Having grown up in Alaska, I’ve always told my visiting friends that the airplane was the only way to unlock the most spectacular sights in the state. Sure, you can drive less than fifty miles from Anchorage to view the Portage glacier from a distance, but a helicopter or airplane tour is something you’ll never forget.
To get an idea what glacier flying is all about, just take a quick ride with Jerry Kallam, a pilot out of Palmer who’s about to take off from the Knik glacier. Strap into his Piper Super Cub by hitting play below. He’ll give you just enough time to fasten your seatbelt before starting the engine:
If simply landing on a glacier isn’t exciting enough, Matthew Keller of Blue Ice Aviation will fly you out for some glacier biking. Matthew claims it’s like mountain biking in Moab, Utah, even though the mountain you’re crossing is actually a glacier. He’ll provide the bikes and the experience includes much of the same views that Jerry captured above.
The other option might be a bit more tame and family friendly. Take the Alaska Railroad up to Talkeetna, where you’ll have an assortment of air taxis willing to land you and a few friends on a glacier, with some even offering a dog sled trip.
My wife and I did this years ago with Era Helicopters, and they even provided a crab lunch right next to the glacier. Think of it as adventure travel without the ice picks and crampons.
For those of you committed to a cruise up the inside passage, you can still get a bit of fresh air as well. Era and Temsco Helicopters both fly glacier tours out of Juneau and Skagway that are often offered through the cruise lines.
Afterward, you can rest assured that you’ve gone above and beyond what the average Alaska tourist or resident has experienced. To really see 99% of Alaska, you’ll absolutely need to leave the roads behind.
Kent Wien writes The Cockpit Chronicles for Gadling. If flying between glaciers isn’t for you, then come along with Kent as he takes you behind the scenes of airline travel, as seen from the pointy-end.