Grewingk Glacier: One of the True Gems of Kachemak Bay State Park

By on January 22, 2017

The trip starts with renting a water taxi back in Homer, the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World, because there’s no other way to reach the park. Generally the cost is $70-75 a person, but sometimes you can get a deal with a small group. If you’re hoping to fit in a one day trip you need to be down at the world famous docks early, and even for a multi-day hike it’s a good idea to set out before the morning mists clear and the sun beats down with surprising force. Bringing a sweatshirt or jacket in the morning to Kachemak Bay State Park is always a good idea, and you can plan on having it wrapped round the waist or bundled up in a pack by noon.

Make sure to bring mosquito spray, as well – though this should be a given with any place you visit in Alaska during the summer.

While there are many great trails and sights at Kachemak Bay State Park, a truly underrated an under visited park off the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, Grewingk Glacier has to stand out as one of the true gems in the entire region. This 13 mile long glacier sits in the mountains and comes right up to the aptly named Grewingk Glacier Lake – but it all starts with a water taxi dropping you off at the black sand beach off Glacier Spit.

At first it’s hard to pin down what exactly feels so difference, but as the engine hum of the water taxi fades away, you may be stunned by the silence. A single fish jumping in the water sounds incredibly loud. There’s no hint of the background noise that cuts through even so many off the beaten path campsites, no hint of the background sounds in towns and cities so many of us have become used to.

This area allows for camping and is right by the start of the Glacier Lake Trail. It is possible to get a long distance picture of the glacier from the shores of the lake, however if you want to see the glacier up close you will need to move off the black sand beaches and waving yellow weeds and into the cottonwood and spruce trees that make up the forest as you move into the woods.

Watch what you step as there are times where there is plenty of bear scat around, and you will see many distinctive claw marks on the trees. Don’t be surprised to see a variety of other wildlife including bald eagles, falcons, harbor seals, otters, and more. Mountain goats and wolves are a little less common to see – but not unheard of. Give any moose you see a wide berth and they’ll generally leave you alone, as well.

Making noise every so often will seem strange in the stillness and silence – but it’s an important part of staying safe and not surprising bears. The trail is easy to follow with easy side routes if you decide to just stay by the beach or check out the lagoon. A little over a mile in true glacier viewers will need to veer off towards the Tram Spur Trail, leading to the only way to safely cross over the fast moving glacial creek: the hand tram.

The tram can only hold up to 500 lbs, and is best for two average sized people at once. If there are a group of you, this part gets much easier. If there are only two travelers, it’s best to go one at a time since it is much easier to move the tram by pulling when you’re outside of it. It is still possible to pull from the cart itself if you’re going solo, but it will be slow going and take a lot of energy.

This leads to The Lake Loop Trail on the other side, and it’s a steep hike up a switchback that tests your physical fitness but rewards with stunning views at the top, towering many hundreds of feet over a valley full of forests, the lake, and you can see the glacier shimmering in the distance on a sunny day. This is one of the best scenic views in the entire park as you can see for miles, and is a great place to stop for a meal before heading down the switchbacks on the other side.

At the bottom of the other side you can then take the trail to the lake. This is about as far as most people can get if they must get back to the water taxi at the end of the day, but if you’re determined to see the glacier up close, The Blue Ice Trail winds through the up and down forested hills until ending right at the glacier for a close up view of Grewingk Glacier that is nearly impossible to forget.

Getting this close is a two day trip for the far majority of travelers, because the tides limit the time water taxis can come in to pick you back up. For travelers with the foresight to prepare for a two or three day trip there are cabins that can be found as well as multiple areas that are good for camping. Take all the necessary precautions because you’re in bear country, but for those travelers who don’t have to make the sprint back to the beach after being short of the glacier, there are more side trails to explore to get the true Alaska experience.

Grewingk Glacier is a stunning sight, and the surrounding park offers the full display of beauty that brings home the feeling of a full Alaska experience. In four years of living in Alaska, this couple days we took to explore the Glacier, the trails around it, and all the amazing nature still stands as some of the most fun and most impressive memories I have of those years of adventure up in The Last Frontier, and I strongly recommend this as at least a day trip, if not longer.

Author Bio: Shane Dayton has embraced his lifelong obsession with travel, camping, hiking, and all varieties of outdoor adventures. When he’s not adding to an impressively long list of entertaining stories he is adding to the Amazing Outdoor Adventures blog with his brother, which can be found at: http://amazingoutdooradventures.com

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