Kenai Fiords National Park: Harding Icefield

Hike a classic in Kenai Fords--and escape the crowds by making it an overnight.
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Hike a classic in Kenai Fords--and escape the crowds by making it an overnight.

This steep trail climbs 3,000 feet in 3.7 miles. The reward: some of the most spectacular views in Alaska, with incredible vistas over endless plains of glacial ice punctuated by dozens of nunataks--isolated, conical rocky peaks that protrude through the ice and rise several hundred feet.

No surprise Harding is a popular dayhike. But very few visitors continue past the first major overlooks. So to enjoy the view in solitude--and make this trip an unforgettable overnight--just continue west 1.3 miles, across the obvious dark moraines, to more secluded viewpoints and choice tent sites, which offer seclusion, equally good views of the icefield, and reasonable access to water running over the nearby ice. The total one-way trip is 5.3 very strenuous miles; the trail is steep and slick in wet conditions, hot and exposed on sunny days. Keep an eye out for bear, mountain goats, and marmot.

PERMIT INFO: No permits are needed, but for safety register your itinerary with rangers, especially if you’re venturing onto the ice (glacier gear and experience required).

MORE INFO: Kenai Fjords National Park, 907-224-7500; nps.gov/kefj

-Mapped by Steve Howe

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 16.7

Waypoints

HIF001

Location: 60.188322, -149.631275

Trailhead and visitor center

HIF002

Location: 60.186276, -149.634322

JUNCTION WITH EXIT GLACIER TOE TRAILS. MI 0.23

HIF003

Location: 60.184192, -149.636913

Junction with Harding Icefield Trail. Turn right/north.

HIF004

Location: 60.181723, -149.657592

Marmot meadows viewpoint

HIF005

Location: 60.183608, -149.66303

Begin steep switchbacks through cliff bands

HIF006

Location: 60.182562, -149.670381

Fine overlook at top of cliffs

HIF007

Location: 60.184782, -149.680725

Small stream crosses trail; good water source

HIF008

Location: 60.184562, -149.687058

Small stream crosses trail; good water source

HIF009

Location: 60.182123, -149.702784

Small NPS emergency shelter cabin. Note: No overnight camping allowed.

HIF010

Location: 60.17913, -149.707806

End of standard trail; excellent vistas

HIF011

Location: 60.179404, -149.725323

Small dirt ridge offers route to ascend around corner

HIF012

Location: 60.180637, -149.728431

Possible campsite (out of sight from trail) for two tents on flat gravel platforms; good views too

HIF013

Location: 60.181981, -149.727203

Possible site for one tent at ice margin

Harding Icefield

Location: 60.181178, -149.704599

Unnamed peak

Location: 60.193255, -149.601002

Glacier

Location: 60.189841, -149.618168

Icefield

Location: 60.180453, -149.728546

Ice border

Location: 60.181563, -149.727001

Moraine

Location: 60.180752, -149.716015

Excellent vistas

Location: 60.179172, -149.707088

Trail

Location: 60.181819, -149.70314

Low clouds near trailhead

Location: 60.188647, -149.621944

Glacial leftovers

Location: 60.182245, -149.70726

Ice fissures

Location: 60.18344, -149.693012

Ice meets trees

Location: 60.183697, -149.644089

Looking up valley

Location: 60.188903, -149.627266