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How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

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Chicago, Illinois
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How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

I'm curious as to how these two glaciers are different. Can you walk on both? Is one more expansive/scenic? If you could visit just one, which would it be? If they are both awesome, but different, we will make the time for both. If they are very similar, we will only visit Exit, which will be more convenient. Thanks for your thoughts.

Manitoba, Canada
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1. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

Two very different glaciers. You can't walk on Exit, or even touch the face (well, you could, but it's too dangerous and the sign warns you to stay a respectful distance--a woman was killed a few years ago from falling ice). Matanuska you can not only walk on a bit by yourself, but take a guided ice trek using crampons to examine crevasses (far too dangerous to do without a guide).

BTW, if you want to see iceworms, you'd likely have to stop at Byron Glacier (near Portage), unless you're going to hike Harding Icefield near Exit. Matanuska doesn't have any (at least, a scientific study didn't find any).

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

Thank you MM- Do you just view exit glacier from a deck or something?

When you hike to Harding Icefield, are you walking on ice on the way to the icefield, or dirt trails until you eventually get there? Once you are there, is it more similar to Manatuska?

When you hike to Byron, are you able to walk freely on this glacier?

Sorry, I'm having a hard time figuring out what each experience would bring.

Manitoba, Canada
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3. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

Well, I haven't been to Matanuska yet, though I've been researching it for my next trip. I plan to do an ice trek there. Perhaps someone who has been there in person would care to comment.

Exit is convenient, and you can walk right up to it, though there is a sign telling you not to get too close. Of course, while I was there, some stupid teenagers were actually inside one of the crevices/caves. They just laughed when we told them a woman had been killed doing that. Well, teens are invincible, aren't they? It might help you to google Images about Exit and the others to give you a better idea what to expect.

I would think the most impressive--and most challenging--would have to be hiking up to Harding Icefield. I enjoyed seeing Exit last year and got some great photos, but all I saw was the very end of the glacier. From what I've read, the climb involves a trail and a lot of rocks, so if it's raining, it can be a bit slippery. You need good footwear, and also warm fleece because it can get pretty windy at the top. The full hike takes 6 to 8 hours...but at the top, you see the icefield as far as the eye can see. You get some nice views on the way up too (in case you don't make it to the top). Here is more info:

nps.gov/kefj/…harding_icefield_trail.htm

www.aktrailhead.com/harding/harding.shtml

and be sure to look at all the pictures here:

members.aol.com/freedog1001/alaska/pic4.htm

Perhaps the best way for you to understand the immensity of Harding Icefield is to look at this link: closertonature.com/maps/kenai-fjords-map.htm. See cute little Exit peeking out--then look at Harding Icefield.

So if you have a day to set aside for this, go for it! People who do the hike report back that it's incredible.

Manitoba, Canada
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4. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

Oops, forgot about Byron. Yes, you can walk freely on it, but don't throw caution to the wind. Here's a link to some photos:

…alaska.org/alaska-photos/…

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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5. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

Well, here is a bit different perspective . . . I love the town of Seward, think it's one of the nicest towns in Alaska - very pictureque. The Exit glacier is just one of many things that you can do when you are in Seward.

However, one of my favorite drives in the state is the Glenn highway up to and past the Matanuska glacier. You can see it from a long ways away and the scenery is just beautiful. But other than scenery, there isn't anything specifically in this area for tourists other than hiking on the glacier or rafting the Matanuska river. I would make a trip for a meal at Sheep Mtn. Lodge, which is just a few more miles up the Glenn hwy. :)

So they are different in many ways and I think it will be the other things on your vacation that determine which one you will see. I am not sure if this helps in your decision, but sometimes different viewpoints do. Good luck! :)

Manitoba, Canada
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6. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

I just took a peek at your itinerary, and it looks like you certainly have time to do the Harding Icefield hike on day 12, since the only other thing you have planned that day is SeaLife. If that's the case, you'll be doing all 3 (including Byron and Matanuska) and you can tell US which was the best!

Of course, as Coalminer said, everyone has a different point of view. That's one of the reasons this forum is so great, because we are always getting different perspectives on activites and places to go.

BTW, I didn't see any sled dog rides in your plans There are several places you can do that if you're interested, either on a glacier (expensive) or a wheeled cart. Let us know if you'd like a list of places that you could do that.

Ward, AR
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7. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

went to Matanuska Glacier and did the ice trek hike this past summer. can't compare the 2 glaciers since we didn't make it to exit. you really can't walk very far onto a glacier, and trying it at all is very foolish. there were a couple of kids out that day trying it and they didn't get far. I wouldn't want to try it at all. you'd be worrying more about trying to keep on your feet, basically walking on ice, than enjoying the experience and scenery. no hospitals around in case you fall. I have to say it was extremely cool to be walking around in a glacier. all you can see around you is the glacier itself, since in parts of the trek you are at a lower level. the distance to Chickaloon really isn't that far as Alaska traveling distances goes.

you can take a nice camera. we took our 35 mm cameras instead of the nicer digital because we weren't sure how difficult the hike would be. it was a pretty easy pace. there wasn't any scrambling since you had on crampons and the walking is very easy on ice with them.

the trek with micaguides.com is only $70 for about 3 hours. it was a pretty good deal in our opinion. anna was a great guide.

Ward, AR
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8. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

forgot to mention a 'thank you, coalminer' for your tip I saw before our trip about Sheep Mtn ldge. we had a really great breakfast there before we went on glacier trek. definitely recommend them as well.

Wasilla, Alaska
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9. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

I live out here in the valley not far from Mantanuska Glacier. I have gone on the ice several times. I have seen foolish people trying to walk over the crevasses in tennis shoes. When I was on the glacier, I wore hiking boots and used poles; no crampons, no guide. You can see quite a bit of the glacier by staying around the edges. It gets VERY slippery once you get off of the marked trail. A guide will have you on crampons and give you some poles. You are not required to have a guide, BUT you will have to sign a waiver. It would be pretty easy to get hurt out there. If you decide to go without a guide, you obviously go at your own risk.

Harding Icefield Trail - The first 1/2 mile is the hardest in my opinion. You have to climb some rock stairs which can also be very slippery. It is also very worthwhile to get up to the icefield. You don't have to go all the way to the shelter to have some magnificient views and feel that you have conquered the mountain. I found poles to be a bother especially on the rock stairs. You need layered clothing and plenty of water in addition to a few snacks.

Chicago, Illinois
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10. Re: How are Matanuska and Exit Glaciers different?

O.k. I think I've recovered from my Halloween sugar coma, back to the glaciers. Thank you for all the great info. Very helpful. I am now interested in doing the Matanuska 3 hour hike on our way from Anchorage to an overnight in Talkeetna. This might mean cutting out time I wanted to spend in Hatcher Pass and Independence State mine. Which would you give up if you have to? Please help with the timing......

Leave Anchorage 7:00 am, for

10:00 Mica guided tour of glacier (finished at 1:00),

lunch at Sheep Mountain lodge(finished 2:00)

This is where my timing gets messed up- How long to drive from Matanuska to Independence State Mine/Hatcher pass?

How long do you need here to get a good look?

How long to get quick look at Musk ox?

How long to drive to Talkeetna from Palmer? 1 1/2 hours?

Thanks again, Terri