Portage Pass and Lake
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
The Portage Pass Trail near Whittier is a stunning moderate hike that goes over Portage Pass and leads to Portage Lake. There you will be blown away by the stunning Portage Glacier view and beautiful ice formations that exist on the lake.
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Route Description for Portage Pass and Lake
If you want to hike the Portage Pass Trail, you need to do a bit of preparation before you leave home.
First of all, if you are coming from Anchorage, don’t forget to have some money on you as crossing the Whittier Tunnel will cost you $13 USD.
Also, be sure to bring warm clothing and raincoat with you as the surrounding area is known to be one of the wettest places in Alaska. Having waterproof shoes is strongly advised as well, as there are some creeks to pass, especially if you are considering approaching the glacier.
Start the Portage Pass Hike by ascending on a rather steep, but not technical trail covered by small rocks. You will be surrounded by lush greenery and bushes almost all the way to the pass. This path used to be roadbed for mining.
Soon you will reach the small Divide Lake and Portage Pass. It’s hard to miss it as the Portage Pass is marked by a sign. The views here are amazing – you will get a glimpse of Portage Glacier, Portage Lake, Byron Peak and other surrounding mountains.
Continue down towards Portage Lake and if you are considering skipping this part – think again, as most hikers find the overlook near the lake to be more stunning than panorama from Portage Pass.
Shortly you will pass the Divide Lake along the trail where you willcontinue straight.
After a while you will reach Portage Pass, with a stunning overlook towards Portage Glacier. If you are lucky, you might even see an iceberg floating in the water, but nowadays they are less common because the Portage Glacier is slowly retreating and covers less and less of the lake every year.
If you want to approach the glacier and get even closer, go ahead and take the path along the lake, but beware that there are multiple small creeks to cross and the last one, right next to the glacier, is deep and wide so you won’t be able to approach the glacier with just a reach of your hand.
The Portage Glacier is located on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and makes up part of the Chugach National Forest. In the 1800’s the Portage Glacier completely smothered the lake below however, it began retreating throughout the 20th century and exposed the 600 foot deep lake that lay beneath it.
Since 1999 the Glacier has slowed down and become more stable, with no real visible signs of it continuing to retreat. However, this Glacier is still very active and continues to have pieces of its face shatter and fall below into the lake. Depending on the weather, you may be able to see some of these chunks of ice sticking out of the lake below.
Frequently asked questions about the Portage Pass and Glacier Trail
How long is the Portage Glacier hike?
The length of the Portage Glacier is 6 miles long.
Can you walk on Portage Glacier?
Yes you can walk on Portage Glacier, however the first part of the walk is easy terrain but as you get closer it begins to get rocky and you will have to cross small streams and boulders.
Can you see Portage Glacier from the road?
Yes, you can see Portage Glacier from the road, however this depends on the weather.
Find other amazing hikes around Anchorage:
Insider Hints for Portage Pass and Lake
Getting to the Portage Pass and Lake Trailhead
To get to the start of the Portage Pass Trail, from Anchorage, take Seward Highway heading east and turn to Portage Highway on your left (around 17.7 km after Girdwood). Carry on until you pass the Whittier Tunnel and take the first turn on your right. Shortly after you will pass white building and you will turnright – there will be a sign directing you to the trailhead.
Portage Pass and Lake Elevation Graph
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Portage Pass and Lake Reviews
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