Snowy Glacial Adventures in Alaska – Part 2
Portage Glacier is one of Alaska’s most popular tourist destinations. However, with the glacier beyond view from the Begich Boggs Visitor Center, most visitors only experience this natural wonder by boat. Those with a sense of adventure, and a tolerance for cold weather, will find that boat cruises aren’t the only way to experience this mighty glacier.
You see, there’s more than one way to get to the glacier. My chosen path? A cross country ski journey across frozen Portage Lake, right up to the edge of Portage Glacier.
A Cross Country Ski Trek to Portage Glacier
The adventure begins bright and early on a crisp, sunny April morning. The mission? To trek across Portage Lake for an up-close encounter with Portage Glacier. To ski close enough that one can see small cracks in the face of the glacier, yet far enough to remain out of harm’s way.
The start point of this adventure? The Begich Boggs Visitor Center parking lot, and the edge of the still solidly frozen Portage Lake. Ski boots on. Check. Skis snapped in place. Check. Ski poles in hands. Check. Jacket zipped and headband snug in place. Check.
The ski trail is dead ahead. Ski tips are turned and pointing in the right direction. All systems go! Time to ski across this frozen lake. Doesn’t look that far, now does it! Caution. Looks can be deceiving.
It’s an easy ski, yet it’s not. Though relatively flat, the trail is long, the glacier not quickly in site. Until. At last. There it is, just around the bend in the trail. Glacier here I come! I’m almost there! Just gotta ski a little further.
Up Close With The Mighty Portage Glacier
At last, the glacier is within grasp. And what a site it is! Pristine white snow, with a hint of blue. Mother Nature in her frozen glory, indeed.
All that hard work skiing to the glacier’s face certainly deserves a break. It’s the perfect place to step out of those skis, stand back and contemplate this mighty glacier in quiet solitude. Nobody else is here. Just me and the sounds of a snowy glacier beneath the late morning sun.
Sounds you say? Yes! This glacier is “alive” and on the move. The solitude is broken by a loud “crack” – enough to startle. I turn in the nick of time to witness a substantial chunk of Portage Glacier calve off and fall loudly to the ground.
Caution is of the order today, and any day when approaching a glacier on the move. Standing too close could be hazardous to your health as you never know when a glacier might calve, sending heavy chunks of glacial ice crashing to the frozen earth beneath.
Selfie time! Well, almost a selfie. Another solo skier and I prepare to trade places of quiet, front row glacial contemplation, but not before we trade photo ops with each other.
Ah yes. The long trail ahead awaits me. It’s a long ski trek back to the parking lot and the car, but it’s a trek well worth the effort. There is no better way to experience Mother Nature’s beauty than up close!
Portage Glacier Facts and Travel Tips
Facts About Portage Glacier
- Portage Glacier sits at the edge of Portage Lake in the Chugach National Forest.
- The glacier is “alive” and on the move. In recent years it has been melting, receding.
- Portage Glacier is one of the most visited attractions in Alaska.
- Most people see the glacier via a Portage Glacier Cruise.
- The face of the glacier remains partially in Portage Lake, but it is no longer visible from the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center.
Travel Tips for Portage Glacier
- Portage Glacier is an easy 50 mile day trip from Anchorage via the Seward Highway.
- Most glacier visits begin at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center, open May to September.
- The parking lot is open in winter months for winter activities on the frozen lake.
- Winter skiers will find plenty of ski trails leading out to the glacier’s face.
- The more adventurous summer visitors can hike to the glacier. Stop at the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center for trail information.
- Don’t get too close if hiking or skiing to the glacier. Calving glaciers can be dangerous, and Portage Glacier is no exception.
So go on. Think outside the boat. Try a cross country ski trek across frozen Portage Lake to the glacier. Like me! If you don’t have your own skis, there are plenty of ski rental shops to pick up a pair and hit the trail.
Over To You!
Cross country skiing to Portage Glacier was a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. One that I would repeat again, if given the opportunity.
Have you ever been this close to a glacier? Would you brave a two to three hour cross country ski trek, or hike along rugged trails, to get up close with a glacier on the move? Let us know in the Comments section below.
Check out our other Alaska Adventures:
- Talkeetna, Denali And Mount McKinley – A Flight Seeing Adventure of Glacial Proportions – Part 1 of Snowy Glacial Adventures
- Alyeska Resort – Your Next Ski Destination?
I’m on vacation this week, experiencing a wild and wonderful dream destination, straight from my bucket list. I will be off the grid, and unlikely to respond until my return, but rest assured I’ll be back, chock full of more wonders of Mother Nature to share.
All images from C.Biederman