It’s probably no surprise that Alaska is full of breathtaking hikes, and the hike to Grewingk Glacier in Kachemak State Park definitely ranks up there as being one of the best hikes in the state (in our opinion, at least)! Combining a water taxi across the bay, a walk on the beach, hiking in a forest to an inland lake with views of a glacier and returning to a beach-this hike will leave you speechless!
I mean, really, what more could you ask for?
When we hiked this trail, it was a beautiful day in July, yet we didn’t see many people while hiking at all. In fact, we only saw about 10 on the entire hike. The reason? The hike takes a bit of effort to get to, takes the better part of a day and requires some pre-planning. But not to worry-our guide will help you to figure out exactly how to get here, what to expect and bring with you and how to enjoy the day to its full potential!
GREWINGK GLACIER TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 5.0 miles (point to point)
- Trail: Point-to-point
- Elevation gain: 497 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 431 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Early summer to fall
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 8:30 am
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes, bears, sun exposure
- Restrooms: Not on the trail or at the trailhead (use it on the dock ahead of your water taxi)
- Pets: Allowed, but keep them leashed in developed areas
- Time needed: 3 hours for the hike (at a relaxed pace with time at the lake), 6 hours with the water taxi
GREWINGK GLACIER HIKE RESERVATIONS
You don’t need reservations to get on the hike, but you do need to reserve time on one of the water taxis to get across Kachemak Bay to the Glacier Spit. This will be covered in detail in the next section.
HOW TO GET TO THE GREWINGK GLACIER TRAIL
Homer Taxi and Grewingk Glacier Trail area, courtesy of Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Getting to the Grewingk Glacier Trail may seem a bit intimidating, but it’s not too bad. Essentially, you need to book a water taxi and take it across the bay, take your hike and then be at the pre-determined pickup point for the return water taxi to take you back to Homer. Don’t worry-even at a very slow pace and taking time for lunch, you’ll have plenty of time to complete your hike.
There are several water taxis to choose from, and all of them offer similar services. We chose to use Mako’s Water Taxi, and they were excellent. The bookings were over the phone (and were extremely easy). They answered all our questions prior to departure and provided us with the necessary maps to know where we were going. Once aboard the Orca, Captain Curt gave us a great overview of the area and kept our family engaged in conversation as we headed across Kachemak Bay. They also arrived promptly at the pickup point when it was time to head back. We highly recommend them!
We recommend calling at least two weeks in advance to reserve a ride across the bay.
All the water taxis leave from Homer Spit, which is located on the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula. In fact, it’s the southernmost point in Alaska that you can drive to if you happen to be visiting the Anchorage area.
- Directions from Anchorage to the Homer Spit in Homer, AK (this will take about 4.5 hours, and you should expect traffic on the ride).
- Directions from Homer, AK to the taxi area at Homer Spit, AK (this will take about 10-15 minutes, allowing time to find a spot to park).
There is quite a bit of parking on the spit but depending on the time of day it can be busy. Generally, if you are getting here for an early taxi, you won’t have any issues finding a spot.
There is a fee for parking, but it was very reasonable.
There are clean restrooms available for use on the spit, but there aren’t any on the trail or at the trailhead once you get across Kachemak Bay.
GREWINGK GLACIER TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail is packed dirt. You will have to do a bit of hiking across roots, but for the most part it is smooth. As you approach the lake, the trail has more of a gravel surface.
- Accessibility. The trail is not wheelchair accessible, and due to the elevation changes, we recommend you be in good hiking shape before taking this on.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE GREWINGK GLACIER TRAIL
The hike isn’t very long, but since you are going to be out here for a half-day or so, you’ll want to be sure to be prepared. Here are a few things that we recommend:
- Water. While it’s likely to not be very hot during your visit, you want to be sure to have plenty of water for your trek. We recommend carrying a water bottle or a hydration pack with you. There are not water refill stations on the trail, and you’ll want to be sure that any water you use from the trail has been purified.
- Sun Protection. Part of the trail is exposed, so we recommend having a hat or wearing sunblock.
- Bear Spray. Okay, this is a no-kidding essential. When we were on the trail, we saw bear scat at least 10 times. They are very active in the area, and you’ll want to be sure you have at least one can of bear spray with your group.
HIKING THE GLACIER LAKE TRAIL AND SADDLE TRAIL TO GREWINGK GLACIER
Glacier Lake Trail to Grewingk Glacier Lake map, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources
After getting to the water taxi and checking in, you can hang out in the area of the local shops. There are plenty of places to grab a coffee ahead of your trip. Just be advised that any trash that you bring with you on the trip will be traveling with you all day on your hike!
