Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour

About the Tour

The Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour is the longest and most incredible standard tour we provide. It includes every experience from the Knik Glacier Helicopter Tour and more. See five Alaskan glaciers from above, with the opportunity to hike on one of the glaciers. Priced at $895 per person, with a two-person minimum, this 1-hour 45-minute flight includes a 30-minute glacial landing with our Robinson R44 helicopter. The tour consists of everything on the Knik Glacier Helicopter Tour – the Knik, Colony, Lake George, Eklutna, and Whiteout Glaciers. Also extending South into Prince William Sound, this tour includes Harriman, Serpentine, Barry, and Surprise Glaciers, flowing into Harriman Fjord.

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND HELICOPTER TOUR AVAILABILITY

See availability and choose a time for your tour. Or read on to find out more about the Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour with Heli Alaska, Inc.

FIND OUT MORE - Tour Quick LINKS

Jump ahead to find out more about each of the points of interest on your Knik Glacier Helicopter Tour with Heli Alaska. Learn about glacial landings, Chugach State Park, the many glaciers the tour includes. Also we explain the photography opportunities on offer, the route and other activities available in the region.

Prince William Sound - Heli Alaska
View from a Heli Alaska R44 during a Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour. Notice the beautiful colors of the sunrise in the middle of winter.

WHAT IS PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND?

East of the Kenai Peninsula along the coast in the Gulf of Alaska lies Prince William Sound. A wide gulf off the South coast of Alaska dotted with islands and sheltered somewhat by them from the North Pacific Ocean. Notably, the largest, Montague and Hinchinbrook Islands, extend from Chenega in the West to Cordova in the East of the Gulf. With an incredible 3,800 miles (6115 km) of coastline in the area, that’s more than the width of the U.S.A. as the crow (or helicopter) flies.

WHAT IS A SOUND ANYWAY?

A sound is typically a smaller body of water connected to the sea or ocean. However, there is quite a bit of inconsistency regarding what a sound is. The word “sound” can refer to an inlet, deeper than a bight and broader than a fjord, or, similar to a strait, a narrow sea or channel between two land bodies.

The land mass north of Prince William Sound contains Chugach State Park and The Chugach National Forrest. Following only Alaska’s own Tongass National Forest in first place with a staggering 17 million acres, Chugach National Forrest is the second largest national forest in the U.S. at an almost incomprehensible 6.9 million acres. For context, ten states in the U.S. have less land area than the Tongass National Forest.

Prince William Sound itself is home to many of Alaska’s aquatic fauna. From whales, sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, and seabirds, there is a tremendous amount of nature to be seen in this body of water.

HISTORY OF PRINCE WILLAM SOUND

Originally named Sandwich Sound, Captain James Cook initially designated the area for his patron, the Earl of Sandwich, who had just been made First Lord of the British Admiralty in 1778. Captain Cook is famed for his three exploratory voyages between 1768 and 1779, ranging from the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. He was recognized as the first European to contact the Eastern coast of Australia. Captain Cook also completed the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand and the first recorded European contact with the Hawaiian Islands.

Later in the year 1778, the Sound was renamed in honor of King George III’s third son. Aged just 13 and serving as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, Prince William Henry is the namesake of the Sound.

Prince William Sound View - Heli Alaska
Prince William Sound - Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA

EXPLORING PRINCE WILLAM SOUND

Salvador Hidalgo latterly explored Prince William Sound in 1790. Some places within the region still bear names, such as Port Valdez, Port Gravina, and Cordova, which Fidalgo gave. Landing at Cordova, Fidalgo took possession of the land in the name of the King of Spain.

THE WORLDS 2ND LARGEST EARTHQUAKE

On March 27, 1964, the Good Friday earthquake shook the area. It was a magnitude 9.2 megathrust earthquake that lasted four minutes and thirty-eight seconds. Remaining the most powerful earthquake in North American history, the massive shake caused a 27-foot (8.2 m) tsunami that devastated the town of Chenega and destroyed Valdez. This is still the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded in world history.

The largest earthquake ever recorded was in Valdivia, 1960 Chile. Also known as the Great Chilean earthquake, its epicenter was near Lumaco. The resulting tsunamis affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands.

Prince William Sound Alaska Earthquake - Heli Alaska
Landing on Kink Glacier - Heli Alaska

YOUR LANDING ON A GLACIER

Walking on the glacier is a fantastic experience; falling over isn’t! Your pilot will fit crampons to your shoes upon landing so you can safely walk around. We will have loads of time for photography and videography, exploring the glacier ice and pools, or just taking in the beautiful scenery.

