Don't let Anchorage's distinction as Alaska's largest city fool you. Even in downtown you're only a handful of miles away from some of the state's extraordinary mountains, waterways, and - of course - glaciers. Here are four ways to explore four of those glaciers close to Anchorage.

Matanuska Glacier

  • 96 highway miles from Anchorage
  • Road accessible (about a two-hour drive from Anchorage)
  • How to Explore: Matanuska Glacier Walk

Expansive view of Matanuska Glacier.

The Matanuska Glacier has long been a favorite thanks to that rare combination of proximity to Anchorage, road accessibility, and especially beautiful setting. The drive from Anchorage itself is one of the most scenic in Alaska. The Matanuska Glacier Walk tour we recommend includes roundtrip transportation and a guided glacier trek. See the glacier's unique features up close, from moulins to glacier tables to crevasses of unknown depths.

Can I walk on the Matanuska Glacier without a tour? No, the road access point to the glacier is privately owned, so the only way to walk on the Matanuska glacier is by joining a permitted tour. Consider this a good thing, though: It's much safer and more informative to set foot on any glacier with a guide.

Knik Glacier

Take in spectacular views of Knik glacier from the air.

25 miles long and about five miles wild, the Knik Glacier is one of the largest glaciers near Anchorage. You have to see it from the air to appreciate its expansiveness. Our top pick Knik tours leave out of the Alaska Glacier Lodge, which is a little under an hour's drive from Anchorage and just a few air miles to the glacier itself. For the sporty traveler there are also opportunities for ice climbing and paddleboarding on the glacier.

Are there other ways to get to the Knik Glacier? You can get to the Knik Glacier area by jetboat, airboat, or ATV in the summer, but there's a caveat. An iceberg-jammed lake surrounds the toe of the Knik Glacier, so while you will have a great view of the glacier, it is a challenge to reach it safely. The route out also requires multiple river crossings. In the summer a helicopter is the best way to get onto the Knik Glacier. Once the lake freezes in the winter the glacier is reachable by snowmachine and fat tire bike.

Spencer Glacier

Nice day for an iceberg paddle near Spencer Glacier.

Spencer Glacier is southeast of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, pouring from mountains that also border the far reach of Prince William Sound. While it is not road accessible, it has the unique distinction of being train accessible. Each of our top Spencer Glacier tours include a train ride. They are also some of our favorite kid-friendly glacier tours.

How do you get to Spencer Glacier from Anchorage? The primary way to get to Spencer Glacier from Anchorage in the summer is on the Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery train. The train departs Anchorage at 9:45 AM and arrives at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop around 1:45 PM. There are trails and a small campground near the whistle stop. Similar to the Knik Glacier, there is a large lake at the toe of Spencer Glacier, so the glacier itself is accessible from here by boat. Spencer Glacier is a popular snowmachine destination in the winter.

Portage Glacier & Byron Glacier

Portagle Glacier iceberg selfie for the win.

A fun pick for less active travelers who still want to see some incredible sites, this guided day tour out of Anchorage culminates in an hour-long boat tour up to Portage Glacier.

The Portage area, home to the trail-accessible Byron Glacier, is also easy for self-drive travelers to visit. Be sure to head to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center to chat with a forest ranger, see glacier exhibits, and pick up a local trail guide. Note that the Byron Glacier trailhead has limited parking and often fills up early, especially on the weekends.

Can you still see Portage Glacier? Portage Glacier has retreated many miles over the years and is no longer visible from the road. The only established trail with a view of Portage Glacier is the Portage Pass Trail out of Whittier. Speaking of Whittier...

Bonus: Whittier

If you want to see a whole lot of glaciers all in a day, go just a bit farther past Portage to Whittier. This teeny coastal town is home base for the 26 Glacier Cruise, a day tour into Prince William Sound and whole world of tidewater glaciers.

Excited about glaciers? Use our Finder Tool to search for more glacier activities beyond Anchorage.

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