As our cruise ship enters Yakutat Bay, the Hubbard Glacier is visible from over 30 miles away. This vast Alaskan glacier is a staggering 76 miles long, 6.5 miles wide, and almost 400 metres deep. The glacier terminus alone is as high as a 30–40 story building! This colossal icefield reveals its true majesty as we glide through the water. Jagged lumps of ice, in hues of blue and turquoise float on the waters glittering in the sunlight. These mini icebergs are remnants of the huge chunks that calve from the glacier’s terminus. With a roar they crash into the water creating plumes of mist and spray. A visit to the Hubbard Glacier is remarkable for many reasons. Read on to discover just 3 amazing reasons to visit the Hubbard Glacier in this remote wilderness,
3 amazing reasons to visit the Hubbard Glacier
For glacier and scenery enthusiasts, Alaska is heaven. The state is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s glaciers. Over 110,000 glaciers, that range in size from a few metres wide to many miles in area, attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. From Yakutat Bay, you can see no less than six other glaciers but the Hubbard Glacier is the star attraction.
As our cruise ship slowly inches into the icy waters at its terminus, we marvel at icebergs floating atop brilliant blue waters. We stare in awe upon endless snow-covered mountains and pristine emerald rainforest that clings to slivers of shoreline. Waterfalls gush over steep cliffs and seals scurry across slabs of ice to bathe in the sun. Even though we bask in the beauty of the glacier for several hours, the time flies as we breathe in pure, crisp air. This is a chance to enjoy the wilderness, far from any signs of civilisation.
We decide to toast the incredible views with champagne as we listen to the glacier crashing into the ocean. Crackling and creaking, it appears to suffer from old age. After all, the ice which calves from its face is over 400 years old. Sadly this is not my photo as I was not quick enough on the camera trigger!! You can see how impressive the sight of crashing ice is however.
Now, as if the scenery alone is not enough to entrance you during your visit, another added attraction is the wildlife that awaits in this remote corner. Pristine waters and forests are home to whales, dolphins, seals, bears and many more animals. Keep your eyes peeled!
During our visit to the Hubbard Glacier, we squint in the sunlight as we avidly search the water and shoreline for whales and bears. A murmur of excitement ripples across the deck as we spot orcas just off the front of the ship. We watch as they breach the surface, that telltale plume as they breathe out announcing their arrival. They repeat the action several times to excited squeals before they disappear into the depths.
Seals continue the entertainment with their humorous antics as they clamber onto icebergs and then slide off as we approach. If you have ever played that Penguin game on Wii fit (showing my age!) you will be able to visualise exactly what I mean. Other people on board spot bears on the shore but sadly not us.
Save the planet
On a more serious note, if you doubt that climate change is real, you must come to Alaska.
In Disenchantment Bay alone, during the last ten years several glaciers have retreated. 3 have disappeared entirely. The story is the same across the whole of Alaska and indeed the world. To see the position of glaciers now compared to just a few decades ago really brings home the devastating impact of climate change.
Ok, so you have to be convinced by now that you need to add the Hubbard Glacier to your bucket list? After all, just look at these incredible pictures!! So, what else do you need to know?
Practicalities of a visit to the Hubbard Glacier
Where is the Hubbard Glacier
The Hubbard Glacier is inside Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, north of Glacier Bay National Park. It is the largest tidewater glacier in Northern America and is marked on the map below. As you can see, it is remote! There is an airport in Yakutat or you can get to the Hubbard Glacier on a boat or cruise ship.
Getting to the Hubbard Glacier
There is no way to reach the Hubbard Glacier by car. There are no roads entering the town so visitors must arrive on a cruise or a flightseeing tour from the nearby town of Yakutat. Various operators allow visitors to visit the glacier on small boats, float planes, foot, kayak, skis, helicopter and even dogsled!
Book your flights here
If you do not wish to cruise, to get to Yakutat, you must take an Alaska ferry or book flights with Alaska Airlines. They serve Yakutat with daily flights from both Seattle and Anchorage but are not direct. Effort is required to visit this glacier.
Why is it named the Hubbard Glacier
And finally, the story behind the name of the Hubbard Glacier is an interesting one. Gardiner Green Hubbard was a 19th century US philanthropist and founder of National Geographic. He was born in Boston and his daughter who was deaf went on to marry none other than Alexander Graham Bell. He is the namesake of the glacier.
The easiest way to visit the glacier is on a cruise however if you want to walk on the glacier you will have to head to Yakutat. Whilst the cruise ships offer the chance to get up close and personal on smaller boats, opportunities to get onto the ice are limited. However you choose to visit, I have no doubt you will be as awestruck as we were.