Ice Ridge Trail

Panorama looking towards the Ice Cap on the Ice Ridge Trail, Greenland

Ice Ridge Trail

A spectacular 2-day hike along the ridge above the Ice Road : from the edge of the Ice Sheet at Russell Glacier to Kangerlussuaq

  • Looking towards Kangerlussuaq on the Ice Ridge Trail, Greenland
  • Looking towards the Ice Cap on the Ice Ridge Trail, Greenland
  • Sand valley and glacier seen from the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Myriad of lakes seen along the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Ice Sheet and lakes seen from the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Ice Road and approach to Kangerlussuaq seen from the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Remains of a rocket on the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Ice Road heading towards the Ice Cap seen from the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Kangerlussuaq seen from the Ice Ridge Trail, Greenland
Trail typeone-way
Time1.5 – 2 days
Distance25 km
Altitude436 m

What you can expect on the trail

Take a tour to the Russell Glacier, camp overnight in front of the wall of ice, and then spend 2 days hiking back to Kangerlussuaq with incredible views over the Ice Sheet, the Watson River valley, and the backcountry of the Aasivissuit – Nipisat UNESCO world heritage listed area. The route follows existing trails for ~90% of its length, though some may be quite faint or overgrown. 

Hiking along the ridge is far more challenging than walking along the road and has several steep climbs and descents. Although it is marked along its entire length with red half-sun paint on rocks (similar to the Arctic Circle Trail), these are at the level of “confidence markers” rather than “navigation markers”. You may not be able to spot the next one from the one you are at, but the route should be obvious – usually continuing to follow the tread or the exposed ridge you are on.

We recommend this route only for hikers that are experienced in navigating in the wilderness and have basic first aid skills. All hikers should carry a map and/or GPS device, as well as a personal locator beacon in case of emergency.

Ice Sheet and lakes seen from the Ice Ridge Trail near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Photo: Lisa Germany – Destination Arctic Circle

Trail Description

From the Russell Glacier, follow the well-established track back to the Ice Road, turn left, and follow it to the top of the hill. There you will find the first of the markers heading up the mountain to your right. 

The trail climbs using existing tracks before descending once more. You should keep looking behind you throughout this first day of hiking for spectacular views of the Ice Sheet and several of the glaciers pouring down off it. 

The route then follows the ridge between a string of several lakes to the south and the enormous Aavitsup Tasia (“Long Lake”) to the north. This is an important staging area for hunting in the region so please make sure you stick to the marked route to avoid disturbing the wildlife. 
After the lakes, the trail climbs the highest mountain on the route before descending once.  This is a ridge hike – so yes – the trail goes up and over all the peaks. But it does give you all the best views, including over Sugarloaf Mountain.

Once you descend off the ridge, the trail passes through a boggy area before once again climbing fairly steeply. The markings indicate the best route through this area and the arctic willow that lines the stream flowing into the valley. You will notice another track that climbs more slowly, staying close to the stream, but the marked trail offers the best views and least boggy hiking.
About ½ way up the mountain, the tread you are following disappears and the markers become more frequent to guide you. Climbing through untrampled tundra is tough work, but hang in there!  Near the top you will pass by the remains of one of the rockets they used to launch when Kangerlussuaq was still a US Air Base.

Please help us preserve what remains of the rocket by not disturbing, altering or removing anything from the site.

Once over the peak, the trail stays high and you get your first glimpse of Kangerlussuaq. There is another well-marked section when the trail disappears again and another peak before you start the final descent.

You will note an ATV track down in the valley. There is another very boggy area to get through before you reach it.   From there, you can follow the ATV track straight ahead and follow the Kangerlussuaq Ridge Trail back to town.  Or, turn left at the ATV track and follow that as it descends in switchbacks to the Ice Road.  We recommend take the latter option as the Kangerlussuaq Ridge Trail is much steeper and can be very slippery after rain.

Overview map of the Ice Ridge hiking trail near Kangerlussuaq

Hover to zoom the image

Source: Indeholder data fra Styrelsen for Dataforsyning og Infrastruktur, skærmkortet, WMS-tjeneste

Safety Information

  • There is no cell phone coverage on the trail. You should carry map and/or GPS and a personal locator beacon with you in case of an emergency.
  • Although the route is marked, you should have experience in backcountry navigation and basic first aid before attempting this trail.
  • You should carry good-quality camping gear that can stand up to bad weather, and be comfortable in setting it up and packing it down in bad conditions. We recommend you follow the packing list for the Arctic Circle Trail.
  • Please minimize your impact on the environment. Follow existing roads and trails, don’t build or alter cairns, and take all your rubbish back to Sisimiut with you.

Please make sure you are familiar with all our safety recommendations and the 7 Leave No Trace principles before you hike.