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The Best Hikes to Epic Glaciers Around the World

Does the thought of massive glaciers towering above you make you giddy with excitement? Glaciers are truly one of nature’s most mind-blowing sights.  All across the world, there are epic glaciers to be found. Get inspired for your next glacier hike with our top picks around the world…

the best hikes to epic glaciers around the world

Best Glacier Hikes in North America

Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, USA

Trailhead: Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, Many Glacier

Distance and elevation gain: 10.5 miles, 1800 ft gain

The draw:  Not only is Grinnell Glacier one of the most stunning glaciers left in existence, but the trek to the glacier also brings you along 3 of the brightest turquoise lakes you’ll ever see, through alpine meadows, and likely near some incredible wildlife.  While the hike to see it is long and hard, you will be awe-struck upon arriving at upper Grinnell Lake with Grinnell Glacier towering above it on a steep rock face.  Beautiful blue pools of melted glacier accentuate the frozen lake and a second smaller glacier lies frozen to the right of Grinnell.

Cool things nearby: A trip to Glacier National Park would be incomplete without driving or taking the shuttle along Trail Ridge Road.  If you’re looking for other stunning hikes in the park, check out our list of Best Day Hikes in Glacier National Park

St Mary’s Glacier in Colorado, USA

Trailhead: St Mary’s Glacier Trailhead, Idaho Springs

Distance and elevation gain: 2 miles, 800 ft gain

The draw:  The little hidden gem is a quick detour off the major highway I-70 which runs through the Colorado Rockies. This hike is great for hikers of all ages and skill levels due to the short mileage.  St Mary’s Glacier towers above a beautiful, crystal clear glacial lake. Beyond the glacier, you will be surrounded by amazing mountains and forests which you can choose to continue hiking through.  As St Mary’s Glacier is retreating fast, there’s a good chance you may see a small avalanche pour off the mountainsides surrounding the glacier.

Cool things nearby: Hike a 14er.  Colorado has the most amount of 14,000-foot peaks in the lower 48.  Never hiked a 14er before? Grays Peak is a great first summit. Or, you can drive a few minutes south of Georgetown and hike Mt Bierstadt. If you’re looking for more adventure, head west to Summit County where there’s mountain biking, hiking, and climbing galore.

Peyto Lake Overlook in Banff National Park, Canada

Trailhead: Bow Summit Parking Lot, Banff National Park

Distance and elevation gain: 4 miles, 500 ft gain

The draw:  While this hike doesn’t go directly to a glacier, it brings you to one of the best glacier overlooks in the world not to mention the iconic blue lake below.  This one is a super short hike but it’s not easy to get to.  Jasper is a 3-hour drive from the nearest major city, Calgary. But for views like this, the drive is worth it.

Cool things nearby: Drive Icefields Parkway or hike around Lake Louise.  Check out our Day Hiking guide to Lake Louise for all skill levels.

Northeast Cascades in Washington State, USA

Northeast Cascades, Best Hikes to Epic Glaciers Around the World

Trailheads: Blue Lake Trailhead or Rainy Pass Trailhead

Distance and elevation gain: Varies

The Draw:  The cascades are the ultimate hidden gem of glaciers.  While Glacier National Park is famous because of the large amount of glaciers, a little-known fact is that the Cascades have 85 glaciers compared to Glacier’s 25 not to mention all the glaciers tint the South and Central Cascades.  

Hiking among these mountains is about as raw as it gets.  With very little foot traffic on these trails, you’ll likely have your glacier views all to yourself.  There are so many glacier hikes around here, it’s impossible to pick one.  Our favorite glacier hike in the area is the Heather – Maple Pass Loop.  

This is truly one of our favorite hikes in the world. At 7 miles roundtrip and 2,000 feet of elevation gain, there are few hikes with as much reward for your efforts.  This hike is beautiful at all times of year but the trail is often covered in snow until mid-July so be prepared.  For those looking for a shorter Glacier Hike, Blue Lake is a winner.

Cool things nearby: The Cascade Loop Highway is considered one of the greatest scenic drives in the USA and it’s true.  From Leavenworth to Winthrop to Newhalem, everything on this highway is jaw-droopingly beautiful.  Find out where to stop on this highway by clicking here.

Harding Icefield Trail (AKA Exit Glacier), Alaska

Trailhead: Kenai Fjords National Park Nature Center, Seward

Distance and elevation gain: 8 miles, 4,000 ft gain

The draw: The HIT trail is personally my favorite glacier hike I’ve ever done. What sets this trail apart from other glacier hikes is the raw beauty of the Exit Glacier and the jagged, icy blue crevasses that you get to view from up close. The views come at a cost though and the Harding Icefield trail gains 1,000 feet in each mile of the trail. The good thing is, if you’re not feeling up for a 8 mile trek, you can turn around earlier at the first of the 3 great viewpoints: Marmot Meadows, Top of the Cliff, and End of the Trail. Surely, End of the Trail delivers the most spectacular views but Marmot Meadows is incredible as well.

Cool things nearby: The Exit Glacier is located on the outdoor adventure hub of Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula, and that’s saying something because Alaska has adventure whenever you go. Click to explore our Ultimate Guide to the Kenai Peninsula.

