Byron Glacier Trail
See a beautiful hanging glacier up close and personal
The Byron Glacier Trail near Girdwood, Alaska is a beautiful hike for trekkers of all ages.
Be careful not to go to high up on the avalanche chutes since the snow underneath collapses and some point during the summer.
(People have been killed walking through ice caves there multiple times so be smart)
Ice worms are common, if you get down on your knees when on the snowfield. There are also beautiful ice caves that form from the glacier runoff. The Byron Glacier Trail is very flat. First half of trail to the glacier viewpoint is well maintained, with a wide footpath and brush cleared away from trail. Second half becomes rocky with small stream crossings some standing water.
This 1.4 mile Byron Glacier wilderness trail offers an easy walk for all ages. It allows a close-up view of a glacier with rugged, mountains in all directions. A good family outing with a variety of things to do for the whole family. The alder/cottonwood forest is lush with ferns for a serene beginning to the hike. Byron Creek is a cascading, whitewater, glacial creek. The many stones along its bank offer many imaginative activities for children and adults (rock skipping, fort building).
The Byron Glacier trail starts at a well-marked pullout, about half a mile from the end of the road. When the trees were shorter, you could see the glacier well from the road, but now you have to hike a ways before the ice face comes into view. Follow the winding, mostly flat trail through a rocky, verdant alluvial plain that is now interspersed with tall alders and a smattering of cottonwood and aspen trees. Much of the trail is close to Byron Creek, where kids can play among the smooth stones, but keep an eye because the water is cold and sometimes rapid. As you approach the glacier, the forest thins out to display views of the rugged cliffs and glacier and – if you turn around – Portage Lake and Valley. It’s fun to have an impromptu snowball fight in snowfields left over from winter avalanches, or take one of the multiple side trails that will lead you to the edge of the valley where bouldering opportunities abound.
Be sure to bring rain gear: the Portage Valley is frequently rainy even when Anchorage is sunny.
On your way to the glacier you could stop by the Williwaw Falls Sockeye Salmon Viewing Area next to the road. At the viewing area you can see spawning salmon during late July and early August.
Byron Glacier Location:
At mile 79, Seward Highway (49 miles south of Anchorage), turn north onto Portage Valley Road. Travel 6 miles (past Begich, Boggs Visitor Center) to trailhead parking. Trail is closed to motorized vehicles all year. Road access is via the Seward Highway to the former town of Portage, which was flooded and subsequently vacated following the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The Portage Glacier Road runs 6 miles, mostly past USFS campgrounds, to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. The main road used to end here, but now continues eastward, leading to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and to Whittier.
Byron Glacier Accommodations:
Camping sites and RV hookups in the Portage Valley
In nearby Girdwood: 1 resort, numerous condos/chalets/cabins/bed and breakfasts, 8 restaurants/cafes/snackbars.
Link to the Forest Service website.
Link to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center
What do you know about the ice caves back there? Can you just walk in or does it require a guide?
You may walk anywhere you please. Just be careful.
Where are the Ice Caves? Are they in Portage Glacier or Byron Glacier? Can they be seen now in the summer? Is it a long hike to get to them?
Byron Glacier. But the caves collapsed again and killed another person 2 years ago. I’d avoid them for sure.