One of our favorite summer activities is riding the ATV ride to Knik Glacier. It is a 50 mile (round trip) journey through woods, across rivers, and up to the glacier. This was our third year and third time making the trip.
The day starts at one of our favorite free camping spots, Kink Public Use Area. We really enjoy camping here, especially on weeknights. It gets pretty busy on the weekends, so be prepared.
Check out the video from our trip!
If you are going to make the trip to the glacier, you need to be prepared. In Alaska, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here is what we like to pack.
- Food: Lunch and high protein snacks incase you need to stay the night.
- Tools: A well stocked tool kit.
- Cell phones: You start to lose service further back you get, but it’s always good to carry them. Put them in Airplane mode to extend battery life.
- Tow Rope / Strap: These can really come in handy depending on the length of your winch cable.
- Warm Clothes: It was 85 degrees and we still brought jackets incase we had to stay the night. Plus, once you reach the glacier the temperatures cool off dramatically.
- Boots: Your feet will get wet if you are not wearing some Mucks, I wear my XtraTufs.
- Land Anchor: If you are stuck and by yourself and in an area where there are no trees, you need a land anchor. We use a danforth anchor, it is designed for boats but works for this application.
- GPS: It’s not required for this trip because the river leads the way to and from the glacier. There are dozens of ways out there, but if you follow the canyon and river you will be fine.
The trip to Knik Glacier is moderately difficult, there are some technical spots and several water crossings. People get hurt out here every year, there are places to roll your truck or ATV and blind turns through the woods, so drive slow to avoid a head on collision. Helmets are not required in Alaska, but if we were on 4 wheelers and not seat belted into a UTV we would definitely wear them. Many of the accidents out here involve alcohol, drinking and riding don’t mix.
The water crossings are the most challenging part of this trip. Rivers change all the time in Alaska, just because you could cross there last year doesn’t necessarily mean you can this year.
General rules for crossing unknown water.
- Don’t cross alone: There is safety in numbers, if you don’t know the water don’t try it!
- Read the water: There is an old saying, slow waters run deep, so try to avoid these unknown areas. If you see light rifles on the water that could indicate its shallow enough to cross. Don’t cross fast-moving water, it can swamp your machine and kill you.
- If someone else volunteers to go first, let them: Follow their line if they make it across safely.
- 4×4 Low & Lock the Differentials: You want torque from the engine and to maintain good traction when crossing water.
- Go slow: You don’t want water flooding your engine and you also want to be able to stop and reverse if it gets too deep.
- Know your machine: Where is your air intake? This is the point of flooding the engine.
50 miles is a long ways to go on an ATV. We always try to start our trip to the glacier before 10 am. The speeds for the trip will range from a crawl to 30+ mph in the open washes. Plan on it taking about 4-5 hours to reach the glacier, this allows for lunch and breaks. The way back is usually quicker because you are not stopping as often and are familiar with the water crossings.