24 Stunning Glaciers You Need to Visit

28 Mar 24 Stunning Glaciers You Need to Visit

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.

Europe


1. ALETSCH GLACIER, Valais – Switzerland

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.

Aletsch Glacier

Aletsch Glacier by Patrick Hofer on Flickr

2. VATNAJOKULL GLACIER, Vatnajökull – Iceland

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.

Vatnajökull glacier

Vatnajökull glacier by Kris Williams on Flickr

3. SOLHEIMAJOKULL GLACIER, Myrdalsjokull – Iceland

Solheimajokull is about eight 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.

Sólheimajökull Glacier

Sólheimajökull Glacier by Mike Freedman on Flickr

4. MATTERHORN GLACIER, Zermatt – Switzerland

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.

Matterhorn Glacier

Matterhorn Glacier by Arwen on Flickr

5. PASTERZE GLACIER, Grossglockner – Austria

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’.

Pasterze Glacier

Pasterze Glacier by Cristian Bortes on Flickr

6. JOSTELDALSBREEN GLACIER, Sogn og Fjordane – Norway

Jostedalsbreen 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.

Jostedalsbreen Glacier

Hiking on the Jostedalsbreen Glacier by Karen Blaha on Flickr

North America


7. ATHABASCA GLACIER, Alberta – Canada

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.

Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier by Simon Nathan on Flickr

8. ANGEL GLACIER, Alberta – Canada

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.

Angel Glacier

Angel Glacier by Denby Jorgensen on Flickr

9. MENDENHALL GLACIER, Alaska – USA

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.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier by Jay Galvin on Flickr

10. EXIT GLACIER, Alaska – USA

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.

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier by Dubhe on Wikipedia

11. MATANUSKA GLACIER, Alaska – USA

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!

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier terminus on Wikipedia

12. MARGERIE GLACIER, Alaska – USA

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.

Margerie Glacier

Margerie Glacier by Kimberly Vardeman on Flickr

13. GREENLAND ICE SHEET, Greenland

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.

Greenland Ice Sheet

Greenland Ice Sheet by Kyle Mortara on Flickr

South America


14. PERITO MORENO GLACIER, Santa Cruz – Argentina

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.

Perito Moreno glacier

Understanding the size of Perito Moreno glacier by Pino Bonetti on Flickr

15. GREY GLACIER, Puerto Natales – Chile

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 jere, traversing ice blocks, exploring cold caverns, and scrutinizing deep cracks.

Grey Glacier

Grey Glacier by Sean Munson on Flickr

16. LAGUNA GLACIAR, Larecaja Province – Bolivia

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.

Laguna Glaciar

Laguna Glaciar by Goulevitch Jérémie on Flickr

Asia


17. BALTORO GLACIER, Karakoram – Pakistan

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 expert should attempt to trek the entire route.

Baltoro Glacier

Baltoro Glacier by Guilhem Vellut on Flickr

18. BIAFO GLACIER, Gilgit Baltistan – Pakistan

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.

Roped together on the Biafo glacier Baqir leads the way

Roped together on the Biafo Glacier

19. KHUMBU GLACIER, Khumbu – Nepal

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.

Khumbu Ice Fall

Khumbu Ice Fall by Robert Nunn on Flickr

20. YULONG GLACIER, Jade Dragon Mountain – China

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.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Yulong Glacier

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Yulong Glacier by Chensiyuan on Wikipedia

Oceania


21. FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER, Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

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.

Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier by jipe7 on Flickr

22. FOX GLACIER, Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

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.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier by Gouldy on Flickr

Africa


23. FURTWÄNGLER GLACIER, ‎Mount Kilimanjaro – Tanzania

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. 

Furtwängler Glacier

Furtwängler Glacier on Wikipedia

Antarctica


24. CANADA GLACIER, Victoria Land – Antarctica

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.

Canada Glacier

Canada Glacier by Joe Mastroianni on Wikipedia

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Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

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