Winter isn’t all bad. In fact, one could argue it’s not bad at all once you consider the multitude of adventures and playgrounds that open up with a little bit of snow and ice. One such playground is Portage Lake – a small, glacier fed lake in the summer becomes paradise for a variety of winter sports.
Portage Lake is nestled in the back of Portage Valley, en route to the Whitter Tunnel. Approximately one (1) hour south of Anchorage (48 – 50 miles), it’s an easy drive from town. Along the road to the Begich Boggs Visitor Center you’ll find campgrounds, hiking trails, and a lazy river convenient for single day float trips.
Portage Lake has become a popular winter destination for locals, as temperatures and snow levels stay low in recent years. Once the lake is frozen solid, people take to skis, skates, bikes and foot to trek to Portage Glacier, nestled back at the southwest corner of the lake. Approximately one mile back (I can’t find a recent statistic on the length of the lake, and given the alarming rate that glaciers are retreating – it would be inaccurate by the time you read this anyway…), with thin snow conditions it look us 30 minutes or less to bike back to the glacier.
Before we went, Adam polled friends and cyclists around Anchorage to gather insight on the conditions at the lake. Unfortunately as the Visitor Center is closed, there’s no information except word of mouth in the off season. We were confident the lake was frozen solid by mid-February, but couldn’t be sure of snow cover. I had studs on my fat bike tires, so we shrugged and said ‘good enough’ and off we went.
The conditions were perfect and we spent a few hours biking around the glacier and icebergs. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Getting There: Drive south from Anchorage, take a L on the Whittier/Portage Valley road. Park at the Begich Boggs Visitors Center, walk down to the ice on the main trail. Follow the flow of “traffic” across the lake to the glacier.
What to Bring: Depending on conditions, your skis, bikes, skates or boots would be perfect. Know the conditions and your skill set; this is a good beginning outing if you are prepared and can make it out and back safely and comfortably.
Of Note: Glaciers are cool, and can be dangerous if they calve or break. Portage Glacier (at the end of the lake) is not known for glacier caves or other access points – we stayed back and enjoyed the glacier from a distance.
Remember! I am not a guide or expert, and conditions change daily. Explore Portage Lake at your own risk. This blog or the author are not liable for your safety.