The Knik River valley is one of Alaska’s finest with an indescribable landscape, thanks to Knik Glacier. Snowcapped mountains surround you with scenic views becoming more breathtaking the further you get from the road. Suddenly, Knik Glacier appears in the distance, starting out as a strange gray striation in the distant mountains but as you get closer blue hues slowly shimmer into focus.
Exploring Knik Glacier Alaska
The window for biking to Knik glacier is quite narrow due to the fact that you’re biking along a river, crossing it a few times and ending up on a lake at the foot of the glacier. It is only accessible during a deep freeze and is an adventure that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only are you attempting to traverse a frozen river but glaciers are dangerous and unpredictable by nature. A skier died on the glacier in 2016 and a few weeks before we went a member of a Knik Glacier ATV group got stuck in a glacial crevasse! Thankfully they were able to get him out, but if you’re heading out to Knik Glacier by bike or really any glacier in any capacity please make sure you’re prepared and understand the risks!
Getting to Knik Glacier by Bike
Elizabeth and I gathered a small cohort of friends who were brave enough for this endeavor and met at the turn off to the Old Glenn Highway. The Knik Glacier bike trail starts near Knik Glacier Tours on Google Maps. Turn down Ed Rush Rd and right on Buckshot Ln. There are some picnic tables and disc golf baskets near the Knik Glacier Trail.
Biking to Knik Glacier is approximately 10 miles each way
It is roughly 10 miles to Knik Glacier from here. There are a few other places you can start from but this is the shortest trail to Knik glacier. When I say “shortest” that doesn’t mean easy. 10 miles on a bike is a solid ride in the best conditions but I’ve yet to mention that these are fat-tire bikes, making them heavier with much larger, studded tires. Fat biking is just about the only way you can bike across snow and it is MUCH more difficult than biking on a typical paved path or mountain bike trail.
This was only my 2nd time on a fat-tire bicycle but I’ve been feeling pretty good about my fitness after training for the Tour of Anchorage so we decided to attempt this trip anyway. The first mile was spent getting my bearings and figuring out how to balance on these icy trails. I was still getting the hang of it when we came to a small river crossing. Some years, all the streams completely freeze over, other years they don’t and we had heard that this was the only actual river crossing we would have to do. Instead of following the Facebook video we saw of people riding through the shallow water we decided to test the ice upstream.
Nina and Allan brought their dog Finn and we didn’t want his legs to get soaked and subsequently freeze. Allan went first grabbing a massive branch and testing the ice’s thickness. He inched across the river and we all cheered before following one by one. I think this was the first time I’d ever taken the 6 feet social distancing seriously, but at that point I was more worried about the freezing waters than the Coronavirus.
Knik Glacier Tours and Lodging
There are a few tour companies that you can work with for a Knik Glacier tour. This trip was a self guided Knik Glacier day tour but I recommend contacting Knik Glacier Lodge for information about where to stay and advice on booking Knik Glacier helicopter tours or a Knik Glacier ATV tour. Tell Lars from Knik Glacier Lodge that Mike sent you and I’m sure he’ll help you search for some incredible northern lights too!
The next hour brought us closer and closer to Knik Glacier as the trail proved to be a winter wonderland. Snow machine trails carved through frozen riverbeds and perfectly packed the snowy forest for us to bike through. I quickly discovered how difficult deeper snow was to peddle through and I spent most of my energy trying to follow the tracks laid before me. My muscles were already sore from the adventurous spring break beforehand and by the 5th mile I contemplated turning around!
Elizabeth came back to check on me as I reasoned with myself. Biking to Knik glacier was only half the battle, I had to bike back to the car too. She’s had plenty of experience with fat tire biking, biked to Knik Glacier before and is an all-around endurance athlete while I’m still growing into my Alaskan shoes. Elizabeth was a tremendous help for all our previous adventures and gave me a few technique tips, then reminded me we had chocolate to finish off a delicious picnic once we were at the glacier! Aaron chimed in with a few more tips about getting into a steady rhythm and using my gears more effectively. I decided as long as I could take breaks I would make it there and back again.
I took lots of breaks. Caitlin, Allan and Nina offered some encouragement and then plowed onward since they had to be back in town by a decent hour. I peddled until my legs burned, took a break, got some encouragement from Aaron and Elizabeth and then mind-numbingly peddling onward until we found ourselves at a breathtaking overlook.
My jaw dropped as we peered out over a frozen lake with hundreds of icebergs locked in a wintery hibernation. Knik Glacier’s face was a mile or so in the distance, gradually blending those blue hues into the mountainscape. The distant shades were now clear spires of snow-covered ice in a momentous display of nature’s glory.
My legs ached and I was satisfied with this incredible view, I contemplated staying right here for our picnic and not going down the slope to the lake or visiting any icebergs. Moments later Aaron plummeted down to the white lake below! He managed to stay upright on this treacherous path as Elizabeth followed more carefully. She walked her bike halfway down before jumping on but found two ruts at the bottom, bathing her in snow. I watched everything unfold and somehow managed to walk a bit further down then stay upright and even maintained some speed as the path flattened out.
Three sets of trails were before us but Nina, Allan and Caitlin were nowhere to be seen. We could head straight for the face of the glacier, turn sharply to the right along what must be the lake shore or head straight into the sea of ice bergs. We opted to head to the face of the glacier and were happily rewarded with incredible blue hues like those inside an ice cave!
Knik Glacier Adventures
Riding past a few icebergs I decided it was time for a break and a much deserved photo. I was thinking about replacing my profile picture all week and had too many to pick from already but with Elizabeth’s help and a little gusto I managed to pose for a real winner.
As long as we stuck to the snow machine paths I could manage my peddles and keep up. The hard packed trails were tough yet manageable and Knik Glacier was proving to be a nature lover’s paradise.
Focusing a bit too much on my surroundings I veered off trail and found out how tough raw snow can be to peddle through, promptly toppling over. I got back on my bike laughing at this comical scenario which unfolded too many times. We had beautiful blue skies above with stunning scenery at our fingertips.
We wandered among the icebergs for a bit longer before bumping into the rest of our group, posing for a group photo and picking the perfect spot for our picnic. It reminded me of eating lunch on Root Glacier last summer, but there was something special about the icy blues of these icebergs that were hidden on the top layer of Root as we hiked across last summer. The sun shined brightly illuminating every inch of the ice. Without a layer of snow protecting it the light pierced through each slab creating azure masterpieces.
This bike ride was the epitome of a true Alaskan adventure and surely one I won’t soon forget. It was tempting to stay here all day but the simple truth before us was a long bike ride back from Knik Glacier to the parking lot. Only this time we weren’t starting with fresh legs. I took plenty of breaks on the way back, finished two water bottles and handfuls of snacks before eventually coming to that first river crossing. This time we didn’t bother with the ice and simply peddled straight through. It made me realize how glad I was that we didn’t do that on the way out since the bottoms of my boots iced over and slipped off the pedals for the last mile of my ride!
All told we biked to Knik Glacier and back in just under 20 miles in 6.5 hours and I would go back to do it again in a heartbeat!
Looking for another Alaskan Adventure?
- Winning the Denali Park Road Lottery
- Backpack through Denali National Park
- Camp at Grewingk Glacier
- Cross a frozen lake to Portage Glacier
- Hike Rabbit Lake Trail
- Explore Eklutna Lake Trail
- Aurora Hunting in Fairbanks for New Years Eve
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