Hike-in Required
ADA accessible
Guided tours
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Prince William Sound is a sound situated within the Gulf of Alaska on the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula. It assumes a massive 3,800 miles of coastline and butts straight up against the Chugach Mountains to the east. Though notably famous for its prolific oil and fish resources, Prince William Sound is beloved by Alaskans and tourists alike for its staggering abundance of wildlife and jaw-dropping natural beauty—this one sound contains 150 glaciers. The biggest port cities on the sound include Cordova, Valdez, and Whittier, with most tourist opportunities and scenic cruises originating in Whittier.

Surprise Glacier is one of the most renowned glaciers in the sound both for its behemoth girth and because it’s the most active tidewater glacier. If you embark on a cruise to get a glimpse of the glacier, don’t fret if it’s cloudy—the glacial mass seems to have an affinity for creating its own weather—if the sound is shrouded in misty clouds, there’s still a good chance the glacier will miraculously be sunny.

Though some decide to embark on a sightseeing tour by way of kayak (self guided or otherwise), it’s nearly impossible for most to make it the 45 mile round-trip to see Surprise Glacier. Cruises depart daily for Surprise Glacier and cost around $150. Truly, if you’re skipping a kayak tour, it’s highly recommended to hop on a ship— humpback, sei, fin, minke, and killer whales can be found in the frigid waters, as well as energetic Steller sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and of course, salmon in abundance. Though it might not take much skill to spot a breaching killer whale, hopping on a cruise ship might afford you an experience facilitated by a professional that otherwise might have slipped through your fingers.

Cruises to Surprise Glacier

Alaska Tours: Depart from Girdwood and travel by train to Whittier. Hop on a catamaran in Whittier to tour the sound and spend some time at Surprise glacier. This is an all-day tour and lunch is provided.

Explore Tours: Depart from Whittier for a half-day catamaran tour of the sound and Surprise Glacier. Emphasizes a tour of the working salmon hatchery, and a Chugach National Forest Ranger is aboard every trip.

Major Marine Tours: The largest guide service in Whittier, this tour is much like the Explore Tours offering with a half-day catamaran tour of the sound and Surprise Glacier. A Chugach National Forest Ranger is aboard every trip

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass



Abundant wildlife. Breaking glacier.


Likely too far to kayak (43 miles one-way) for most.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed


Big vistas
Geologically significant



Phillip's Cruises and Tours also offers several cruises out of Whittier, the longest of which (the 26 Glaciers cruise) visits Surprise Glacier. Another option to reach the glacier is via one of many taxi services that will take you out there. There are several Forest Service cabins throughout the Sound that put you within reaching distance of Surprise Glacier or Harvard Glacier.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.