About Portage Glacier:

Portage Glacier is one of Alaska's most visited attractions due to its close proximity to Anchorage. It is a little over an hour drive to visit from the city. The closest town to Portage Glacier is Whittier, a popular cruise ship destination, which was established as a US military base during World War II. The town and the glacier, four miles apart, are found on the Turnagain Arm of the Kenai Peninsula. Girdwood is the closest town offering accommodations and tourist services.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel connects Whittier and Portage Glacier to the rest of the Alaska civilization. This tunnel, also known as the "Whittier Tunnel" or the "Portage Tunnel" was the longest constructed tunnel in North America before the "Big Dig" tunnel in Boston was completed.

The Portage Glacier was named by the scientist Thomas Mendenhall in 1898, while serving as the Superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey who was responsible for establishing the exact border between Alaska and Canada.

The glacier is part of the Chugach National Forest, located south of Portage Lake. This lake is being formed by the melting of the glacier which has been retreating substantially for the past fifty years.

Visitors can enjoy Portage Glacier by boat or by hiking a USFS trail. Cruises on Portage Lake to view the glacier occur aboard the MV Ptarmigan, several times a day from mid May to mid September. To get a different view hike the well maintained Portage Pass Trail. The moderately steep 1 mile hike rewards you with a spectacular view of the lake and Portage Glacier as well as western Prince William Sound and Whittier. If you are in reasonable shape it is well worth the relatively short effort. While the weather does not always cooperate with your plans, if you happen to come on a sunny day it will be an unforgettable sightseeing experience


A large amount of Portage Glacier is actually in the waters of Portage Lake extending more than 100 feet deep. You can learn more about the science of the glacier and its' environs by stopping by the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center. The exhibits are interesting for children and adults. They provide further insight into the Portage Glacier and the surrounding region. There is a film about glaciers shown hourly.

Along the way to Portage Glacier, make sure you stop by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It is a drive through, 144 acre park that can provide an opportunity to view wildlife.

Click for a larger map.
Click for a larger map