Byron Glacier Ice Caves


Useful Information

Location: At Girdwood, near Anchorage, off the Seward Highway. Byron Glacier Trailhead.
(60.773398, -148.843852)
Open: No restrictions.
[2020]
Fee: free.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyGlacier cave
Light: bring helmet with headlamp.
Dimension:
Guided tours: full day tours
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

04-JUL-2018 a woman dean and two people injured by collapse of Byron Glacier Ice Cave.

Description

There is no Byron Glacier. It is one of the first victims of climate change. The small glacier is gone and only some ice fields remain, often this are the remains avalanches of the last winter. They are melting quite fast, and in ten years they may be gone completely. At the moment though, the stream of melting water from the last patch of glacier high up on the mountain at the end of the valley flows through several of those patches of ice forming tunnels inside. This are probably the most easily accessible glacier caves in Alaska. And as a result those with the most incidents.

From the trailhead at the parking lot its a 1.3km hike on an excellent maintained gravel trail. Then you reach the so-called Byron Glacier Viewpoint. Here you can see the first patch of ice. And after another short and almost level walk you reach the first caves.

Its like always with glaciers, the cave is a sort of equilibrium, which swings back and forth every year. The caves collapse and are re-formed. And they are extremely dangerous as they may collapse any time. So the best time to visit them is between November and March, when the temperature is below zero and the ice is not melting. In summer collapses are frequent and there are no warning signs. Except from those placed in front of the caves and which read “Danger” and “Hazardous Snow and Ice Conditions.” Ah, and by the way there are bears too.

If you plan to visit the caves, please check in at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center first. They offer lots of information on glaciers and glacier caves for a nominal fee. Its on your way, only a kilometer before the trailhead.