Paddling through icebergs in Bear Glacier Lagoon, Alaska
Expensive, yes. Once in a lifetime experience, also yes. Paddleboarding through Bear Glacier Lagoon was the experience that convinced me to extend my road trip into Alaska. I lucked out with the most amazing group of gals for the day, our guide was a bada**, and icebergs are freakin’ cool. If you splurge on one thing during your travels here - this should be it.
Book ahead; my original plan was to kayak!
Leave room for flexibility; this activity is highly weather dependent.
The kayaks are for two passengers, on a paddleboard, you’ll be solo.
When I embarked on this four month road trip, Alaska wasn’t on the to-do list. I was committed to driving to The Yukon, but “The Last Frontier” seemed significantly further out of the way. As I drove further into the north, I began to better understand how The Yukon and Alaska would be completely different experiences. Pretty soon I dove into the best Alaska travel itineraries that the blogging world had to offer, which ultimately led me to this:
From the ports of Seward, Alaska, there is one tour company that will take you on their specialized jetboat designed specifically to bring us joyful tourists through the shallow glacier-fed river that leads to Bear Glacier Lagoon. There they have their collection of watercrafts ready to be paddled through the Gatorade blue icebergs ahead.
Originally, I planned to book a kayaking excursion which would take me right up to the glacier at the other end of the lagoon. Despite this being the number one inspiration to extend my road trip into Alaska, I waited until I arrived in town to book the trip… So the kayaking was fully booked. That is how my fourth time ever using a paddleboard became my ultimate SUP experience of a lifetime.
Watch a short video from the day here.
They have minimums that need to be met for an excursion to go out which meant I’d have to wait for the one available spot open on a paddleboard trip four days away. With the incredibly rainy weather the area had been experiencing, I briefly hummed and hawwed.
What would I do in the rain while I wait around for Sunday? 🤔
There’s no guarantee the weather will even be clear for the trip to go! 😱
It is quite expensive 🥴
Am I good enough at paddleboarding for this? 😬
“Welp, when is the next time I’ll be in Alaska?” I thought to myself as I handed over my credit card.
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I drove to Homer, Alaska to explore for a few days. There was a hike there I hoped to do, a few hours of sunshine were in the forecast and it wouldn’t require much extra driving. As I waited for that Sunday afternoon to roll around, I watched the stormy weather closely as other excursions were cancelled.
Let this be your cautionary tale - either come in peak summer months (June/July) when the weather is drier, with a flexible itinerary or do not get emotionally attached to this experience! Due to the travel required to reach the lagoon and the nature of paddle sports, this activity is highly weather dependent.
Somehow I lucked out with the best possible day for a rainy August and the most amazing group of fellow paddlers a solo traveller could ask for. The clouded sky made for brighter blues. The calm water had us attempting headstands on our boards. And just before we left, we were treated with views of Bear Glacier.
Expensive, yes. Once in a lifetime experience, also yes.
Upon booking your trip, you’ll be sent an email packed with information to prepare you for the day, but here is a little overview from my experience.
Check-in and wait for all the guests to arrive. I hope you ate a big lunch! they’ll say.
Fill-up your reusable water bottle and poke around the outdoors store while you wait. You might purchase one of their waterproof phone pouches. Or you can test your chances at getting a hand on of the few pouches they have for paddlers.
Best to use the restroom before heading out as all that’s available at the lagoon is the “facili-trees” as they call them. Except there are zero trees.
You’ll be covered head-to-toe in a dry suit, complete with little booties, crocs and waterproof gloves. Most of us opted for the additional rain jacket on top just for the hood. The dry suit is loose fitting so there is plenty of room underneath to layer up.
A pro-tip from our guide: a ball-cap is especially great to keep rain out of your eyes!
Pop a Gravol
We packed ourselves into the company van for a short drive to the boat that would soon shake up our tummies. Next time, I’d take a Gravol ahead of time!
Choose your paddlecraft
They had SUPs, helmets (loosely enforced) and PFDs lined up along the shore ready for our tour group. The boards were fairly equal in condition, though I managed to get one with straps still in tact to hold down my dry bag. Dry bags are also provided by the tour company!
Within our group, we had all levels of paddleboarders. The beauty of paddleboarding is that you can propel yourself while kneeling just as well as from standing! There was plenty of opportunity to ask the guide for tips and no one was going to be left behind. Between the calm waters and the dry suit, I was more confident than ever.
Icebergs!! Floating through a glacier lagoon!! I am without the words to express what a surreal experience it was. We spent most of our time settled in the lagoon drinking hot tea and eating cookies. Some of us gave our best attempt at headstands on our boards. Check out the video to see how I tested out my dry suit.
While paddlers are instructed to keep their distance for safety, I was more than satisfied with how close we felt to these massive chunks of ice!
*These apply specifically to the paddleboarding excursion. Find alternate trip options on their website.
Price per person: $325 USD
Meeting time: 8AM or 2PM
Trip length: 5.5 hours (2 hours spent paddling)
Group size: 6 people
Minimum age: 13 years
Season: May through September
Bring: socks, warm layers, water, phone as a camera.
Provided: paddle equipment, drysuit, paddle shoes and gloves, dry bag, homemade snack.
In conclusion, I lucked out with the most amazing group of gals for the day, our guide was a bada**, and icebergs are freakin’ cool. If you splurge on one thing during your travels here - this should be it.