The team at Alaska Tour & Travel is an adventurous bunch, and we don't take recommending day tours and excursions lightly. That's why, when we're not manning the phones at our office in Anchorage, we like to go out and experience what our guests will. Next stop? Ana takes us out on the Glacier Blue Kayak & Grandview Tour.

When did you go on the tour?

Early summer, June 5.

What was the day like? Setting the weather scene here.

We could not have asked for a better day at Spencer Glacier. The weather was in our favor, casting clear sunshine on the glacier which outlined every crack and crevasse and created a beautiful reflection of the surrounding mountains along the shoreline. I was prepared for all types of weather, and when I had to shed a layer or two, there was storage in the kayaks for those unwanted layers.

Ready to paddle at Spencer Glacier.

Let’s talk logistics. Where’d you meet/get picked up? How did the operator prep you for the tour?

I started my morning off at the Anchorage train depot at 5:30AM, where I met the Coastal Classic southbound train departing at 6:30AM. The check-in process was quick, I just provided my photo ID and last name for my reservation. The ticket counter representative gave me my seat assignment and physical boarding pass.

Upon finding my seat, I grabbed a hot cup of coffee in the snack car, sat back and enjoyed the narrated scenic train ride along the Turnagain Arm. The vibes of the day were high. The train conductor came out and made conversation with each passenger, and announced to riders that we would be making a brief stop in Girdwood. This is where my tour guides, Corey and Trevor, boarded the train along with all the necessary gear supplied for our day of adventure ahead. Further down the tracks, myself, Corey, Trevor, and a family of four got off the train at the Spencer Glacier Whistlestop. From here is where the real fun began!

We were given a brief synopsis of what our day would entail, and we started our journey to the lake. I did not know at the time, but this was the first tour of their 2023 season. The weather had not permitted them to go out the days before. There we were, on a beautiful bluebird sunny day. To say I felt lucky was an understatement. We had a harsh winter here in Alaska, with record-breaking snowfall throughout the region. Due to the conditions, the lake was still frozen over at the main loading area, but we were determined to get on the water. Our group decided we were all comfortable and fit to walk a mile down shore to where we could safely enter our kayaks and launch.

Pristine conditions at Spencer Glacier.

Prior to getting in our kayaks, we were handed the necessary gear including our dry suits, which were sized accordingly when we presented our height and weight when booking the tour. The tour guides gave a safety talk and brief paddling lesson.

The kayaks were tandem style, meaning two paddlers per kayak. Because I was a solo passenger, I was seated with Trevor. We paddled close to two hours on the lake, steering past icebergs and glacier breakoff. Those two hours flew by. Corey and Trevor provided an abundance of stories and history of the glacier, as well as the area surrounding the Chugach Mountains.

Our guides proposed that we could continue to paddle around the lake, or we could go further up, dock our kayaks, hydrate, and take an off-trail hike to the face of the glacier. Our group opted for the hike. I'm so glad we did. We followed Corey's very own footpath trail from years of his own exploration. Corey has been guiding with the outfit for over 10 years. Both guides were incredibly educated about the area and told poignant stories of seeing the glacier recede through the years.

Views of Spencer Glacier.

We had a brief stay at the glacier, then hiked back to our kayaks and paddled to shore to eat our lunch that was provided to us. We parted ways with our guides then reboarded the train to continue onward to Grandview. This segment of the train is considered the most scenic stretch of the railway. I can validate why they consider that! After the scenic ride through Grandview, we arrived back in Girdwood where we transferred onto a motorcoach back to Anchorage. We were dropped off at the rail depot around 6:45PM to conclude our day.

Overall impressions? What’s the vibe like? What did you see/experience/learn?

This tour is something I will never forget. The water was calm and beginner friendly. Each kayak duo paddled at their own pace while remaining in tune as a group. The guides gave it their all to ensure our comfort throughout the whole experience. It was nice to have a relaxing paddle, but still get out to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing with the short hike.

What was your favorite moment on the tour?

I really appreciated that they keep these tours to a small group size. It felt intimate and sincere.

Now that you’ve done this tour, what advice would you give guests?

  • The weather in Alaska is unpredictable, I had lucked out with sunshine, however this is not always the case. It is important to pack adequate layers. As always in Alaska, pack your rain jacket just in case!
  • Lunch is provided on the tour, but we do not eat lunch until after we have paddled four miles. I recommend fueling up on breakfast prior to the tour. If you do not have time to eat before arriving at the depot, the train has food and beverage service available for purchase.
  • Tipping is at your own discretion. However, the hospitality, education, time and effort the guides put into the day to provide a memorable experience did not go unnoticed and underappreciated.
  • You are welcome to take pictures as you paddle, in fact, I encourage you do so! However, it is important to know the risk of bringing your expensive equipment on the water. If you are not welcome to the idea that your cell phone or camera could potentially face damage, its best to leave it at home or tucked away in the dry storage compartment at the stern of your kayak.

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