The Best Caves in Alaska, USA: Complete List

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

The common perception of Alaska is that it is a frozen wasteland covered with snow and ice. Asking a friend, “Are there any caves in Alaska?” will probably elicit a frown. But there are many caves in this gorgeous state, and many people don’t know about them.

Several ice caves in Alaska’s vast wilderness are fed by glaciers and are among the world’s most incredible natural wonders. Tours of these breathtaking ice formations occasionally include trips to well-known glaciers.

The term “ice cave” is used by geologists to refer to two distinct types of rock structures:

The first type of cave is formed in bedrock that freezes over because of water vapor at depth. A rock cavern becomes reminiscent of an atmosphere from “Frozen” as ice forms blue sheets.

Another ice cave is created when water seeps out of a crevice within a glacier. Some of the most impressive examples of this can be found in Alaska in the form of ice caves.

Please be aware that glaciers and ice caves can be highly hazardous and unpredictable environments. With that said, let’s take a look at the best ice caves in Alaska.

El Capitan Cave

One of Alaska’s largest caverns, El Capitan Cave, lurks in the Tongass National Forest. If you’re looking for the biggest, densest, and deepest cave in Alaska, look no further. Since there is a real possibility of falling here, a fence has been installed around the cave’s entrance.

The inside features flowing chambers, a roof that looks like Swiss cheese, and spherical rocks. You’ll see the cave’s low ceiling, which gradually fades into inky blackness above your head.

A gaping hole in the rock shows an entrance to El Capitan Cave, one of the largest caves in Alaska.

Kushtaka Cave

The cave’s entrance is strange in and of itself, being both narrow and tight. The most unsettling thing about this cave is that bear bones and the bones of domestic dogs littered the cave’s entrance.

The entrance also looks nothing like what you’d expect when you think of Alaska. The name comes from the Kushtaka, a creature of legend that has endured for generations.

According to the legend, the Kushtaka is something like an otter, but with supernatural powers, and can shapeshift into a human. A creature with bad intentions, it sometimes imitates a crying baby or screaming woman to lure people into drowning in the icy waters where it resides.

Whether the legend is true or not, we urge you to be careful while dealing with any ice caves, as serious injury or death is often right around the corner if you are careless.

An image of the legendary creature Kushtaka, looking like an upright standing otter with fangs and dark fur.

Karst Cave

Karst cave is located in Alaska’s southeast part, where the landscape is most well-known and studied; the cave is a hub for researchers and archeologists. Large trees can thrive in the less acidic soil of the Karst cave regions, and instream salmon populations benefit from the increased stability of these locations. Various birds and mammals, especially bats, use the caves to live in and hibernate.

Kennicott Glacier Caves

Next to Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is Kennicott Glacier, which extends from Mount Blackburn (Alaska’s fifth highest peak!) to the Kennicott River. The Kennicott Glacier may not appear very impressive at first view, but after you scratch the surface, you’ll find plenty of blue glacial ice.

Because of their constant movement and change, we don’t recommend exploring the Kennicott and Root Glaciers without a guide. It’s easy for the ice caves to become unsafe, and depending on when you plan to go, anything might change.

A large passageway with massive rock boulders and blue and white cloud-like water and ice decorate the scene. This is  the sight of the Kennicott Glacier Caves.

Matanuska Glacier Cave

About 100 miles from Anchorage, you’ll find the Matanuska Glacier, the longest glacier in the United States that can be reached by car at 27 miles. Take Glenn Highway to reach the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site. Trails and a small campground are available on this 229-acre property.

Because of its active status, Matanuska’s appearance is ever-evolving; it moves around a foot every day. Going on a guided tour of the ice caves is recommended to ensure you stay safe and have everything you need. Shuttle service from downtown Anchorage is included in many trips, which operate year-round.

Two climbers make their way up a steep ice wall, with massive walls of ice on every side and a small hole with sunlight in the background.

Mendenhall Ice Caves

The Mendenhall Glacier is 12 miles from Juneau, Alaska’s capital. The Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, where the 13-mile-long glacier can be found, is located in the Tongass National Forest.

The ice caves appear like you’re traveling beneath a frozen river, with waves and glistening blue domes. Strangeness coexists with beauty, making exploration both thrilling and unsettling. Getting to the caves is difficult; thus, a guide is highly advised.

An image shows a stunning blue backdrop of massive ice formations, found at the Mendenhall Ice Caves.

Root Glacier Caves

Root Glacier is in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is the largest national park in the United States and is a seven-hour drive from Anchorage.

An image shows moulins that formed in the ice in Alaska.
Moulins are the water-filled craters that form in the ice as it melts.

Donoho Peak isn’t the only thing you can see from Root Glacier; you can also check out the glacier’s tide pools, steep ravines, and moulins. A world of blue ice awaits you inside the Jumbo Creek ice cave.

It is only a 1.5-mile stroll to Root Glacier from Kennecott, a historic abandoned mining town. Since the ice on the glacier can be pretty dangerous, the trail takes you directly onto it. The touring company will supply the required equipment. If you want to stay safe, stay away from the glacier’s edge.

A caver walks through a tunnel, a part of the Root Glacier Caves in Alaska.

Spencer Glacier Caves

Spencer Glacier is a 3,500-foot-high ice formation that stands about 60 miles from Anchorage at the head of Spencer Lake. Just south of Turnagain Arm, in the Chugach National Forest, are where you’ll find the glacier’s peaks and headwalls. The stunning mountain scenery and cascading waterfalls are enough to impress any vacationer.

To get here, you can take the Alaska Railroad to go to the glacier and caves. Spencer Glacier Ice Caves can be explored on a hiking or kayaking tour, both of which typically depart at the Spencer Whistle Stop train station. The guides will try to locate a cave or crevasse in the ice that is suitable for tourists.

Exploring a glacier is a risky business for obvious reasons. Spencer Glacier was given its name in honor of a railroad worker named Spencer, who vanished during an ice expedition in 1905.

An image shows a caver descending down a vertical shaft leading down to a massive ice cave inside the Spencer Glacier of Alaska.

Smaller, Less Known Caves in Alaska:

Kit ‘n’ Kaboodle Cave

Blowing Wind Cave

Bumper Cave

Puffin Grotto

On Your Knees Cave

Lawyer’s Cave

Devil’s Canopy Cave

Zina Cave

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