Go Before They Disappear
Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park (1938 and 2009)
A side-by-side comparison of Grinnell Glacier in Montana's Glacier National Park. The black-and-white photo on the left dates from 1938, while the color photo on the right was taken in 2009. (T.J. Hileman and Lindsey Bengtson, USGS)
The only time I got close to a glacier I was hiking on a trail in the Tongass National Forest outside of Juneau, Alaska. I was at least a quarter-mile from the Mendenhall Glacier, but the mammoth, deep-blue crevasses seemed close enough to touch. One wrong step and hikers on the icefield would be sent plummeting into a crevasse hundreds-of-feet deep. From my safe distance on solid ground, the menacing awe of the Mendenhall Glacier's field of ice was overwhelming.
Glaciers are one of nature's most awe-inspiring spectacles. Constantly evolving rivers of slow-moving ice, glaciers have existed for many millennia.
During the Ice Age, huge swaths of North America were covered by icefields and glaciers. The end of the Ice Age brought massive changes to our continent. Ice sheets melted, revealing mountain peaks and valleys. After the big melt brought on by the end of the Ice Age, large glaciers remained.
Hundreds of glaciers still exist in the U.S. Some you can hike on during guided tours. Some you can get very near and hike around. Others are best enjoyed from a distance.
Most U.S. glaciers are located in Alaska and the mountain West. Don't put off visiting America's glaciers, because they are melting at a startling speed. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey are closely monitoring the disappearing glaciers of Montana's Glacier National Park and say they could be gone in a decade if the current melting pace continues.
In the next few pages, we'll give you a guide to some of the best places to enjoy glaciers in the U.S. (NEXT>Alaska)