Hiking a glacier is an otherworldly experience, and one you should plan to do sooner rather than later. From the enormous icefields of Alaska to Europe's largest glacier outside Reykjavik—these frozen titans are diminishing, and in some cases, disappearing at a rapid pace.
So much so that while fitting boot spikes called crampons on his group, veteran glacier guide Jóhann Garðar at Solheimajokull Glacier in southwest Iceland explained, "Last year it was a ten minute hike from the parking lot. This year, we have to make our way around the backside of this mountain, 40 minutes, to get to the snout of the glacier." In just 12 months, Solheimajokull retreated almost a kilometer, causing a huge lagoon to form where hikers used to walk. Once on top of the glacier, Garðar showed a corded measuring device revealing the 15 meters of depth Solheimajokull lost in just the past four months.
The ice is retreating in Alaska, too. Seasoned Tatshenshini and Alsek river guide, Mike Neville, has led over 40 rafting trips beginning in Kluane National Park in the Yukon and Northern British Columbia, and flowing into Alsek Lake, a remote jewel of Glacier Bay National Preserve. "Past the confluence of the Alsek and the Tatshenshini, at the first S-curve, we stop at Walker Glacier," says Neville. At 33, his time on the river spans just over a decade. "I used to hike with my groups onto the glacier. Now there's a huge lagoon where the toe of the glacier used to be, and what remains isn't hikeable."
In short, if your heart is set on experiencing a glacier up close, consider going soon.