Please be sure to bring appropriate clothing for your landing. This is Alaska, and it can certainly be cold in the Arctic environment.

However, if you want to, you can try out the ultimate plunge pool. We assure you that dropping into ice-cold water on a glacier is a once-in-a-lifetime experience if you want to try it. Please bring a change of clothes or a towel if you wish to participate. Alternatively, try a glacial mud mask, often costing upwards of $35 per jar. Get a genuine Alaskan experience on the glacier. Not only the mud but rather the environment and stunning views.

THE KINK GLACIER DISTRICT - CHUGACH STATE PARK

Video from AlaskaStateParks: Chugach State Park borders Alaska’s largest city, the Municipality of Anchorage, and is a 495,000-acre dream-come-true for outdoor enthusiasts. Once you’ve visited Chugach State Park, you will understand why Alaskans rarely leave the state in summer.

Our Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour circles to the southeast of Wasilla and Anchorage, weaving through the east side of Chugach State Park before extending over the southern coast of southcentral Alaska into Prince William Sound. The Chugach State Park covers 495,204 acres or 2,004 square kilometers in the south-central coastal region of Alaska. Chugach State Park has incredible opportunities for locals and tourists, covering meditation through sports and everything in between. Managed by Alaska State Parks and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the area protects the habitat and environment for indigenous wildlife and future generations. The Chugach Mountains are well known for both their wild forests and glaciers. Directly east along the coast from the park is the Chugach National Forest.

As the third-largest State Park in the U.S., Chugach is only bested by California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Alaska’s own Western Wood-Tikchik State Park. New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles could fit within Chugach State Park’s borders.

Chief Pilot Robert Enjoying the Knik Glacier - Heli Alaska

RECREATION IN CHUGACH STATE PARK

Chugach State Park is the largest wildlife-rich habitat, or wilderness area, within close proximity to a major city in the world. Alaska has larger and wilder areas, but none compare with the level of access and activities in Chugach State Park. With 280 miles of trails accessed by 16 trailheads, the opportunities for sports and outdoor activities are nearly limitless. Locals and tourists enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, helicopter tours, hunting, fishing, camping, gold-panning, ATV riding, snowmobiling, glacier viewing, photography, etc. Scout your next adventure with a bird’s eye view during a Heli Alaska, Inc tour.

The Chugach Mountains and Glaciers present a fantastic opportunity for photographers. Featuring diverse wildlife and unique landscapes, the park contains nearly all mammals found in the State of Alaska- more than 45 species. Studies suggest more than 1,000 moose, 40 brown bears, 80 black bears, 2,000 Dall sheep, one wolf pack, and populations of lynx, beavers, river otters, foxes, and mountain goats reside in the 495,000-acre state park.

 Knik VS Prince William Sound Tours

The Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour includes all the glaciers seen on the Heli Alaska Knik Glacier Tour plus flying over four more – that’s nine glaciers you’ll experience from above. Glaciers unique to this trip are the Harriman, Serpentine, Barry, and Surprise Glaciers. You will fly over the Knik, Colony, Lake George, Eklutna, and Whiteout Glaciers on both tours.

Knik Glacier Landing - Heli Alaska

HARRIMAN GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND TOUR ONLY

Harriman Glacier is 8 miles or 13 km long in the North West of Prince William Sound. Its terminus is at the head of Harriman Fjord. It is one of nine glaciers with names that flow into the fjord. The Harriman was titled by members of the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition, named after Edward H. Harriman, a wealthy American financier and railroad executive and sponsor of the expedition. The New York-born Harriman funded a refit of the 250-foot (76 m) luxury steamer SS George W. Elder used for the trip. The journey brought prominent scientists and naturalists of the time to catalog the flora and fauna of the Alaska coastline.

Harriman Glacier on the Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour - Heli Alaska
Harriman Expedition, Alaska - Heli Alaska
Harriman Alaska Expedition members pose on beach at deserted Cape Fox village, Alaska, 1899

Why did edward h. harriman head north?

At the time, Harriman was one of the most powerful men in America, though, in early 1899, his doctor diagnosed him with exhaustion. His doctor recommended an extended vacation. As such, Harriman planned to go North to Alaska and hunt Kodiak bears. Though it was disputed, and many wondered if he was looking for fresh railroad opportunities, the Harriman expedition was set.

