Southeast Kenai Locations:

Exit Glacier

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Exit Glacier (Fiona Ritter-Davis)

Notable Species

  • Black bear
  • Hoary marmot
  • Mountain goat
  • Western screech-owl
  • Great horned owl
  • Boreal owl
  • Northern saw-whet owl
  • Steller’s jay
  • Black-billed magpie
  • Horned lark
  • Violet-green swallow
  • Warblers
  • Snow bunting
  • Ice worms

The most accessible glacier on the Kenai Peninsula dominates this viewing site in the Kenai Fjords National Park outside of Seward. A moderately strenuous 1.2 mile (one-way) trail leads up the valley through stages of plant succession to a wall of blue ice at the edge of Exit Glacier. As each habitat blends into the next, the mix of birds and mammals shifts slightly. Watch for violet-green swallows over the river. Steller’s jays and black-billed magpies chatter among the alders. Warblers, sparrows and other songbirds forage on forest edges. Mountain goats, black bears, and brown bears emerge into view along the avalanche chutes on each side of the valley. Moose winter in the valley bottom, where they browse on willow and cottonwood. A strenuous 4.1-mile climb up the Harding Icefield Trail leads to alpine areas and snow fields where you may find snow buntings, horned larks, mountain goats and hoary marmots—or even iceworms, tiny nocturnal worms that live in the surface layers of glaciers.


The newly exposed landscape at the foot of Exit Glacier progresses from bare rock into temperate rainforest as plants reclaim the barren glacial till. Lichens and pioneer plants colonize rock and silt close to the ice. Thick stands of alder with some willow come next, followed by black cottonwood forest that slowly gives way to shade-tolerant mountain hemlock.

Geographic Connection

Exit Glacier is the only area of Kenai Fjords National Park accessible by road (summer only). Trailside signs mark the glacier’s location over the previous century, illustrating its dramatic retreat.

Viewing Tip

Give yourself enough time to walk to the glacier overlook. Stop in each plant zone and scan for birds. Stop at pull-outs along the road to watch for birds and moose. Listen in the evenings for owls.

Helpful Hints

Tune into information radio 1610 AM near Exit Glacier. Dress for cold wind off the glacier. Check on conditions at the Nature Center before attempting the steep Harding Icefield trail.


Accessible Facilities

The Exit Glacier Nature Center and a separate bathroom building are wheelchair accessible.

The one-mile round-trip Glacier View Trail is a partially paved, partially gravel-packed walkway that leads to a glacier overlook with an accessible spotting scope.

Getting There

Seward Highway milepost 3.7, turn on Exit Glacier Road (signed). The Nature Center (open summer only) is about 8.5 miles ahead. In winter, the road is not maintained, however the gate does allow for the passage of skiers, dogsleds and snowmachines.


Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park (National Park Service)