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Ruth Glacier – Denali National Park Alaska
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Overview
Location

Ruth Glacier - Denali National Park

Sights

Mt. McKinley, glaciers, mountains, Ruth Glacier

Distance

We traveled over 200 miles by airplane

Summit Elevation

Our airplane only went to about 13,000 feet.

Time Required

4 hours round trip

Pets

Not allowed on airplane

Fees

Flight fee is required

Water Info

Bring a bottle of water

Best Season

Summer, fall

Hours

Open year round.

Sun Exposure

Lots of sun exposure

Food

Bring a few snacks to eat during the flight.

Equipment

if you want to enjoy this trek you MUST bring sunglasses! Bring a light jacket and a sweater that you can take off when it gets too warm. Also, bring a camera and a bottle of water.

GPS Coordinates:

Ruth Glacier: 62.92351, -150.68126
Glacier Landing Point: 62.96973, -150.74495
Sheldon Cabin: 62.96973, -150.75466
Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley): 63.06912, -151.00701

Trail Map

Driving Directions

You can’t drive here.  You must fly or hike.  Flying is the preferred method.

The Trail:

There are several ways to access Ruth Glacier.  You could hike or backpack up the glacier or you could take a flight.

I don’t know all the rules and regulations regarding backpacking in the park, but I do know that if you are backpacking into Denali National Park you are required to get a permit and go through a little backcountry orientation training at the Backcountry Information Center.  For this trek, however, I chose to do the easiest route and booked a sightseeing flight to explore the glacier!

This is the plane we flew in.  It sat 8 people with one pilot and it was quite comfortable.  I had enough window space on both sides to view whatever I wanted so make sure you bring a camera or you will miss out big time!

Ruth Glacier

Our flight began in the town just north of the national park in Healy.  We took off and flew passed Mt. Healy, glitter gulch and then on down to Ruth Glacier.  The flight down was very smooth despite there being lots of dark clouds.

Ruth Glacier

We crossed over the “Frontcountry” of Denali National park and got a great view of the park road.

Ruth Glacier

After about 10 minutes of flying we were already seeing small glaciers dotting the higher elevations.

Ruth Glacier

Ruth Glacier

Ruth Glacier

Even though it was cloudy, our pilot made a short detour so we could get a better view of Denali (Mt. McKinley).  I never get tired of seeing this mountain.

Ruth Glacier

Ruth Glacier

We then made a giant S curve towards the south of Denali so we could fly up the Ruth Glacier cathedral.  We were flying in between mountains and valleys – it was incredible!

Ruth Glacier

Ruth Glacier

We were flying through a narrow pass

We were flying through a narrow pass here

Ruth Glacier

We finally arrived at Ruth Glacier.  The cathedral is more than a mile wide in spots and goes on for many more miles in length.  We flew around for a while until we landed near the Sheldon Cabin.

Ruth Glacier

Ruth Glacier

You can't really tell from this photo but this ice wall is ginormous

You can’t really tell from this photo but this ice wall is ginormous

Ruth Glacier

Looking back down Ruth Glacier

Looking back down Ruth Glacier

We landed uphill on the glacier to a very bumpy landing.  When we arrived it was just the eight of us in the area and it was deadly silent (once the plane engine was off).  We spent about 30 minutes walking around on the ice and snow making snowballs.  If it was a perfectly clear day we would have an incredible view of Mt. McKinley – and you are still 10 miles away from it!

Ruth Glacier

Panorama

Panorama

Ruth Glacier

Sheldon Cabin and outhouse in view

Sheldon Cabin and outhouse in view

There is a cabin out here for rent (the last I checked it was over $500 per person per night).  You can see the outhouse and the top of the cabin in the above picture.  It would be an incredible experience to spend a night out here on the glacier in the quiet.

After looking around for a bit, we all got back in the plane and took off to go back home.

I truly couldn’t grasp just how big this glacier is and how tall the surrounding mountains are.

Giant mountains come straight up out of the ice

Giant mountains come straight up out of the ice

Looking down Ruth Glacier

Looking down Ruth Glacier

Such an amazing place

Such an amazing place

The weather got a little bumpy on our way back so our pilot took a different route home where we got to follow, from a distance, the Denali Park Road.

Denali, making another appearance.

Denali, making another appearance.

Near Polychrome pass

Near Polychrome pass

Flying above Glitter Gulch with all the lodges, shops and restaurants

Flying above Glitter Gulch with all the lodges, shops and restaurants

The town of Healy

The town of Healy

The Return:

Head back towards your vehicle.

Personal Thoughts:

Landing on a glacier in Denali National Park has to be one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life – and I mean that without any sort of sarcasm.  I never get tired of visiting this amazing national park.  Seeing it high above the sky is just as good as hiking on the tundra below.

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Ratings (out of 10)
Trek Planner Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Difficulty
2.0
Technicality
2.0
2.4
Enjoyment
9.0
9.9
The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek. If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

9.0
Trek Planner Rating
6.2
User Rating
1 rating
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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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