If you find yourself in Anchorage with a couple of hours to spare, a drive down the Seward Highway to the Portage Glacier is a must do.
The Seward Highway itself is a simply gorgeous route, designated as a National Scenic Byway. In it's entirety it runs the 125 miles in between Seward and Anchorage. If you have time for a full day trip, you can take it all the way to Seward. However, if you're more like me and end up with just a couple of hours to spare you can drive the first half from Anchorage down to the Portage Glacier and take in some great Alaskan views.
The drive from Anchorage to the Portage Glacier is about 60 miles one way and should take you about an hour and twenty minutes plus any time you stop along the way to gaze across the Turnagain Arm. Keep you're eyes out for the many overlooks to stop at and for potential wildlife sightings - especially moose or whales! (The one and only time I've seen a moose in Alaska was on the side of the highway chewing on some grass just outside of Anchorage - so you never know.)
As you drive along the highway, make sure to occasionally gaze to your left. You'll be driving by the Chugach Mountains, famous for wonderful heli-skiing opportunities and the Alyeska Resort - which I someday hope to visit. While the mountains are beautiful, it can be hard to take your eyes off the water to your right.
As you turn off the highway and into the Portage Valley, you're almost immediately surrounded by lovely trees and mountains. When I visited midweek on a late April afternoon it was almost empty - the silence was stunning. It's amazing and a bit sad to think that this entire valley was once filled by the Portage Glacier.
Follow the signs towards the Begich Boggs Visitor Center, park, and walk towards the lake. Depending on the time of year you visit, the visitor center may not be open and some of the parking may covered with quite a few feet of snow. Don't let that deter you. You can still carefully wander up to a viewing area to see the ice covered lake and the Portage Glacier in the distance.
Have you ever visited a glacier? How close were you able to get?
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