The Enchantments in Washington State, USA

Trailheads: Snowy Lakes Trailhead or Stuart Lake Trailhead, Leavenworth

Distance and elevation gain: 19 miles, 4,500 ft gain

The draw:  With 5 alpine lakes below huge glacial masses, this is the queen of all glacier hikes. Being 19 miles in length from point to point, it’s one of the hardest day hikes in the world, and backpacking permits are practically impossible to get.  Nevertheless, few hikes are as mind-blowing as this one.  It’s a true test for even the most experienced hikers but every view is worth it.  The logistics can be complex so check out our blog to find out How to Thru Hike the Enchantments in 1 day.

Cool things nearby: The hike also sits at the start of the incredible Cascade Loop.  From here, you can drive east or west and you will be greeted with a stunning scenic drive.

Portage Pass + Lake, Alaska

Trailhead: Portage Pass Trailhead, Whittier

Distance and elevation gain: 2 or 4 miles, 1,500 ft gain

The draw: This is quite possibly the most bang for your buck hike in the world. At only 4 miles roundtrip (and only 2 miles roundtrip if you only go to the pass) this hike delivers immense beauty in only a short 2-hour hike. The hike starts from the Whittier side of the Portage Pass tunnel at sea level and climbs to the pass at 750. From the very start, this hike is stunning and delivers coastal views out toward Whittier. Once at the summit, you can see the beautiful Portage Glacier and the icy blue lake below it. Here you can turn around and head back or continue another mile to relax on the shores of the lake.

Cool things nearby: The entire Anchorage area is an adventurer’s dream come true. From Girdwood to Hatcher Pass, click here to explore the top 25 things to do in Anchorage.

Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, USA

Glacier Overlook, Skyline Trail, Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

Trailhead: Paradise Visitor Center

Distance and elevation gain: 2.5 miles, 900 ft gain

The draw: While the Skyline Trail technically continues to Panorama Point, Glacier Vista may be the crown jewel of the famous trail. This hike brings you up close to Nisqually Glacier and it’s amazing to see all the warping textures of this glacier up close. The Skyline Trail is all crime no punishment and is just over a 1 mile walk on a mostly paved trail from the visitor center. The only hard part of this hike will be timing it right to avoid the crowds. Pro tip: Hike this at sunrise for complete solitude and incredible views.

Cool things nearby: Mount Rainier is a special little bubble of raw beauty and nature. There are dozens of incredible hikes in this national park and. Click here to find the best hikes in Mount Rainier or click here to find out the 11 things you can’t miss in Mount Rainier.

Best Glacier Hikes in New Zealand

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Trailhead: Franz Josef Glacier Carpark

Distance and elevation gain: 3.2 miles RT, little to no elevation gain

The draw: This hike feels like Norway mixed with Hawaii.  Franz Josef Glacier is a raw and beautifully blue glacier that lies at the apex of the valley.  But the glacier isn’t the only beautiful part.  The entire hike up to Franz Josef follows a beautiful moraine-colored river and is filled with endless waterfalls and a stunning mix of fern and coniferous forest. This glacier is increasingly popular so go early or late in the day. Avoiding bad weather will be the hardest, but luckily, even when clouds and rain hang in the air, the glacier is still equally as dramatic.

Cool things nearby: Explore West Coast New Zealand.  Stay at this AirBnb with its own private beach along the rugged coastline (PS get $40 off you first AirBnb by clicking here).  Want more hiking?  Check out 7 Stops You Must See on the West Coast

Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Trailhead: White Horse Hill Campground, Mount Cook Village

Distance and elevation gain: Varies by hike

The draw:  Of all the glaciers I’ve seen, Mount Cook might be my all-time favorite. Unlike most glaciers, this one sits high on the top of Mount Cook.  This stunning glacier is filled with hypnotizing textures, swirls, and ridges. Being surrounded by a dark granite mountain makes the white and blue glacial colors stand out even more.  Mount Cook is absolutely one of the best glaciers in the world and here’s the best part, there a super cheap and epic campground right at the base of it complete with a huge camper kitchen and bathroom facilities. Not only that, but there are dozens of epic hikes directly from the campground to more glaciers, lakes, and mountain peaks. 

Cool things nearby: Head down to Wanaka to hike above the bluest lakes you’ll ever see.  If you could only go to 2 places in New Zealand, it would be Mount Cook and Wanaka. Check out the Best Adventures in Wanaka.

Best Glacier Hikes in Europe

Briksdalsbreen in Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

Trailhead: Briksdalsbre Visitor Center Parking Lot

Distance and elevation gain: 3.6 miles, 650 ft gain

The draw:  This massive glacier is one of the most easily accessed glaciers in the world.  The easy hike brings you to a beautiful lake with a large frozen mass above.  While the glacier will seem large, the craziest part is that the glacier you will see on this hike is only a small arm of the entire glacier that lies above the mountains.  Adventurers will enjoy glacier tours in which you get to hike and ice climb on the upper section of the glacier.

Cool things nearby: Camp on the shores of a lake overlooking mountains such as Gryta Campground.  Click here to see our list of the best campgrounds to stay at in Central Norway

Related Blog: Best Family-Friendly Hikes in Norway

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