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Glacier Discovery Project

The Glacier Discovery Project is a linked three hut system along the Glacier Discovery Trail in the Kenai Mountains. Working in partnership with Chugach National Forest and the Alaska Railroad, we plan to build a 22 bed lodge overlooking Spencer Glacier, followed by two 8-10 bed cabins at Bartlett and Trail Glaciers. Patrons will be able to ride the Alaska Railroad to access this unique wilderness valley (shared with the Alaska Railroad’s most spectacular segment, the Grandview Corridor) while staying at night in comfortable accommodations that foster camaraderie, wilderness education and high adventure.

TIMELINE GOAL: BREAKING GROUND IN 2023

What needs to be done?

Raise $1,050,000 to build the first lodge at Spencer Glacier. We need your support! Here’s how you can help.

  • Once Alaska Huts has secured full funding for the Spencer Glacier Lodge, they can request a construction and operating permit from the Forest Service – a process that takes 6 months.
  • Begin the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) review process for the Bartlett Glacier and Trail Glacier cabin sites in collaboration with the Forest Service.
  • Engender further project support from the community, local foundations, grantors, non-profit organizations and tour operators in the Glacier Discovery System Area.

What has been done?

  • 35% Architectural drawings and site plans for the Spencer Hut have been completed 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 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 NEPA and SHPO review of site
  • Engaged Cadence Construction and key subcontractors, submitted plans to SBS for material costs and developed accurate pricing model
  • Conducted multiple trips to Spencer Glacier Lodge site for evaluation, planning and education, sponsored by the Alaska Railroad.
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Location and Access

The plan for the Glacier Discovery System is augmented by the Chugach National Forest’s plan to build the Glacier Discovery Trail, a 30 mile trail that will connect the Spencer Glacier Lodge, Bartlett Glacier Cabin and Trail Glacier Cabin. The Glacier Discovery Trail is under construction.

In the summer (when the Alaska Railroad is running), the Glacier Discovery Project will be a railroad accessible hut-to-hut system. To access the Spencer Glacier Lodge, the first of three huts in the Glacier Discovery System, visitors will travel via train from Portage to Spencer Whistle Stop, which is about 11 miles up the Placer River Valley. Visitors can take the train from the Spencer Whistle Stop an additional 8 miles to the Grandview Whistle Stop and hike in a short distance to the Bartlett Glacier Hut. The last of the three huts, Trail Glacier Hut, will not be accessible via train but will be accessible via the Glacier Discovery Trail.

In the winter the Spencer Glacier Lodge, Bartlett Glacier Cabin and Trail Glacier Cabin will be accessible over land travel via snow bike, skis or snowmobile, pending snow conditions. The area is already a popular snowmobile destination, which makes human powered access easier.

During the summer, Glacier Discovery System visitors will also be able to raft or kayak out the Placer River, which is the drainage for Spencer Glacier lake. The last hut in the Glacier Discovery System, Trail Glacier Cabin, also has packraft or kayak options via Trail Creek.