Gulkana Glacier is one of the easiest glacier hiking experiences you can find in Alaska without a helicopter. The incline of the glacier is smooth all the way from its toe to the sudden dropoff where it intersects the edge of the Canwell Glacier valley, and once you reach bare ice it’s almost as easy as walking along a road, no ice cleats or crampons required. Crevasses and other obstacles are also few and easily avoided. The hike to the toe of Gulkana Glacier is approximately 2.5 miles and starts by crossing a footbridge that most people find to be a highlight of their trip. A well-worn foot path leads most of the way from the footbridge to the glacier, and for the past few years there has been an ice cave feature located at the toe where the half-day tour ends. The impressive Gabriel Icefall dominates the view along the lower half of the glacier, and above the icefall you can stroll past more tributary glaciers, waterfalls, and ice-sculpted mountains until you reach the USGS hut near the glacier’s dropoff. Conditions may vary but generally it takes until late June for snow to melt off the lower glacier and well into July for the upper reaches.
Route Length (half-day): 2.5 miles (one-way), 300 feet elevation gain
Route Length (full-day): up to 6 miles (one-way), 2300 feet elevation gain