The Harriman Glacier is a tidewater glacier, meaning its toe extends directly into the ocean. The face of the glacier stands an estimated 300 feet or 91m tall over the Harriman Fjord. The main body of the glacier is fed by several unnamed feeder glaciers in the mountains, north along the coast from the city of Whittier. Home to over 270 people and the site of the U.S. Army’s Camp Sullivan about 58 miles (93 km) South-East of Anchorage, Whittier is only accessible over land via North America’s second-longest highway tunnel. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel claims the title of North America’s longest combined rail and highway tunnel at a mind-boggling 13,300 feet in length.

SERPENTINE GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND TOUR ONLY

The Serpentine glacier sits inland north of Harriman Fjord and northeast of the Harriman Glacier. Similarly named by the Harriman Expedition in 1899, the glacier is flanked to the north by Mount Gilbert and West by Mount Muir. The area is the most extensively glaciated terrain in Alaska, made possible by the precipitation rate and the Chugach’s high mountainous regions.

Serpentine Glacier is surrounded by three titans of geology and Alaskan exploration; Harriman, Gilbert, and Muir. Gilbert has been honored nationally and even on an interplanetary basis. Alongside Mount Gilbert, AK, craters on the Moon and Mars are named for him, with yet another Mount Gilbert named in California.

Serpentine Glacier - Heli Alaska
Serpentine Glacier - Enrico Blasutto

John Muir’s first visit to Alaska predated the Harriman Expedition, though he was aboard the SS George W. Elder in 1899. Muir is recognized as being the first in a long line of distinguished scientists/naturalists to visit the Gulf of Alaska. His research brought this remarkable area to the world’s attention and undoubtedly contributed to the Harriman Expedition. Muir’s last trip to Glacier Bay was as part of the 1899 expedition. Though the grandiose nature of the event was not to his tastes, he attended and is still regarded as a crucial part of the fledgling science of glaciology.

Cascade, Barry & Cox Glaciers - Heli Alaska
Cascade, Barry & Cox Glaciers - Charles W. Scarborough 1923

BARRY GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND TOUR ONLY

North of Harriman Fjord is Barry Glacier. At 16 miles or 25 km long, the glacier runs southwest from its accumulation zone to its toe in the northeast of the fjord. The National Tsunami Warning Center marked the Barry Glacier as a Landslide and Tsunami Hazard. Despite being on the slope for centuries, the current melt facilitates what scientists call a slow-motion landslide. Ohio State University stated, “We are measuring this loss of land before the tsunami occurs,” – Chunli Dai of The Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

Researchers estimate that from 2010 to 2017, the slope shifted by about 120 meters, and climate change is only accelerating this. Pre-2006, the thinning rate was less than three feet or a meter per year. 

Now, however, the rate of melting has sped up to about 130 ft or 40 meters per year. Simulations suggest a collapse would create a tsunami wave reaching 32 feet or nearly 10 meters. The State of Alaska has limited travel in the area due to this ongoing hazard.

 

 

The glacier was named after Colonel Thomas Henry Barry by Captain Edwin F. Glen in 1898. Glen was part of an expedition in 1898 responsible for mapping a route to the Klondike gold fields from the area.

Barry Glacier - Heli Alaska
Barry Glacier - Enrico Blasutto

SURPRISE GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND TOUR ONLY

Surprise Glacier is the most active tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound and the best place to see calving. Once again, this glacier was named by members of the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1899. Glacial calving is a huge tourist attraction in the gulf and an amazing sight to experience. Huge chunks of ice will often fall into Prince William Sound with a loud cracking or boom. The ice often creates large and hazardous waves when it hits the water. However, from the safety of the helicopter, you can view this remarkable event. Of over 100 named glaciers in Prince William Sound, this is a definite must-see.

Sea Otters at Surprise Glacier - Heli Alaska
Sea Otters at the Surprise Glacier Terminus - Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA
Knik Glacier Terminus - Heli Alaska

KNIK GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND & KNIK GLACIER TOUR

The namesake of the Knik Glacier Helicopter Tour also appears on the Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour. In the northern Chugach Mountains and to the east of Anchorage, the Knik Glacier ice field averages over 25 miles or 40 km in length. At over 5 miles or 8 km in width, it’s around four times the size of Manhattan Island. Scientists estimate the Knik Glacier to be 400 ft or 120 m thick or over 28 stories of frozen water. This wall of ice is around half the height of the Eiffel Tower and 20% taller than Niagara Falls.

