Alaska is well known for its beauty, including many incredible glaciers. Visiting Castner Glacier Ice Cave was a great experience for our family this winter. Whether you dream of visiting an Alaskan glacier one day or live here and haven’t been to this one, I’ll tell you all about it!
We had never even heard of this glacier until this winter, after living here for over five years! Apparently, because we are having such a mild winter with less snowfall than usual, the glacier is more accessible than it usually is. People are taking the opportunity to check it out so it was pretty busy when we visited on a Sunday in January.
Getting to Castner Glacier
We live in the Interior of Alaska, about an hour and a half from Delta Junction. The glacier is about another hour past that. It’s located at mile 217 on the Richardson Highway. Here’s the website with a map. It was a bit of a drive for us, especially with a little one in tow, but we left early in the morning while it was still dark and made the trip in good time.
There are a couple of large pull off areas for parking on the side of the highway. Then you have to cross the highway to get to the walking path. It was pretty packed down due to all of the foot traffic and since there were quite a few other people there coming and going it was easy to see where to walk.
Once you get on the path, it’s a mile walk to get to the glacier! Thankfully we visited on a beautiful day with the temperature sitting around 20 degrees. We bundled up so much that we ended up getting hot during our walk. It took us about 20 minutes to walk the mile to the glacier, through the snow while wearing heavy winter gear.
You can’t see the cave as you’re approaching so it felt like we were never going to make it! But once you go around a bend, there it is. Absolutely stunning! It is so beautiful when you first see it and only gets more incredible as you walk through.
Viewing the Glacier
Once you make the trek and finally reach the glacier, you can really enjoy its beauty up close. The cave is fairly large with plenty of room for everyone to walk around uncrowded. As I’ll mention below, having a pair of spikes to strap to your boots will make your exploration safer and easier. The icy floor of the cave is very slippery.
The walls of the cave are amazing, ice as smooth as glass in an interesting design due to the wind flowing through. The farther back you venture into the cave brings incredible little ice crystals lining the ceiling. You can walk all around and as far back as you’d like to view the many different ice formations throughout the cave.
After you’re done looking around the cave, there’s plenty of space outside for kids to run around, climb, and slide on the snow. Many people were pulling their little ones in sleds to and from the glacier. We stayed for over an hour just taking in the sights then headed back.
What to Pack
Because visiting this glacier is a bit of a drive for most of us and you have to walk a mile during winter, you need to be prepared. Here’s what we’re glad we packed:
- Extra Winter Gear- This goes for any outing in Alaska during the winter! Pack extra gear because you just never know. We each had a few layers on so when we got too warm while walking, we peeled the outer layers off. Extra gloves/mittens are always a must, good boot socks since you’re walking a long way, and a face covering for protection from any wind.
- Extra Food and Water- Another obvious essential but important nonetheless. There is a grocery store in Delta Junction on the way to the glacier to stop and pick up some food and water if needed.
- Satellite Phone- We always carry ours when we go far from home. There are so many places here in Alaska with no service so it’s a good idea to have one when you travel outside of town to go sight-seeing. If anything happens while you’re a mile away from your car, at least you can make a call for help. Thankfully, with so many people there, we all had safety in numbers.
- Headlamp- It’s a cave, it’s dark, you’ll need a light. The front portion of the cave is well lit from the sky but as you go further back, it gets pretty dark so a headlamp or flashlight is handy.
- Spikes- The cave is made of ice, including the bottom. It’s very slippery and we saw several people slip and fall just walking around while we were there. We have spikes that slip onto the bottom of our boots. They are great to have up here and we use them often.
Visiting Castner Glacier Ice Cave
We still can’t believe that we didn’t know about this glacier sooner! Alaska is full of amazing sights and places to visit, you can’t do it all. But we’re thankful that we had the opportunity to visit one of them this winter. I highly recommend taking a trip to see Castner Glacier here in Alaska!