Common Safety Tips For Alaska Glacier Hiking

person skiing on ice field
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When you are trying to escape into the world of natural beauty, it’s hard to beat the awe-inspiring destinations in Alaska and its glacier hike. It is a graceful state in the United States with lots of untouched wildlife & wilderness to explore. It is certainly one of the best destinations for glacier trekking and experiencing the tranquillity of ice caves.

Glacier Trekking & Unique Adventure in Alaska

The state of Alaska offers incredible recreational opportunities. From an ice fall trek or camping to walking, kayaking, boating, rock climbing or trekking on tidewater glaciers, it’s simply indescribable engagement when getting involved in numerous outdoor activities. Unfortunately, mishaps and accidents occur when tourists fail to be wide awake while blending themselves with unparalleled outdoor adventures. Here are some common safety tips and etiquette to ensure tourists’ safety and enjoyment while enjoying the best of glacier hiking.

The Basics Of Glacier Hike In Alaska

four people climbing mountain at daytime

Glacier hiking requires proper equipment and expertise. This is why experts recommend going out with a guide. Basically, it’s all about putting on your crampons and keep hiking around the glacier as little or as much as you want. This means the adventure trip can be fully customized as per your wish or physical capabilities.

If you want to push your experiences a bit more, consider carrying the proper rain gear and equipment required. You may also want to opt for helicopter tours to enjoy the view from above.

Hiking Etiquettes To Follow

Hiking in Alaska means you are bound to share your trails with other hikers. Therefore, it’s essential to observe the proper etiquette of hiking without hampering the stunning views.

Do Not Litter

If you love littering around that’s okay but do it in your home. When you are coming to visit nature, respect it. Also, it is a kind gesture for other hikers. Being clean will not cost you money. Carry a bag where you can pack in all your leftover foods and garbage.

Do Not Cut Switchbacks

Switchbacks are a crucial part of trails. They help you in safe descending. Keep using switchbacks whenever possible instead cutting across the natural progression of the trail. This may risk trail erosion of the national parks.

Minimize Noise Pollution

It’s not necessary to maintain silence when you are hiking or planning to ice climb, but you should definitely focus to limit noise as much as possible. This means minimizing phone calls unless it’s an emergency, no loud music – even if you are using headphones and keeping your cell phones off or silent to keep distractions away. The objective is to enjoy the glacier view of the National Parks, its surroundings and feel the presence in the midst of mother nature.

Give Way For Uphill Hikers

To maintain the pace, uphill hikers always move at their own speed. So, try to move off the trail when you are moving downwards. Do not expect to pass them till they get a chance to take a rest. 

Never Do It Alone

Firstly, do not ever try to walk on your own when you are planning for an ice climb or glacier hike. Always travel in a team when crossing a root glacier or entering ice caves. You never know when accidents happen and especially if you fall into a crevasse, there will be people with you to help with the rescue. Usually, a hiker is roped along with one or two other members.

So, hiking alongside an experienced mountaineer or guide is a wise and smart choice. An experienced person leading your team can help by checking the areas prone to crevasses. The mica guides can ensure safety while crossing the glacier hikes. If you are planning for an advanced trek that includes ice climbing, be sure to have professional guides or mica guides offering a proper guided tour to the national parks.

Carry A First Aid Kit

Not just for glacial hikes, but whenever you choose to go for any outdoor adventure, always carry a personal first aid kit. Staying prepared is the ultimate safety when you’re leaving your home. If you need to take daily medication, consider carrying them along. Even if you are travelling light, carrying a small pack of medi-kit is always recommended. Your first aid kit must have adhesive bandages, compression bandages, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, hydrocortisone ointment and sterilize gauze.

Study The Vegetation & Geology Of The Area

It is important that you study a bit and make yourself aware of the natural vegetation that is common to the area. This will help you to determine the dangerous plants that are commonly found on your trail. Yes, the variety of flora and fauna is certainly Alaska’s beauty, but there are some plants that are harmful and poisonous, thereby hampering travellers’ safety. 

Do Not Forget To Carry A Bear Spray

There are approximately 100, 000 black bears in Alaska and 31,000 grizzly bears. It is nothing unusual for travellers to encounter any of these creatures in the wilderness. It is not necessary to end up in an aggressive interaction, but it’s safe to carry a bear spray. Go through the instructions on the can to know the usage of bear sprays. Also, keep the can in the outer pocket of your pack or else during an emergency, the bear will be happy to scoop out a portion of your body.

Wear And Carry Good Shoes For Glacier Tours

selective focus photography of black boot with snow chain

Depending on the type of hike, choose a hiking shoe that is appropriate and comfortable. The choice of boots also depends on which time of the year you are going on the trip. Whether it’s summer or winter, make sure that your hiking boots are waterproof.

During winter, wear your shoes with gaiters. If your hike includes multiple creek crossings and muddy trails, it’s good to opt for a pair of rubber boots. For longer hikes and comfortable glacier travel, it’s good to carry another pair of boots based on the demands of the trail.    

What To Wear?

Definitely have a windproof layer or winter jacket because it’s rainy, windy or sometimes both in some areas. The glare of the ice is a gleaming beauty but you need to have a hat or cap paired with sunglasses. Wear long and comfortable hiking pants. Carry an extra pair of socks. Wear upper body inside layer or long undershirt.

Any Specialized Ice Climbing Gear?

Of course, you need some specialized gear as you are planning for ice climbing or want to walk on the exit glacier. So, you need to have a nice pair of ice climbing crampons, climbing ropes to tie each member of your team, ladders and ice axes for anchorage. Remember to take small steps and move slowly to minimize the chance of falling. 


You don’t need to worry a lot when it comes to the Alaskan experience and ice climbing on the glacier. All you need is a sense of adventure and plan your trip to the Matanuska Glacier or Denali National Park (whichever you think is the best). Just make sure to do the right things at the right time. Staying on the safer side, you may also want to opt for guided tours for glacier trekking.

Enjoy the wilderness and stay safe!

About The Author

daniel in queenstown with mountain bike

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