Visit Spencer Glacier

Updated August 2022 | Originally written August 2022

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Spencer Glacier, located just south of Girdwood and only 60 miles from Anchorage is a great excursion for visitors to Alaska who want to visit a glacier. 

The best way of visiting Spencer Glacier is, of course, by the Spencer Whistle Stop train that drops you off a little over a mile from Spencer Lake. Another great way to visit Spencer Glacier is to opt for a helicopter tour from Girdwood that lands on the glacier.

Most people who visit Spencer Glacier will do so as a day trip departing by train in the earlier part of the day and returning in the late afternoon, though it is possible to overnight out there as well.

Getting to Spencer Glacier

Spencer Glacier whistle stop train, Alaska railroad, Glacier discovery train, Alaska
Getting dropped off on the Glacier Discovery Train

In Summer:

In the summertime (May-September) you will need to use the Glacier Discovery Train to reach the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. Unfortunately, this is not a cheap endeavor as the tickets are quite expensive for the short distance the train travels with prices ranging from $82-136 roundtrip. You can take the train either from Anchorage, Girdwood, Whittier, or Portage Stop 2, with Portage Stop 2 being the cheapest option. 

Once to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop you can continue by trail on foot the remainder of the way to Spencer Lake. 

In Winter:

In the winter it’s possible to take fat tire bikes and snowmobiles out to Spencer Glacier. It’s about 12 miles each way from the Placer River parking lot. 

Hiking to Spencer Glacier from the Whistle Stop

Spencer Glacier whistle stop train, Alaska railroad, Glacier discovery train, Alaska, Spencer glacier trail

Once the train arrives at the whistle stop, you will unload at a nice gravel pad with an informational sign and a maintained gravel path that will take you the 1.3 miles to Spencer Lake. You can take bicycles on the train if you’d like to peddle to the lake rather than walk. 

Kayaking & Paddleboarding at Spencer Glacier

It’s possible to kayak and paddleboard on Spencer Lake meandering amongst icebergs. 

If you have your own gear you can do this unguided on your own of course (and at your own risk). 

Otherwise, there are kayaking and paddleboard tours offered to Spencer Glacier. Usually, these tours include the cost of your roundtrip train ticket. 

Helicopter Tours to Spencer Glacier

Spencer Glacier, Helicopter, Alaska

From Girdwood and Anchorage, Alpine Air offers helicopter tours that land on Spencer Glacier in addition to other flightseeing trips around the area. 

Camping at Spencer Lake & Public Use Cabins


There are two maintained campsites at Spencer Lake that can be booked by calling 800-544-0552. Each campsite has room for multiple tents to be set up and features toilets, bear lockers, picnic tables, and campfire rings. The maintained campsites go for $35 per night for the smaller and $65 for the larger of the two.

You can also opt to backcountry camp at Spencer Lake as there are many places to set up a tent for the night. 

Public Use Cabin:

There is a public use cabin available for rent that features epic aerial views of Spencer Glacier. 

The Spencer Bench Cabin is located at 1,900 feet in elevation requiring a nearly 5.5 mile hike to reach it (each way). The cabin can sleep up to 8 people, going for $85 per night. Call 800-544-0552 to book the bench cabin and it would be advisable to do this well in advance as it does book up in the summer.

Spencer Glacier, Spencer Glacier ice cave, Alaska

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