Homer, Alaska: Hiking Glacier Lake Trail in Kachemak Bay State Park
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Summary: Kachemak Bay State Park, located in near Homer, Alaska, is a remote park accessible only by water taxi from the Homer Spit. We hiked the Glacier Lake, Grewingk Tram, Saddle Trail loop we found on AllTrails. This roughly 8-mile trail (shorter than what the map says), is almost entirely flat and easy. Pack a lunch and enjoy a meal break at Glacier Lake. This hike is gorgeous and with it's remote nature and unique way to get to and from the trail head (by water taxi), it will certainly go down as one of our more memorable hiking experiences.
What Gear To Bring. Whenever hiking in Alaska, come prepared with your day pack stocked with bear spray, water, and snacks. It does not really matter whether you hike a highly trafficked trail or not, bear danger is real no matter where you go. Also, when we traveled in June the weather can change quickly. Bring layers including rain jackets and/or ponchos, gloves, and knit caps. Photo below is of a sign on the Glacier Lake Trail.
Water Taxi. Kachemak Bay State Park is only accessible by privately run water taxi's that run out of the Homer Spit. We used Alaska Marine Services. Our knowledgeable boat captain picked us up at 8:00 a.m. at the Marina on the Homer Spit, and ferried us across the Kachemak Bay to the drop off point for our hike. Note there are a few different drop off points depending on which trails you are going to hike. We told our captain we were hiking this loop, and she knew exactly where to drop us off (Grewingk Trailhead) and pick us up (Saddle Trailhead). Pick up is at 2:00 p.m. unless you arrange for a different time.
Cost. The water taxi is $70/person for the day, which isn't cheap but this State Park is worth it and the taxi fees include your Park entrance fees. This outing took up the entire day so with a packed lunch, we had no other expenses for the day. Plus, how many times can you say you hiked a state park that was only accessible by boat? Check out how pretty the Bay is in the morning:
Drop off. Depending on the tide, you may be dropped off further down the beach like we were. It just means that you may have to hike a short stretch to find the trailhead. We had downloaded the map from AllTrails and were able to find it with our phones. There is no trail to follow on this stretch.
Hike through the Forest. The first part of the hike is through a wooded forest. This trail is flat and easy. All trails are well-marked.
Mosquitos. Okay, the mosquitos bear mentioning. We were in Alaska in June, which means milder weather and apparently a lot less mosquitos than you would experience in the later months of the summer. The wooded first part of the hike ended up being the only place in our entire trip that had mosquitos and boy did it have them. Luckily we had brought mosquito repellent and long-sleeve clothing. The boys found their hooded sweatshirts to be especially helpful in the worst parts. Fortunately, there were only a couple stretches where the mosquitos were especially bad.
Grewingk Tram. The first stop on our hike was at the Grewingk Tram. To get here, you have to hike a short out-and-back stretch from the main trail. This manual tram across the river functions by a pully system where the riders pull their own weight across the river.
Hiking to Glacier Lake & Bears. The trail does continue on the other side of the river, but we kept to the AllTrails map and doubled-back so we could hike to Glacier Lake. In this stretch we came across FRESH bear poop. So, fresh you could practically see the steam coming off of it. With bear spray in-hand, we warned other hikers along the way that a furry visitor may join us on the hike. Fortunately for us, we did not come across the bear that left his fresh pile on the trail.
Grewingk Glacier and Glacier Lake. The next stop was at beautiful Glacier Lake, where you can catch a glimpse at Grewingk Glacier, a 13-mile long Glacier located in Kachemak State Park. The Glacier itself spits chunks of ice onto Glacier Lake, making it a gorgeous photo opportunity. The lake itself has a large beach which make a perfect spot for us to sit and enjoy our packed lunch. We watched one crazy group of hikers do a "polar bear" dunk in the water and then jump out to sit in front of a fire they had prepared for the entertaining stunt. Photo below: Joey trying to hit the chunks of ice with rocks from the beach.
Saddle Trail Back to the Bay. After our lunch stop we headed over to Saddle Trail to make our way to the pick up point. This is a particularly pretty part of the hike.
Starfish at Beach. The pick up point is on a stretch of rocky beach. Here, we found starfish hanging out in water.
Bald Eagles at the Bay. While waiting for our boat, we also spotted several bald eagles.
Return to Homer Spit and AirBnB. The same boat captain picked us up for our return trip. The water was a bit more choppy on the way back but still mild if you are worried about getting sick on the boat.
After our hike, we headed back to our AirBnB to relax. View from our AirBnB. Not too shabby!
About Homer. Homer is known as the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World." A frequent tourist activity is chartering a boat out of Kachemak Bay to catch, haul in, and ship home, these large fish. We, however, did not go out fishing. Instead, our time here was spent hiking Kachemak Bay State Park and Kayaking on the Bay. In other words, there's plenty to do here even if you do not like to fish. The town itself has a population just under 6,000, which by Alaska standards, seemed on the largest side of the many small towns in this State. The larger population and influx of tourists in the summer means there are a surprisingly large amount of restaurants for such a small town. That being said, wait times were long and reservations where possible are a highly recommended (or in some cases, required).
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