The Saddle Trail to Grewingk Glacier in Halibut Cove is the most used trail in Kachemak Bay State Park. It’s accessible by a water taxi across Kachemak Bay from Homer. I have limited experiences in Homer, Alaska, especially in Summer, so it was great that I got to finally step on this beautiful trail to see this striking glacier.
There are 100,000 glaciers in Alaska. A lot of them are not easily accessible but there are plenty of others to explore. I love glaciers in every shape and form. I do talk a lot about glaciers here. Whether you see them from the water by boat or land on one via helicopter, it provides different opportunities to observe these ancient ice masses that sculpt our landscape.
Heading to the Saddle Trail
We stayed overnight at Halibut Cove for the weekend. It was my first time visiting this quaint seaside community. A few days in a peaceful lodge by the water was exactly what I needed. There were many different activities to do, and hiking to Grewingk Glacier was the highlight. Our boat captain drove us to the Saddle Trail, which is just about 5 minutes away from the lodge, and we started walking.
It was Saturday, and the trailhead was busy. It’s the most popular hiking trail in Kachemak Bay State Park and it was a beautiful sunny day. The start of the trail is a set of wooden stairs and up we went.
Choose your path to Grewingk Glacier
There is more than one way to get to Grewingk Glacier. The shortest way is using the Saddle Trail and back. It’s about 1.5 mile one-way with 250 feet elevation gain. Another way is to start (or end) at Glacier Spit via Glacier Lake Trail. It adds about 3 miles but it’s mostly flat. I chose to do the Saddle Trail, out and back.
The trail is a steady gradual uphill. We went through groves of cottonwood and birch trees separated by patches of devil’s club, fireweed, and other typical summer flowers. After walking up for about 20 minutes, we saw our first view of Grewingk Glacier. It was such a magnificent view! Putting in the effort to see the glacier and the beautiful view at the end is a very rewarding experience. It energized us to walk just a little faster.
All of a sudden we entered the Glacial Moraine and the vegetation changed. The forest thinned out and there were more, bigger rocks on the trail. At the end of the trail, there it was: Grewingk Glacier and the glacial lake.
It was a fairly hot day in Alaska. The trails were mostly uphill so I was feeling the heat. So naturally, as soon as we got to the edge of the lake, I changed into my swimming clothes and jumped into the lake. It was extremely COLD but very refreshing! I dipped all the way in and touched a small iceberg. It was so rejuvenating I went in twice!
This hike was such a rewarding experience. The trail is easy enough for most people’s skill level. It’s a great place to bring a picnic lunch to spend a day or camp overnight by the lake. Hiking allows access to places that you otherwise can’t get to, and this was the best version of it. We sat around for a while enjoying the view and our packed lunch. There was a big wedding party and lots of families and groups spending Alaska’s best summer day together.
From here, the trail splits to go to the Glacier Split via Glacier Lake Trail or back to the Saddle Trail. The Saddle Trail has a more steep elevation change but neither of the trails are difficult. The Glacier Lake Trail is mostly flat, 200 feet elevation difference in 3.5 miles. No matter what route you choose, you’ll see beautiful views and walk among wildflowers, brush, and forest.
Arrange your water taxi beforehand
Make sure to arrange a water taxi ride before you head out. All water taxi operators know exactly where to pick up but sometimes the tide can affect the pick up time and location. Have their phone number handy so you can keep in touch about the pick up time and location. The phone signal is weak at the glacier but it’s strong enough for a phone call on the beach.
Grewingk Glacier is a retreating glacier
Grewingk Glacier has been retreating fast in recent years. From 1950-2005, all 27 glaciers in the Kenai Icefield region are retreating. It was observed that Grewingk Glacier retreated 2.5 km from 1950-2005. You can see from the image below. The icefront continues to calve into the expanding glacial lake.
It’s important to remember that a glacier is a living being. It constantly moves and icebergs are bigger than they look on the surface. When visiting the lake or hiking to the terminus of the glacier, make sure to stay distant in case there’s a sudden calving or change in the glacial ice. And stay on designated trails.