If you’re looking for an incredibly unique and adventurous elopement experience, at a breathtaking location like no other. Then I’ve got just the elopement idea for you: plan a glacier elopement in Alaska!!
Glaciers are one of the most popular natural wonders that tourists come to visit in Alaska, and for good reason! Seeing glaciers is truly an ethereal experience. Exploring massive chunks of ice, witnessing stunning shades of blue all around you, and touching ice that’s been there for longer than you can even imagine. Seriously – what better way to tie the knot than on some ancient ice in Alaska?
In this blog post, I’ll be walking you through how to elope on a glacier in Alaska, because it’s not just an easy-peasy thing you can plan at the last minute! Glaciers are magical but definitely take some planning beforehand, as well as research to make sure you’re aware of how to stay safe & have the best experience possible.
I’ll be giving you my favorite glaciers to consider for your wedding as well as helicopter tours you can book for your glacier wedding + safety tips! So sit back, relax, and enjoy reading about some of the most gorgeous landscapes this planet has to offer!
**Hey Siri, play “Ice Ice Baby”**
8 Incredible Locations for Your Alaska Glacier Wedding
First, I want to give you some of my absolute FAVORITE glaciers that you can consider for your elopement!
When it comes to picking your glacier elopement location in Alaska, you want to find somewhere that will accommodate the size of your party, as well as the ability & skill levels of everyone involved. It’s important that everybody coming to your elopement is well-prepared and able to walk on the potentially treacherous ground (more about that later in this post!).
You’ll also need to choose whether you want to do a glacier “fly-in” or “hike-in”. Do you want to fly into a glacier in a helicopter, or hike in on your own? If you’re dreaming of eloping on a glacier high up in the mountains, or anywhere that’s inaccessible by foot, you’ll need to plan for a fly-in elopement and book a ride through a helicopter company (continue to the next section for two great companies)!
But I’m getting ahead of myself – first, take a look at all of your options, and then go from there to decide whether you want to fly or hike!
1. Matanuska Glacier
Where is Matanuska Glacier?
Matanuska Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. Located about 2.5 hours northeast of Anchorage, out past Palmer! It’s a 27-mile long river of ice! It goes from the Chugach Mountains to the Glenn Highway and flows into the Matanuska River.
How to get to Matanuska Glacier
The great thing about Matanuska Glacier is that you’re able to walk up to it! There are ways to access it outside of a tour company, but the easiest is to have a guiding company take you out for a full glacier hike or ice climbing, if you’re looking for more of an immersive experience at the glacier!
I’d recommend looking into a Matanuska Glacier tour such as those through Matanuska Glacier Tours! They’ll be able to give you an amazing & safe experience that allows you to fully enjoy the wonders of this glacier.
You can also fly to Matanuska Glacier easily if you’d rather do that 🙂
Important things to know:
If you’re wanting to access the glacier outside of an elopement day, it’s about $0 per person to do a tour. Note that you’ll have to pay a fee of around $200 per person to hike to the glacier for a private elopement experience. If you’re wanting to plan an intimate wedding at Matanuska Glacier with guests, be sure to call in advance to make sure this is doable!
Matanuska Glacier elopement inspiration
Hiwa & Ben decided to take elopement photos at Matanuska Glacier earlier last year, and it was an absolute blast!! They traveled to Alaska for the ultimate Alaska wedding experience, and we had so much fun hiking into Matanuska Glacier for their wedding photos.
I also visited Matanuska Glacier with Nicky & Logan after their elopement ceremony – we flew in on a helicopter through Heli Alaska! Check out their incredible glacier wedding photos here!!
2. Spencer Glacier
Where is Spencer Glacier?
Spencer Glacier is located 60 miles south of Anchorage, in the Chugach National Forest! It’s full of stunning peaks, waterfalls, rivers, and more, making it a dream destination for a glacier elopement. There’s all kinds of opportunities for nature walks, camping, and hiking (both guided & unguided), no matter what your skill level & physical ability!
How to get to Spencer Glacier
This is the fun part of Spencer Glacier – you take a train to get there! The train takes you from Turnagain Arm to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, so you’ll truly get all the old-fashioned glacier exploration vibes on the way there! You can also access it via Snowmachine Tour in the winter, or Helicopter tour from Girdwood with Alpine Air!
3. Knik Glacier
Where is Knik Glacier?
