alaska is pretty freaking amazing.

I’ve been a lot of places with really unique natural beauty, from the Plitvice Falls in Croatia to the stunning Blue Mountains in Australia. There is something about the nature in Alaska though that is so vibrant and raw. Nothing brought that home for me more than this:

The Matanuska Glacier. 4 miles wide and 27 miles long, it’s one of the most beautiful works of nature I’ve ever gotten to explore with my feet.

I was in Alaska as a guest of the Hilton Garden Inn. Along with a handful of other bloggers and my friend Liz, they sent us out on a day tour of the glacier. They hooked us up with MICA guides, a fabulous tour company that fitted us with boots, strapped crampons (those spiky snow cleats) on our shoes and led us out onto the ice. They also sufficiently scared me into constantly wearing my sunglasses by warning me about snow blindness.

The glacier itself is only accessible through private homesteader land (which makes you wonder what brilliant pioneer in the 1930’s thought it would be a great idea to set up house next to a giant ice flow). You can pay the $20 fee and walk around on the ice yourself, but it’s not recommended. Ice is a tricky thing, full of trapdoors, crumbling cliffs and dark holes that anyone could disappear into forever. People get hurt out there nearly every day, so I personally was glad to have Alyssa, our experienced ice guide, leading the way with her trusty pick axe.

It’s one thing to see a glacier- they are breathtaking from afar, but it’s quite another to walk ON the thing. It’s dirtier up close, it’s true, but there are also crazy blues locked in the ice, startling white peaks and dramatic drop offs. The ice changes literally every day, so often Alyssa would have to run ahead to make sure the path was safe, or to carve out some stairs for us.

It was the very end of summer (actually late august is pretty much fall in Alaska) so everywhere there was water dripping- waterfalls, tiny streams and the mouth of the Matanuska River. The ice is so pure you can drink this water right off nature’s tap- and it’s delicious too.

 The Matanuska, like pretty much all glaciers in Alaska, is currently shrinking. That thought was constantly in my mind as we tramped across the ice. When you’re literally faced with the natural impact of global warming, it’s intense. Not only is it terrifying that something this enormous and powerful (powerful enough to literally move mountains) is being destroyed, but it’s sad that my kids may never get to experience the humbling feeling of walking on a million tons so frozen water.

Special Thanks to the Hilton Garden Inn Anchorage for sponsoring my trip to Alaska.



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14 thoughts on “Walking on Ice- the Matanuska Glacier”

  1. Sure looks like a vibrant and raw hiker’s paradise. I’ve never hiked a glacier but now really want to. I usually like hiking on my own but in this case the fear of disappearing into a dark hole forever would outweigh my desire to hike guide free.

  2. I love glacier hiking! I did it in New Zealand and also in Alaska (on the Root Glacier in Wrangell/St. Elias). And I do agree, the water that falls off the glacier is my favorite in the entire world!!

  3. Alaska is amazing and the more time one gets to spend in it the better. I spent two summers of my college career working in Yellowstone National park, and while the experience of living in the park was amazing I didn’t like my job. A few of my workmates had also worked in Alaska through Alaska Tour Jobs and they had a great experience. If I could do it over again I would for sure head up to work in Alaska for a summer or two.

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