On the first day of our travel to Alaska, last September, we planned to hike on a glacier. The very thought of it was exciting and we were eager to experience this incredible feeling. We landed in Anchorage late into the night and missed collecting the keys of our rental car before the counter closed. Certainly not the best start to the trip, but were glad to have an airport pick up arrive from our hotel stay. It felt chilly and there was a slight drizzle which gradually picked up as we got to our room. The reception lady told us that the first shower of snow occurred the previous week (last week of August) higher up in the mountains. So, make sure to pack clothes that would keep you warm and dry even during the summer and fall months while heading to the Last Frontier. If you are staying in Anchorage, I recommend this hotel which has comfortable double-bed rooms with an additional sofa bed for reasonable nightly rates. The stay also provides a complimentary breakfast.
Getting to Matanuska
After a few hours of sleep, I took the hotel shuttle to the airport to get my rental car early in the morning. It was gonna be a two-hour drive from Anchorage to the Matanuska Glacier along the scenic Glenn Highway. Check this page for a list of things-to-do/see along the highway. The Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier that is accessible by road. It is best to get on a guided tour rather than doing it yourself. We put aside the adventure of self exploration after reading some horror stories on the internet. The whole area is extremely slippery and must be hiked only with crampons. The real danger however are the crevasses which run over 100 feet deep at places. Many places have a thin sheet of ice covering them, which break open with the slightest of pressure. I strongly recommend going with the guides who are familiar with the terrain. They even keep you entertained with stories and myths about the glaciers :). Check this page for a list of licensed tour companies which provide different types and levels of hiking options to choose from. We went with Nova tour guides and were happy with our experience.
Matanuska Glacier Terminus
Walking on glaciers was a surreal experience. The mosaic of crevasses created unique and interesting patterns of channels for the melting ice to flow. The striking sun rays, illuminated the deep tunnels generating an emerald glow. We could only hike for upto 3 miles due to time constraint before heading to Denali National Park. The Matanuska glacier spans around 27 miles in length and has plenty of adventurers and ice climbers get deep into it’s enigmatic walls every year. This hike was one of the most intriguing and thrilling experiences and we really didn’t want to end it.