One of the best day hikes in Alaska!
If you are visiting the area, I would put this at the top of my list - no kidding!
This is the hike that clinched it for me to move up here. Mostly vertical, it can be a real A** whupper, but ohhhhh, the reward is sooooo worth it. The scenery is incredible as you hike up the mountain and get increasingly better views of the glacier and the Kenai Mountains. And then you get to the top where you will see the incredible Harding Icefield. Words cannot describe it. You'll feel like you're on the top of the world!
The chance of seeing bear, dall sheep, mountain goats, and eagles is extremely high.
If you are coming up here in season and you could only do one hike, this is the one I'd pick. Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing in the lower 48 to compare to this.
After the hike, head down to the terminus for up close views of the glacier. If you are not in good shape, you could spend hours down here and have a very enjoyable time.
There is a great interpretive center as well.
If you pace yourself and you are in reasonably good shape, you should have no physical problem hiking to the Icefield. The real challenge is mental. Because of the way the mountain slopes from the glacial grinding, it seems like you are almost there and when you get higher you see more stretch of trail that was hidden. It can be quite daunting, but keep telling yourself that the reward will be worth it. You should keep on going, even if there's snow, until you get to the Icefield (trust me-you'll know it when you get there). DON'T GIVE UP!
Do not walk on the glacier! Unless you're experienced in glacial hiking, you are putting your life in extreme risk. There are many deep crevasses that are covered with snow. If you fall in, it was nice knowing you.
The Icefield, especially if it's windy, can be winter like, even if the temperature is warm down at the terminus. Pack a warm coat or fleece, windbreaker and hat. If traveling in September, consider gloves and a hot thermos. To avoid hypothermia, change into dryer and/or warmer clothes at the emergency hut located 1/4 mile before the edge of the Icefield.
You are not allowed to camp up there. This is a day hike only.
Dogs are not allowed on the trail. They are very serious about this rule!
There are designated campsites before the entrance to the glacier. Better yet is to find your spot on the many pull offs on Exit Glacier Road and camp right by the river.
If you're a shutterbug, the angle of the sun coming across the Icefield can really ruin the shot. Bring filters for clearer pictures.
There is a $10 entrance fee to get into the park. Your Alaska State Park Pass is not valid here.
If you'd like to educate yourself about glaciers and their awesome power, please visit All About Glaciers, a great introductory website.