Enjoying ice, crevasses, and mountains at the trail's end. Below, hikers walk through forested grasslands. - Taz Tally

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Enjoying ice, crevasses, and mountains at the trail's end. Below, hikers walk through forested grasslands. - Taz Tally

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View Grewingk Glacier up close on the Blue Ice Trail

August 31st | Taz Tally Print this article   Email this article  

This 7-mile-long (one way) trail is the only trail to the Grewingk Glacier. Along the way you'll hike across a variety of terrains including a cobble beach, alternating densely and sparsely vegetated flat lowlands, steeply forested uplands, a passage over Grewingk Creek with a hand-operated tram, and a 580-foot climb to the top of Foehn Ridge offering some lovely panoramic views of Grewingk Glacier Valley.

You'll also enjoy the sights and sounds of the raucous gulls and other birds that have made one of the lake's islands their home, the opportunity to sidle up close to the edge of crevasse and surface-melt-water-laced Grewingk glacier and a scramble up to near-glacier knobs that provide some great 36? views of Grewingk Glacier Valley.

Getting there

Take a water taxi from Homer Spit to Glacier Spit trailhead, and then hike about 1.5 miles to the intersection with the Grewingk Glacier/Blue Ice Trail.

The trail

From the start of the Glacier Trail, also known as "The Blue Ice" Trail, you hike out of the forest for about 1 mile across the open outwash plain formed by the melting and retreating glacier.

This trail segment terminates at the Grewingk Creek gorge, where you use the hand tram to pull yourself across (see Tram Tips below.) The pull across the gorge is much fun and a great upper-body workout. Enjoy good views and photo opportunities looking up and down Grewingk Creek as you cross the gorge.

On the other side of the gorge, your path intersects with the east-bound trail from Humpy Creek. Turn right (east) to continue toward the glacier and begin the 500-foot climb to Foehn Ridge along a moderately steep switched-backed slope that can be overgrown with wet-in-the-morning grasses in the mid to late summer. I call this section the "Up and Over" section.

Along the way, you are treated to some beautiful wildflower meadows that feature the startling blues of columbine and lupine as well as red elderberry bushes. From several viewpoint perches along the forested ridgeline, you will have some grand views of Grewingk Glacier and its steep-sided bordering mountain slopes, the iceberg and island dotted Grewingk Glacier Lake, the glacier's outwash plain, the braided channel of Grewingk Creek, and the rocky peninsula that juts out into Grewingk Glacier Lake.

From the ridgeline you descend via a series of three long, grass-packed-in-late-summer, switchbacks leading down to the outwash plain in front of Grewingk Glacier. Once down off of the ridge, you hike about 2.6 miles through an open-canopy, wildflower, moss, fungi and lichen-strewn spruce, aspen, willow, alder and cottonwood forest and over several glacial moraines to the northern edge of Grewingk Glacier Lake.

The trail is rocky, but well worn in most places and easy to follow, and marked intermittently with rock cairns and occasional orange trail markers tacked to trees. The Emerald Lake Trail enters from your left as you approach the lake.

Grewingk Glacier Lake is a nice place to relax with a snack along the shoreline that you will likely be sharing with squadrons of dive-bombing and calling gulls and arctic terns. If you brought binoculars, turn them toward the island — which I call Bird Island — located in the middle of the north end of the lake. It is home to hundreds of birds going about their daily business of living ... and they don't do this quietly!

Also, look south across the lake to see a large, dark scar on the sheer cliff face of the high southern valley wall. This was formed by a massive 1969 landslide that deposited a large island-forming debris pile in the lake. From the lake's edge you trek another 1.5 miles around the north edge of the lake and up and over mounds of glacially deposited sediments to the glacier.

You will feel the cool glacial air as you approach. Look down for glacially striated bedrock. At trails end you are in glacier cooled air about 100 feet above the glacier. Notice the small ponds of glacial ice melt-water all over the crevasse-crossed surface.

You may be able to scramble down next to the glacier, but don't climb on the ice itself or its sediment covered surface — this is very dangerous. After lunch, climb one of the nearby knobs for some outstanding views. Plan to enjoy at least an hour around the glacier, or, better yet, plan to camp overnight.

Tram tips

Tuck all clothing and long hair and secure your gear. Wear gloves when operating the tram. For groups, limit the load to two people with others pulling. For single pairs have one hiker get in the tram, pulling, while the other works the line from the deck. Check with Alaska State Parks, Kenai Area Office (907-262- 5581) about the condition of the tram.

 

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