Situated in Chugach National Forest about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Anchorage, Portage Glacier ranks as one of Alaska’s most visited attractions. Icebergs from the glacier bob in the waters of Portage Lake, while at the visitor center, travelers can see live ice worms, explore a simulated ice cave, and touch an iceberg.
Due to dramatic recession over the past years, this still-impressive ice flow is no longer visible from the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. To get up close to the ice, travelers need to head out on the ice-filled waters with a boat tour on Portage Lake or hike one of several trails that lead to the glacier.
Full-day tours to the glacier from Anchorage might also include a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a tram ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska, wildlife spotting along the scenic Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, or a photo stop at Beluga Point.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Portage Glacier is a must-see for any first-time visitor to Anchorage.
- Be sure to dress in layers; it can get chilly out on the water.
- Tours to the Portage Glacier typically include a one-hour cruise.
- Most tours include round-trip transportation from Anchorage.
How to Get There
To reach the glacier, take Seward Highway south of Anchorage to the Portage Glacier Road, which winds its way to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center in Whittier, the departure point for Portage Glacier cruises. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can visit as part of a guided tour from Anchorage.
When to Get There
The best season to visit Alaska’s outdoor attractions, including this Ice Age relic, is between mid-May and mid-September. August brings the highest chance of rainfall, and mid-June to mid-August is considered peak tourist season.
Chugach National Forest
This national forest is the second largest in the National Forest Service and an outdoor playground for more than a million visitors each year. In an area roughly the size of New Hampshire, visitors will find some of the world’s largest tidewater glaciers, diverse wildlife (including 214 species of birds), and some 200 miles (322 kilometers) of trails for hikers and mountain bikers.