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For adventurers who want to journey beyond the comfort of the continental U.S., the lure of the best glaciers in Alaska is a strong draw. This state encompasses some of the world’s most beautiful—and most imposing—glaciers around. You’ve probably seen pictures of these towering ice sheets, maybe you’ve watched a documentary or two about them, but nothing beats witnessing these enigmatic feats of nature in person.
Easily one of Alaska’s most well-known glaciers, the Mendenhall Glacier is only 13 miles from Juneau, making it a worthwhile day excursion. You can even get your adventure’s worth with a trek that includes a ziplining tour over the surrounding rainforest. That’s right—Alaska has one of the largest rainforests in North America, the Tongass National Forest, which makes approaching the glacier an adrenaline-pumping feat. Take in sights of salmon swimming upstream as you skim over the forest canopy. Keep your eyes out for soaring eagles set against stupendous mountain views as well as bears and wolves ambling across the forest below.
However, there are plenty of other ways to reach the Mendenhall Glacier. There are hiking paths and kayak rentals available along Mendenhall Lake for those still up for an adventure, without the dizzying heights. Or, take a guided drive to the sight for a more relaxed experience, narrated by an experienced professional who can point out little-known facts about the region.
The glaciers near Skagway, Alaska, offer one of the undeniably coolest ways to approach them—from the air. Board a helicopter and get a phenomenally unbeatable aerial view of the Chilkat, Ferebee, and Meade Glaciers. You’ll get your fill of far-reaching valley and mountain sights before you even reach the first glacier. Enjoy the birds-eye-views and get the rare opportunity to walk across an iced river and stand tall on an actual glacier, taking in your surroundings before boarding the helicopter to head back.
This Alaskan glacier is a few miles from Skagway and is most easily reached by taking the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, which is filled with sights of rushing waterfalls and scenic mountain views. Enjoy an easy-to-moderate hike from there to the glacier. Look for mountain goats, moose and bears along your way.
And the best part? You can get close enough to the Laughton Glacier to run your—hopefully gloved—fingers along its surface. Examine the ice up close and just think how mind-blowing it is that this glacier has been around since the Ice Age.
Want a true Alaskan experience during your travels? Board a helicopter to travel to Norris Glacier, a sight so remote that helicopters offer the only way to reach it. Savor the views of the otherworldly landscape of rough, snow-covered terrain before you land in a camp on the glacier manned by skilled veterans of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
The next phase of your adventure includes a breathtaking journey manned by some of the area’s most powerful—and absolutely cutest—crew. You’ll be instructed on important commands to control your own team of trained Alaskan Huskies, who are eager to speed you along the expanse of the Norris Glacier. Be sure to bring your camera. Along with pics of the glacier and aerial views from the helicopter, you’ll definitely want to snap some selfies with this team of good boys and girls.
The Spencer Glacier is a little bit of a journey but well worth the travel. This beauty resides on a spectacular glacial lake that’s only accessible by train, so you can board in Whittier, then rest and watch the sights of Alaska roll past your window. When your train stops, it’s just a short hike to see the glacier in all its glory. Opt to join a Forest Service employee to guide your hike and tell you all about the history of your enigmatic surroundings.
Rather than icebergs, chunks of calved ice that land in freshwater are called “growlers.” Massive pieces of this craggy, blue-hued glacier have broken off over the centuries, some of which land in the naturally-created glacial lake.
Just off of the Yakutat coast—Northwest of Juneau—the Hubbard Glacier spreads out over an impressive six miles, shimmering with iridescent shades of white and deep blue reflected from the water it covers. This immense glacier, standing at 400 feet tall, is one of The Last Frontier’s most active. Although safe enough to watch from a distance on the water—by boat or by ship—it’s known to calve every so often, sending up sprays of water and leaving the newly formed iceberg in its wake.
The most unforgettable way to see the best glaciers in Alaska is to view them from the water. On an Alaskan cruise, you can enjoy sights of the fjords and shoreline from the comfort of the deck with a glass of your favorite bubbly in hand. Celebrity Cruises offers an array of 7- to 15-night cruises in 2019 and 2020, perfect for your scheduling needs. Take a look at what they have to offer, then contact an agent to plan the adventure of your lifetime.