Knik Glacier is one of my favorite glaciers, about 1 hour from Anchorage, and averaging about 200-feet thick!! Witnessing the 400-foot ice walls is truly an unbeatable experience!
How to get to Knik Glacier
Knik Glacier is most safely accessed by helicopter because there aren’t really any roads available to get there unless you’re up for a full day off-roading tour, in which case, let me know!! The closest option to take off from is the Knik River Lodge, it is also a super scenic place to return to for a meal or a “reception” of sorts.
Knik Glacier destination wedding inspiration
Levi & Katrina picked Knik Glacier for their Alaska destination wedding, and wow did they pick right!! We had the most beautiful day for flying & adventuring. They flew out to the Picnic Strip along the Knik Glacier with their closest family for their ceremony in prop planes and then flew to Grasshopper Ridge for a beautiful view of the glacier. Levi & Katrina truly experienced Alaskan glaciers in all their glory – check out their amazing wedding day here!!
4. Exit Glacier
Where is Exit Glacier?
Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park is a STUNNING glacier about 15 minutes out of Seward, and it’s actually one of the most visited in the world! The dense, blue ice and the variety of hiking trails make for an incredible experience for anyone who visits it.
How to get to Exit Glacier
You’ll drive up close to the glacier, and then choose a trail to take! The easiest one is the one-mile wheelchair accessible Glacier View Loop, which takes you to a beautiful overlook. Then continue for another half-mile to get to an overlook of the glacier itself! There are also plenty of areas to explore if you’re an avid backpacker looking for a longer, more intense adventure around the glacier.
Important things to know:
Because Exit Glacier is part of Kenai Fjords National Park, it’s likely you’ll need to get a Special Use Permit in order to hold your elopement ceremony here!
To get this permit, complete this application form and mail it to the Office of Special Park Uses at the address below, along with a check for the $100 non-refundable application fee made payable to National Park Service:
Office of Special Park Uses
Kenai Fjords National Park
P.O. Box 1727
Seward, AK 99664
5. Mendenhall Glacier
Where is Mendenhall Glacier?
Mendenhall Glacier is another incredible, easily accessible glacier in the state, located just 12 miles outside of Juneau. The glacier is a half-mile wide and offers many ways to experience its beauty, from hiking trails, to kayaking on Mendenhall Lake, to learning all about its history at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center!
How to get to Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier Lake is accessible by road, so you can drive there on your own, or take an $8 shuttle bus if you’re from out of state & don’t have a car! You can also opt to fly over the glacier for incredible aerial views of the glacier as well as the larger Juneau icefield. If you want to hike out to the ice, then I recommend looking into All Trails for that adventure!
6. Byron Glacier
Where is Byron Glacier?
Byron Glacier provides a gorgeous short day-hike near Girdwood, and a little over an hour drive from Anchorage! The glacier is filled with unreal ice caves and frozen beauty everywhere you look.
How to get to Byron Glacier
You can walk the short 1-mile Byron Glacier Trail to get to a beautiful viewpoint of the glacier, and then you can continue on toward the glacier if it’s safe to do so! It’s about a 1.5 hour trip up to the ice, so plan for this to be a full-day adventure!
7. Portage Glacier
Where is Portage Glacier?
Portage Glacier is one of the most visited in all of Alaska, located in the Portage Valley and surrounded by the icy blue waters of Portage Lake! It’s ten stories tall and goes on for miles, making it an epic sight to see
How to get to Portage Glacier
This glacier is only accessible by boat, so you’ll take a ride on the water if you want to see the glacier – or peek at it from above in a helicopter. That’s also why it’s a popular destination for Alaskan cruise ships! You can also hike Portage Pass and reach another shore of the glacier lake for closer viewing!
8. Harding Icefield
Where is Harding Icefield?
Harding Icefield is one of the four major ice caps in the United States, located in the Kenai Mountains of the Kenai Peninsula! It’s over 700 square miles in its entirety, making it a massive, epic sight to see if you choose to visit.
How to get to Harding Icefield
This is definitely for couples looking for an adventurous, challenging hike: leave from the Exit Glacier area and take the strenuous 9-mile round trip Harding Icefield trail to get incredible views of the glacier & surrounding mountains! You can also charter a helicopter from Seward to adventure out if the hike isn’t your style!