The terminus of the Knik glacier face is 5 miles wide. Calving into icebergs and dropping into the lake, substantial floating chunks of ice can be seen from above. Inaccessible by road, the glacier can only be visited via helicopters, planes, or boats. Some fat bike riders make the 8-mile journey on land in the winter. They are also joined by hikers, usually wearing snowshoes. Still, none of these methods can access the glacier to the same degree a helicopter can. The term Knik is derived from the Inupiaq word igniq meaning “fire.” To find out more about the Kink Glacier, visit www.alaska.org.

Glacial Landing at Knik - Heli Alaska

Colony GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND & KNIK GLACIER TOUR

To the South of Knik Glacier, and regularly calving ice into Inner Lake George, is Colony Glacier. Also known as “Diltishi Bena Li’a,” the glacier is at an altitude of 1037 ft or 316 m. Mount Gilbert towers to the east at 9638 ft or 2938 m high, named after Grove Karl Gilbert. As noted in the Serpentine Glacier section above, Gilbert was part of the Harriman Expedition exploring the area in 1899 as a U.S. geological survey.

Note the line of debris on the Glacier as the two flows combine. This is a Moraine, Parts of rock and soil transported by the two combining ice flows. The separation indicates the different pressures from each side of the flow.

Colony Glacier - DigitalGlobe, Google
Colony Glacier terminating into Lake George - DigitalGlobe, Google
Colony Glacier - Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA
Colony Glacier - Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA

INNER Lake George

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND & KNIK GLACIER TOUR

CALVING INTO LAKE GEORGE

The toe of Colony Glacier ends in Lake George. Occasionally, we witness the calving of this glacier on tours. The glacier snout ends in a sequence of icefalls down the steep face to the water’s surface. Icefalls are the glacier equivalent of waterfalls in a river. Incredible waterfalls, green slopes, and some jaw-dropping landscapes surround Colony Glacier. Besides being visually stunning, this combination sets you up for some fantastic photography opportunities.

THE SELF-DUMPING GLACIER

Lake George was once the largest glacier-dammed lake in North America. Before 1967 it self-dumped regularly, almost annually over 49 years. The Lake George outlet into the Knik River would become blocked by the Knik Glacier, extending north over winter. During the winter, Lake George would fill from glacier melt and calving. Then, in summer, the meltwater would break the Knik Glacier ice dam, causing a massive torrent as Lake George emptied into the Knik River. The United States designated Lake George as a National Natural Landmark in 1967.

 

Alaska Film Archives have historical footage depicting the dam burst as meltwater from Lake George opens the Knik Glacier. This natural event released thousands, if not millions, of gallons of water into the Knik River. Unfortunately, due to rising global temperatures, this has not happened since 1967. The Knik Glacier has receded and no longer dams up the lake. Lake George might not self-empty ever again. The video above contains excerpts from AAF-10633 from the Stewart’s Photo Shop collection. For more information, please visit the Alaska Film Archives directly.

 

Lake George GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND & KNIK GLACIER TOUR

To the south of Colony Glacier and the formerly self-dumping Lake George is the Lake George Glacier. Nestled in the Chugach Mountains, it sits at an altitude of 2644 ft or 805m. Lake George Glacier is to the southwest of the Colony Glacier, separated by Crown Peak at an elevation of 6000 ft or 1820 m. Despite shifts and melts, Lake George Glacier remains mostly static compared to other glaciers with an abrupt terminus. This glacier is landlocked and, to some degree, protected from the mass balance problems of others. This has led to some stability by comparison.

EKLUTNA GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND & KNIK GLACIER TOUR

The land-terminating Eklutna Glacier, natively known as “Idlu Bena Li’a,” is northwest of Lake George Glacier. It is the primary source of fresh water to Eklutna Lake and, simultaneously, the origin of drinking water in Anchorage, Alaska. Eklutna is a dual-branched glacier with the main portion flowing north and a second, steeper channel flowing from the west. The glacier is 6 miles (10 km) long and rises in altitude from 1900 feet (580 m) up to 6889 ft (2100 m) in the upper accumulation zone. A unique and epic view during the Knik Glacier and Prince William Sound Helicopter Tours.

Unfortunately, Eklutna is decreasing in size as global temperatures are rising annually. Eklutna has disastrously reached a negative mass balance, melting more annually than it can recoup in the winter months. Scientists estimate this situation will eventually reduce the freshwater supply to Eklutna Lake and Anchorage’s nearly 300,000 people.

Compounding this problem is the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project. This 40-megawatt hydroelectric facility generates power for over 24,000 residents in the Anchorage area. It is also the lowest-cost renewable energy provider in southcentral Alaska; find out more at Eklutna Hydro.

