Glacier Discovery Project

Alaska Huts has been making great progress toward creating a new hut-to-hut system, dubbed the Glacier Discovery Project, on the proposed Glacier Discovery Trail through the Kenai Mountains. Working in partnership with Chugach National Forest and the Alaska Railroad, we plan to build a new 20-bed lodge overlooking Spencer Glacier and its lake within the next five years. Once the forest service finishes a new 30-mile trail and installing bridges, we plan to build two additional “huts” near Bartlett and Trail glaciers. Patrons will be able to hike and explore this unique wilderness valley (shared with the Alaska Railroad’s most spectacular segment) while staying at night in comfortable accommodations that foster camaraderie, wilderness education and high adventure.

Accomplishments to Date


  • Architectural drawings and site plans for the Spencer Hut have been completed to the 35% level by Marco Zacarro of Z Architects, with generous grant support from the Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area along with donations and federal funding.
  • A preliminary site has been selected in the moraine area overlooking the lake, with year-round sun exposure and a million-dollar view of Spencer’s craggy blue ice
  • Developed deeper working relationships with Forest Service, Alaska Railroad and Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area
  • Submitted updated business plan to the Forest Service
  • Forest Service conducted SHPO review
  • Submitted 35% drawings to Forest Service for architectural and structural review
  • Submitted Cost Sharing Agreement to Forest Service
  • Engaged Cadence Construction, key subcontractors, toured site, submitted plans to SBS for material take off and developed pricing model
  • Multiple trips to Spencer Glacier area for planning and education, sponsored by the Alaska Railroad.

What Next?


  • Alaska Huts continues to check off the list of Forest Service permitting requirements.
  • Refine our design and seek value engineering solutions that lower cost.
  • Begin predevelopment process for the next two huts at Trail and Bartlett Glacier.
  • Work to engender support from like minded organizations and tour operators in our area.
  • Launch a capital campaign to raise up to $1 million to build the first lodge at Spencer Glacier. Here’s how you can help.
  • Alaska Huts always needs your support! We are a small nonprofit with huge ambitions. We need help maintaining our existing historic facility at Manitoba and furthering our mission to promote wilderness education and stewardship. Join or donate today.

Location and Access

Visitors would travel to Spencer Whistle Stop about 11 miles up the Placer River Valley from Portage, either on the Alaska Railroad or by overland travel during good snow years via snow bike, skis or snowmobile. Lodging at the Spencer Hut would augment the many other activities currently at Spencer Glacier—climbing, hiking, kayaking and packrafting. They could also hike the proposed Glacier Discovery Trail to stay at two additional satellite Huts near the Bartlett and Trail glaciers. Guests could return to Anchorage or Portage via the train at one of the whistle stop stations. Or, adventurers will be able packraft out the Placer or Trail rivers during summer, and ski or bike out during winter – pending weather conditions.