By Robert Earle Howells

Harding Icefield Trail

When to Go: July to September

Round-Trip: 8 miles

Level: Challenging Day Hike

Over the course of a steep, steady ascent—the trail gains 1,000 feet a mile—you leave the world as you know it and enter the frigid realm of the Pleistocene epoch, or what’s left of it. You’ll skirt Exit Glacier along the way, and hear its cracking ice. But the Harding Icefield is the real payoff for your effort. It covers 700 square miles of the Kenai Mountains in the same glacial ice that blanketed much of south-central Alaska 23,000 years ago. Then, the vast, alien world of ice will take away what’s left of your breath.

Insider Tip: Watch for black bears and mountain goats along the way. Pack dry clothes for your all-downhill return.

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