Looking for a scenic adventure that will take you off the beaten track? Glacier trekking could be for you. Glaciers – not to be confused with icebergs – are large and persistent bodies of ice. Glaciers form over land over many years and together with icebergs, contain most of Earth’s fresh water.
Sadly, many glaciers are rapidly shrinking, so now is the time for beginner and experienced hikers alike to check out the breathtaking sights of the world’s most beautiful frozen landscapes . Whether you’re looking to explore a glacier on a gentle one-day hike or trek a more challenging and jagged terrain over multi-day adventure, there’s plenty of glaciers that present magnificent views and experiences. Here’s our list of 24 of the best glaciers to hike and check out.
1. Aletsch Glacier
The longest glacier in Europe, located right in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-do for adventurous hikers. Even hiking newbies can do this as long as they have a lot of positive energy and a willing heart. Of course, bringing the right gear is a must too.
2. Vatnajökull Glacier
Vatnajökull, also known as the Vatna Glacier, is the largest and most voluminous ice cap in Iceland, and one of the largest in area in Europe. Covering more than eight percent of Iceland, its name is derived from vatna, which means water in Icelandic, and jökull, which means glacier. Hikes are available for all levels, and many visitors are drawn to seeing the midnight sun, the hot springs hidden in caves of ice, and spectacular views.
3. Sólheimajökull Glacier
Sólheimajökull Glacier is about 8 km long and 1-2 km wide. It is sometimes called “The Stinking River” because of its emission of sulphuric acid from sub-glacial high-temperature areas. This glacier has shrunk dramatically over the years and is full of ice ridges, sinkholes, and streams, providing hikers with a memorable experience.
4. Matterhorn Glacier
The Matterhorn Glacier is a glacier in the Pennine Alps, located at the base of the north face of the Matterhorn, south of Zermatt. It has a maximum width of approximately 2.5 kilometers and reaches a minimum height of 2.8 kilometers. This technically challenging peak provides breathtaking views but is not for the amateur hiker.
5. Pasterze Glacier
Pasterze Glacier is the longest glacier in Austria, at 8.4 kilometers long. Lying directly beneath Mount Grossglockner, the country’s highest mountain, Pasterze is accessible from the High Alpine Road, as well as via a cable railway, and a walking trail. ‘Pasterze’ comes from the word ‘Pastirica’, from the Slovenian word for ‘shepherdess’.
6. Jostedal Glacier
Jostedal Glacier is the largest glacier in continental Europe. Hiking tours are available for all levels, starting from a very easy one-hour hike catered to families. Kayaking is also popular here.
7. Athabasca Glacier
The largest mass of ice in the Rocky Mountains, it’s no surprise that this glacier is a hiker’s favorite. Stretching for more than 25 kilometers across the Continental divide, hiking it is not for the faint-hearted. Those willing to take on the adventure can witness the beauty of melting snows, waters flowing across North America to the Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Pacific Oceans.
8. Angel Glacier
Angel Glacier is one of the more accessible glaciers in Canada. Nature lovers will appreciate its accessibility and beauty. Hikers can get very close to the glacier and take magnificent photos. If you go, look at the glacier closely and see if you think it does indeed resemble an angel – how the glacier got its name.
9. Mendenhall Glacier
Alaska, United States
This glacier is 13.6 miles long and has a helpful visitor center operated by the United States Forest Service. The easy Photo Point Trail is the best vantage point for panoramic shots of Mendenhall Glacier and the surrounding peaks.
10. Exit Glacier
Alaska, United States
If you are looking for a short, easy-to-access, and amazing hike, check out Exit Glacier. The lower trail is a very easy half-mile for everybody, where you can also snap a memorable photo in front of the glacier face. The upper trail has an overlook that seems as though you’re standing right on the glacier.
11. Matanuska Glacier
Alaska, United States
Three hours drive from Anchorage, a hike of the Matanuska Glacier is worth adding to the itinerary if you are in Alaska. The glacier is the largest in Alaska that is accessible by vehicle and is a lovely day trip from Anchorage. It gets very windy here, so make sure to pack lots of layers for a hike!