LAKE EKLUTNA

Eklutna Lake, known as Idlu Bena in Dena’ina. Is a 3,520 acre lake in the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska, near it’s namesake village of Eklutna. Around 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 7 miles (11 km) long. The lake is believed to have been named by Russian traders on the 18th century expedition of Aleksandr Baranov. The name means “lake near a place where there are many ferns.” The only other Larger Lake in Alaska is Kilbuck Lake at 4,314 acres lake in the Municipality of Greater Anchorage, sits around 5 miles (8 km) northeast of Lake .

WHITEOUT GLACIER

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND & KNIK GLACIER TOUR

Alongside the Whiteout Glacier, The Mountaineering Club of Alaska built Whiteout Glacier Cabin in 1963 as part of the Eklutna Traverse route. The Mountaineering Club of Alaska named Whiteout Glacier after the nearby Whiteout Peak. Whiteout, at 2569 ft (783 m) above sea level, is still a dangerous place to traverse. Before summiting the 6818 feet (2078 m) Whiteout peak, many travelers had to take shelter in the structure. Now renamed Hans Hut, Alaska’s Digital Archive has digitized three decades of traveler’s notes from the Cabin’s Journal. Visit the Alaska Digital Archive to see more.

After the Second World War, from the 50s until the mid-70s, the military used Whiteout and Eklutna Glaciers for training. The U.S. military used the glaciers to perfect cross-country skiing, rappelling, and glacier travel safety ahead of any potential arctic warfare situation. The Alaskan winter offered the U.S. military a test bed for any potential conflicts arising in Northern Europe, particularly considering the nature of the Cold War and the previous combat environments of WW2.

PHOTOGRAPHY DURING YOUR TRIP

Flying in the world’s most densely glaciated area, the Prince William Sound Tour passes over eight glaciers. Get a unique perspective of this world’s marvel during your helicopter tour. Relentless and incredible to see, glaciers are a true marvel of nature. Glacial calving is an eye-popping experience, but we can’t guarantee you’ll see it on every tour. During the year, there are more likely times to witness these events. Certainly, get in contact, and we will be happy to advise if you are looking for something particular. The Heli Alaska Prince William Sound Tour provides unprecedented access to Alaska’s landscape, glaciers, mountains, and lakes.

From a photography perspective, speak to our Chief Pilot Robert, particularly if you have specific shots or wildlife you would like the best chance of capturing. He is a knowledgeable photographer and might be the one guiding your tour. Feel free to drop us a message on the contact page to find out more.

 

YOUR PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND TOUR FLIGHT

We partner with multiple local businesses in the Mat-Su Valley. Tours begin and end off the dock at Mat-Su Resort or the back lawn at Lake Lucille Inn. Visit our contact page or give us a call to find our locations.

The Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour takes you through Chugach State Park in one of Heli Alaska’s R44 helicopters. Our pilots are excellent guides with extensive knowledge of the area, animals, glaciers, and history. We have been flying in this area for a long time and can say for sure that cloudy days are just as, if not more, beautiful than blue-sky days. Some of the most dramatic views are seen on generally cloudy days.

HeliAlaska Inc Logo

Our Location:

Hanger #4, 

4130 West Aviation Ave.,

Wasilla, Alaska

BOOKING YOUR PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND TOUR

Is the Prince William Sound Tour the perfect addition to your Alaskan adventure? It is simple to book online or over the phone with Heli Alaska for your Alaskan Helicopter tour today. Use our website’s automated booking system today. Choose passenger numbers and dates for your flight. Easily book on a mobile device or desktop computer. Do you have further questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us.

Please let us know if anyone on your trip is concerned about flying. We are more than happy to talk passengers through the tour. Alternatively, where possible, we can make arrangements to improve the experience you have. Feel free to get in contact if you have any questions about this using the contact page. We love flying and think you will too. However, we understand everyone is different, so we will be happy to assist you wherever possible.

Do you feel the Prince William Sound Tour is not quite what you want? Or if you’d like to discuss customizing your trip. Give us a call, and we’d be happy to accommodate your needs.

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND HELICOPTER TOUR AVAILABILITY

See availability and choose a time for your tour. Or read on to find out more about the Prince William Sound Helicopter Tour with Heli Alaska, Inc.

HeliAlaska Inc Logo

Our Location:

Hanger #4, 

4130 West Aviation Ave.,

Wasilla, Alaska