The taxi departed from a designated area on the dock. Though this was our first time in the area and we hadn’t taken a water taxi before, we just had to follow the instructions of the staff and be there at the designated time and we were all set.
The entire trip took about 30 minutes. It was a bit foggy (which is a regular occurrence), so Captain Curt had to drive a bit slower than normal on the ride. The ride across Kachemak Bay was really quite smooth for us, and we really enjoyed it. Have your camera ready, as you never really know what wildlife you may encounter on the voyage!
We should note that we were the only ones on the taxi, and were all alone when we were dropped off on the beach. There is something almost surreal about being dropped off by a boat alone on the beach and having nothing but your gear, a map and a location on where you need to be to be picked up. It felt like the beginning of a true adventure!
The tide was abnormally low, so when we were dropped off at Glacier Spit, it was further south of where we normally would have been let off. This was perfect with us, as it allowed us to hike along the beach for about 0.25 miles. This area was beautiful-there was plenty of driftwood lining the beach, and it was fun to watch the bald eagle fly around during our walk. We’re pretty sure it was just as intrigued with us as we were with him!
After walking along the beach, we came to the trailhead, which was clearly marked with an orange diamond. There were no other signs marking the trail. While it was easy to find, just be sure to keep a good lookout for it if the taxi isn’t able to drop you off right at the trailhead.
The hike starts by heading east. Once you get on the trail, the trail is immediately immersed in the forest. We couldn’t believe how quiet it was on the trail!
The trail gains elevation slowly-in fact, it’s hard to even notice the incline. In total, the trail gains about 430 feet on the way up to Grewingk Lake.
At the 1.3-mile point, there is an intersection to the north, which heads on the Emerald Lake Trail. Stay straight to go to Grewingk Lake.
Shortly after the intersection, the trail heads out into the open. The trail continues about 1.4-miles more before arriving at the spur that goes to Grewingk Lake-take this and head to the east. This continues before reaching the shores of Grewingk Lake, about 0.5 miles away.
It will be clear when you get to Grewingk Lake-the shoreline drops slowly into the water with a couple hundred feet of shoreline, making for plenty of room for you to find a special spot for your group and just experience the beauty.
From the shoreline you can see Grewingk Glacier. This 13-mile glacier originates directly to the east of the lake and gradually deposits large chunks of ice in the lake. Much of the ice flows west and reaches the shore some 1 mile away from the foot of the glacier.
We chose to stay by the lake nearly an hour. It was so relaxing, and two of our crew even took a nap on the beach!
When we were finished at the shore, we headed back the 0.5-miles on the spur to get back to the trail. We took a left to head south on the Saddle Trail. While not steep, this is the steepest part of the trail as it heads up another 200 feet in a short distance before descending via switchbacks to the waterline at Halibut Cove.
The taxi was set to pick us up at Halibut Cove. We arrived in plenty of time, as it only took about 45 minutes to get from the lake to Halibut Cove. We traveled very quickly, as we saw plenty of bear sign, which kept all of us motivated to keep a steady pace!
Halibut Cove has a large beach with wooden pilings to explore. As we waited for the taxi, the tide came in and swallowed up most of the beach quite rapidly.
Just as important as getting to the hike is getting back. Be sure you fully understand where you need to be and when! Arrive at your pickup point at least 15 minutes in advance, and just await the arrival of your taxi. They will announce the arrival and who they are looking for, so just listen up and you’ll know when to get on the boat!
We enjoyed the trip back across Kachemak Bay. Be advised that it is quite cold out on the water, no matter how warm it is outside!
GREWINGK GLACIER TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Incredible Destination. Oh, the lake is beautiful! We loved our visit to the lake and were just awestruck by the view.
- Peaceful Seclusion. We felt as if we were all alone for most of this hike (except for the wildlife nearby!). We haven’t been on many hikes like this that are relatively easy without seeing more than just a few people on the trial. It was the perfect day.
- Variety of Landscape. The trail goes from forest to rocky paths to a lake to the beach. We were never bored with the surroundings!
- Plenty of Bears. Okay, maybe we’re wimps, but nowhere else in Alaska did we feel like we were near bears as we did on this trail. Of course, we were hiking through their homeland, so it’s okay but something that we had to be cautious and respectful of. We all had bear spray and knew how to use it, which helped. Of course, we never saw a bear on the trail, only sign!
FURTHER INFORMATION ON KACHEMAK BAY STATE PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- In addition to visiting Homer, you should also consider a visit to other wonderful parts of the Kenai Peninsula. One of our favorite places is covered in our blog, What to See and Do in Kenai Fjords National Park. You can also check out our other blogs on Alaska.
- When you return from your trip, send us a photo or two and we’ll create for you a vintage-style travel poster. We know you’ll love this special way of remembering your trips forever!