If there’s one thing that sets Alaska apart from the Lower 48 (aside from having the tallest mountain in North America, crazy sun patterns, and cold/snowy weather) it’s the fact that we still have a lot of glaciers up here. Glaciers are one of my favorite things to visit! Some glaciers can only be accessed by plane, boat, or train, but some of them you can walk right up to. The Matanuska Glacier is one of those easy to access glaciers! It’s right on the road system, and although you have to pay to drive up to it (or to take a tour of it in the winter), it’s one of the easiest ways to get onto a glacier in Southcentral Alaska.
Each winter, Matanuska Glacier Tours gives tours twice a day at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. It’s the only way to get onto the glacier during the winter. They last about 2 hours and the tour guides show you around the face of the glacier and even take you inside some of the crevasses! Because they work on the glacier every day, they have knowledge about all the secret cool spots as well as areas that are unsafe. In general, it’s not the greatest idea to go out exploring on a glacier on your own without proper knowledge on ice safety because ice can potentially calve, cave in, or fall on anyone standing beneath it.
Last winter, my friend and I took a day off from watching our kids and did a mom trip out to the glacier. Because the winter tours were still new back then, and because it was a cold and dark December weekday, we had our tour guide all to ourselves! We got to spend lots of time exploring the glacier and checking out spots that most tours don’t have time to go to. Ever since that tour, I have been dying to get back out there to explore the glacier again. Each year the glacier looks a bit different because it’s constantly changing, so each time you take a tour it feels like a whole new experience.
But here’s the biggest question: can a baby or a toddler get out there for a tour? The answer is yes! Each person is charged a fee, but they’re allowed to come out and join the tour. Kids in carriers are especially easy since you know you’ll be able to keep up with the tour, and you can still fit into all the areas with a carrier on (although it’s definitely a tight fit in a few spots!). We called ahead and booked a tour for the three of us and crossed our fingers that E would be his usual rockstar hiker self.
The morning of our 11:00 am tour was COLD at -1 degrees. We wore an excessive amount of layers and put E in even more layers than usual. All 3 of us also wore hand and toe warmers which made such a big difference. After checking in at the front office, we drove out to the glacier to get our microspikes and meet our tour guide. We were driven down to the glacier in sleds on the back of a snowmachine which was such a fun start to our adventure! The next two hours were pretty magical. We walked along the frozen lake at the front of the glacier, slid through very narrow crevasses, and climbed into the ice. There was even an ice slide you could slide down, although I had to opt out since I was wearing E. Our tour had about 20 people and we all had enough time to explore each area and take whatever pictures we wanted. At the end, we rode the snowmachines back up to our warm cars. We walked about 1.5 miles total.
The best part for me was seeing E get to explore a glacier for the first time! He slept for the first hour, but woke up in time for all of the fun parts where we got up close and personal with the ice. He ran his (gloved) hands over ice walls and pointed to all the icicles while yelling, “Ooooh!”. He loved playing with his shadow and we even had a few dance parties out there when he got silly. He won’t remember this, but I’ll definitely never forget it. And the best part is that I get to bring him back there whenever I want because it’s so close!
Overall, I’d highly recommend a winter glacier tour. If you’re from out of state it’s going to be one of those crazy once in a lifetime experiences. And if you’re an Alaska resident, you get a huge discount – it’s only $25 (plus tip!) per person! At that price I kind of think I need to go out there more than once each winter. Although I’m not a huge fan of tours I really liked that they knew all the best spots to show us and I felt that it was well worth the cost. And any place that’s cool with babies is cool with me!
Have you ever been inside a glacier? What’s the coldest tour you’ve ever taken?