12. Margerie Glacier
Alaska, United States
Margerie Glacier is a tide water glacier worth checking out. Located in Glacier Bay, it was discovered by John Muir back in 1988. Taller than the Statue of Liberty, it is considered the most active glacier for “calving”, which means the breaking and dropping of ice walls into the sea.
13. Greenland Ice Sheet
The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic Ice Sheet, covering 80 percent of Greenland. Together, both ice sheets contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth. For hikers really wanting something unique, breathtaking and out-of-this-world, hiking, or even taking a helicopter tour of the ice sheet is a must.
14. Perito Moreno Glacier
Unlike other glaciers that are rapidly shrinking, Perito Moreno keeps growing, and the reason is still debated by experts. Its size and accessibility make Perito Moreno a major tourist attraction in southern Patagonia. Trekking and hiking tours are very popular, including a “mini-trekking” option that takes one and a half hours, and a “big ice” option that lasts five hours.
15. Grey Glacier
Part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Feld, the Grey Glacier stretches across the Andes between Argentina and Chile. Even if it is one of the smallest glaciers in Patagonia, hikers can easily spend a whole day here, traversing ice blocks, exploring cold caverns, and scrutinizing deep cracks.
16. Laguna Glaciar
Laguna Glaciar is one of the best shorter treks from Sorata. Getting there, however, is no easy feat. Trekkers and hikers need to cross from one valley over a ridge to another valley and walk across slippery rocks and other minor challenges. But once there, all the hard work pays off, as visitors are treated to incredible views of surrounding glaciers and mountains.
17. Baltoro Glacier
If you are looking to hike a glacier outside the polar regions, Baltoro Glacier is a great option, as it is one of the longest glaciers located outside the common polar regions. The sheer enormity of Baltoro Glacier and its a strenuous route taking several days to complete means that only those who are physically fit and experts should attempt to trek the entire route.
18. Biafo Glacier
The Biafo Glacier, in the Karakoram Mountains, is 63 kilometers long and sits at an altitude of 5,128 meters. This is a glacier for the experienced trekker. People who hike this glacier can check out spectacular views of Snow Lake, one of the world’s largest basins of snow or ice outside of the polar regions. You can also spot ibex, mountain goats, and if you’re lucky brown bears and snow leopards.
19. Khumbu Glacier
The Khumbu Glacier has elevations of 4,900 meters at its terminus to 7,600 meters at its source, making it the world’s highest glacier. It flows between Mountain Everest and the Lhotse-Nuptse Ridge and is constantly on the move. This glacier is a must-see for people who are looking to trek to one of the Everest base camps.
20. Yulong Glacier
This glacier is located in Yulong Mountain, also known as Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, in southwestern China. The Yulong Glacier is a primary source of fresh water for Western China. Cable cars take tourists up and down the mountain. Since it is 12,000 feet high, tourists often bring with them oxygen canisters to help them breathe at such a high altitude.
Australia & New Zealand
22. Fox Glacier
Tucked into the forested foothills of the Southern Alps, visitors can do glacier tours, heli-hikes, mountaineering trips and other adventures. There are guided tours available for every level, and for children as well. Make sure to check out the beautiful Lake Matheson nearby for some exhilarating views.
21. Franz Josef Glacier
Located in Westland Tai Poutini National park on New Zealand, this glacier welcomes around 250,000 visitors every year. Hikers can choose to do a guided tour, or for those with more cash and not a lot of time, check out the glacier by helicopter.
23. Furtwängler Glacier
Furtwängler Glacier is a small remnant of an enormous ice cap once crowning the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The glacier is named after Walter Furtwängler who was part of the fourth party to ascend to the summit of Kilimanjaro in 1912. Sadly, almost 85 percent of the ice cover disappeared from 1912 to 2011 and based on current estimates, most of the the ice will disappear by 2040. This is worth a visit to one of Tanzania’s most-loved tourist attractions.
24. Canada Glacier
Canada Glacier is one of the numerous glaciers in Antarctica. It is a small glacier flowing southeast into the northern side of Taylor Valley in Victoria Land. Interestingly, the glacier receives less than 10 centimeters of snowfall annually and is technically a desert ecosystem.