Interested in joining us for a glacier hike in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park? Here’s what you can expect when you join us for our Full-Day Glacier Hike on the Root Glacier!
Your day of hiking on the Root Glacier begins at our office in the historic mill town of Kennecott, Alaska. Here you will check-in with our friendly office staff before meeting your guide and the rest of your group. Once introduced to your guide, they will fit you with crampons. Crampons are steel spikes worn on your shoes to make hiking on the glacier ice a breeze! Before you leave for the day, they will make sure you have all of the essential items needed for a day on the glacier – please reference our Equipment List for more specifics.
From our office, your guide will lead your group down the main street of Kennecott, passing the red and white buildings that stand as a reminder of the highly successful copper mining operation that boomed here in the early 1900s. The main street gradually turns into the 2 mile glacier trail that was originally built as a wagon road to supply the Erie Mine, six miles up the Root Glacier. In May and June, brilliant blue lupines bloom alongside the path. As summer matures, fireweed and wild rose bring splashes of vibrant pink to the landscape.
Gradually, the trail descends towards the edge of the Root Glacier. As your guide pauses to explain the local geology, flora, and fauna, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the rock-covered Kennicott Glacier and the white ice of the Root Glacier. While the majority of your 2 mile hike is over a well maintained trail, the last ¼ mile does require descending over steeper loose rock. Once you make it to the edge of the glacier, your group will take a break while your guide instructs everyone on how to put on crampons, proper walking techniques, and general glacier safety.
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Now you get to follow your guide onto the glacier itself. As you hike up the glacier, you’ll notice how water runs all over the surface of the ice. The water joins into bubbling streams and waterfalls. In steeper terrain, that water picks up speed, and carves deep canyon-like ravines in the ice, forming beautiful and enticing water slides. At level spots, the water collects and reflects a breathtaking blue. As the ice gives way to the warmer melting water, holes, known as moulins, form.
Along the way you will stop to enjoy the lunch that you packed, taking the time to sit in one place for a little while and enjoy the views. How far out on the glacier you go will depend on your group, but usually you can expect to go anywhere from 2-4 miles. After “lunch with a view”, your possibilities are endless! Your group and your guide may decide to head up-glacier towards the massive Stairway Icefall where the possibilities of finding undiscovered moulins and deep sparkling blue pools are good. Or, maybe you’ll set your sights across the medial moraine for Donoho Falls and the thundering cave it creates as it tunnels its way under the Root Glacier. No matter what you decide, you can’t go wrong! This truly Alaskan day-hike is sure to leave you spellbound and eager to share your discoveries with other travelers over dinner.
As the day draws to a close and the light softens, you and your guide will begin to make your way back towards Kennecott. Rushing water and your footsteps are the only sounds you’ll hear as you take one last look over your shoulder at the magnificent 7,000 ft Stairway Icefall. The adventure is far from over though. It’s the time in the evening when the trail is quiet, and animal sightings are likely. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready!
Ready to book this excursion? Go to our Full-Day Glacier Hike page!