Alaska Glacier Helicopter Tours
If you’ve decided you’d rather fly over & into a glacier than hike up to one, good choice! Taking a helicopter to a glacier is seriously one of the most magical ways you can experience Alaska’s unique beauty. There are plenty of awesome helicopter tour companies in Alaska you can book through – two of my favorites in the valley that many of my couples use are Outbound Heli & Alaska Helicopter Tours. If you are curious about ones outside of this area, let me know!
Outbound Heli provides year-round helicopter adventures to many different destinations depending on where you’re wanting to go – Colony Glacier, the Prince William Sound, Knik Glacier, Denali, Hatcher Pass, & more! They even offer specialized tours for weddings, which is awesome – they want to help you celebrate in the most amazing way possible, and they’ll take you to the most beautiful remote locations for your ceremony.
Alaska Helicopter Tours is another great company that offers TONS of helicopter experiences around Alaska, including 3 specialized wedding offerings. These offers include different locations depending on where you’d like to go, with fun add-on options such as champagne & chocolate-covered strawberries to bring to the glacier!! All of their wedding helicopter tours depart from Knik River Lodge, and are able to accommodate anywhere from 2-50 guests.
Glacier Elopement Weather & Safety Tips
Eloping on a glacier is one of the freaking COOLEST ways you can elope in Alaska! However, it does come with some unique things you’ll have to think about & take into account when planning. Here are my best weather & safety-related tips to make sure you have an incredible, 1000% safe and enjoyable experience with your Alaska glacier adventure elopement!
1. Think about the weather if you’re flying in!
If you’re set on eloping on a glacier that involves flying, then thinking about the weather is super important. Bad weather can affect and postpone plane & helicopter flights, especially blizzards, rainstorms, lightning, & extreme temperatures. This is why you NEED to have a backup location on the ground, somewhere that you don’t have to fly to! Typically, when planning a glacier elopement that you’ll have to fly into, the helicopter company will provide a few backup dates in case of bad weather, so you’ll want to work with them to plan ahead for worst-case scenarios. As your photographer, I’m more than happy to accommodate date changes as long as I know the backup dates & plans in advance!
2. Be aware of glacier activity
It’s incredibly important to be aware of glacier activity if you’ll be walking/hiking/exploring any ice caves, or any areas underneath glaciers. It can be super dangerous walking inside of ice caves because of the possibility of glacier calving, which is when huge chunks of ice melt, break loose, and fall right onto the ground. You don’t have any control over when this may happen, so it’s important to be incredibly aware of this when walking under any possible falling debris!
3. Be careful of surface snow
Oftentimes, you’re unable to see crevasses and holes on glaciers because they get covered up by surface snow. Be really careful of bright white snow and always test out new surfaces & areas to make sure they’re stable to walk on!
4. Always wear closed-toed shoes
Hopefully, this one is a given, but PLEASE always wear closed-toed shoes, and never wear high heels!! I know you want to look stylish for your elopement, but in this case, it’s more important to stay safe and practical, due to the unpredictable nature of glacier surfaces. Always wear your best hiking boots when walking on or even near a glacier!
5. Bring crampons/YakTrax
I highly recommend bringing some sort of traction devices like crampons or YakTrax if we’ll be walking on glaciers! We want to stay as safe and stable as possible on uneven & icy ground. You can buy great crampons from REI and YakTrax Traction Cleats from the YakTrax website! Many tours offer these in their packages so you may not have to bring your own, be sure to ask!
6. Wear multiple warm layers
And finally, always always bring multiple, warm layers in case of weather changes! Weather on glaciers & at higher elevations can be quite unpredictable, so even if it’s supposed to be sunny and fairly warm, you never know when that could change to much colder temperatures and gray skies. Wear warm undershirts, long socks, leggings, sweatshirts, anything you can to stay warm and comfortable in any weather scenario! Better to be safe than sorry in this case!
Are you convinced yet that you NEED to have an Alaska glacier elopement?! It’s so hard to say no to one of the most breathtaking ways available to celebrate your love – exchanging vows on an ancient glacier in Alaska, surrounded by epic views.
For some more real-life glacier wedding inspiration, check out this Alaska Glacier Wedding at Denali National Park!! And if you’re looking for help planning your Alaska elopement, then head to my ultimate guide on How to Elope in Alaska.
Happy planning & glacier-exploring – reach out here when you’re ready to hire an adventure buddy to tag along and capture it all! 😉
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