After completing the Arctic Circle Trail by backpacking from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut and then doing a short trip to Disko Island, we spent our final five days in Greenland in Ilulissat. The Ilulissat Icefjord is truly one of the most spectacular places to visit on the planet. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is roughly 43 miles in length and 4 1/3 miles in width at the mouth of the fjord. This vast area contains massive glaciers that have been measured to be up to 1 mile in length and up to 400 feet in height above sea level. When icebergs break off from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier on the Greenland ice cap, they will spend between 12-15 months clogged in the icefjord before pushing their way out into the open sea. The clogging takes place because the largest icebergs will get grounded on the bottom of the icefjord, which is around 820 feet deep at the shallowest spot near the mouth. The best ways to experience the Ilulissat Icefjord are by plane flights, boat trips, and hiking one (or more) of the four trails. The four hiking trails are the World Heritage Trail, Yellow route, Red route, and Blue route. For our hike, we combined the Yellow route (1.7 miles) with the Blue route (4.2 miles) and carried out a loop. Additional hiking distance was necessary to get to the Yellow route's starting point at the power plant and then back to our place of lodging from the Blue route's ending point near the quarry. But we were also able to shave off a little distance by taking a shortcut across toward the World Heritage Trail a safe distance above Sermermiut beach.
We started out at our lodging place which was located not far from the main bridge in town and walked through the streets toward the power plant. This portion of the walk passing by the colorful houses of Ilulissat and areas where sled dogs live is quite enjoyable. Upon reaching the beginning of the hike at the start of the Yellow route, a wooden staircase is climbed. This leads up onto a somewhat flat area of the rocky hillside which rises up above the fjord. Following the trail simply involves looking ahead for painted circles on rocks and then trying to safely hike from one to the next. I did hear of one incident during our trip where a hiker slipped and broke his leg while doing this, so caution is definitely in order. The conditions can be wet and the rock can be slippery. The Yellow route starts out with views of the open sea and soon winds around to the mouth of the icefjord. Giant icebergs now become visible but they are a short distance away as there is an open section of water, often containing boats and whales. There are numerous wildflowers along the trail, adding color to the marshy landscape. The trail turns inland once an overlook for Sermermiut beach and the peninsula just beyond is reached. This is where we crossed over to the World Heritage Trail. But if you do this, make sure you are a safe distance above the tidal wave zone. We noticed that Humpback whales like to hang out by the icebergs near the peninsula. And we actually spent a couple of hours there on another evening just watching them. Once on the Blue route, the peninsula is passed by and no more open water is visible. At the next viewpoint, an endless amount of icebergs of all shapes and sizes clogging the icefjord stretches out to the horizon. There is nothing quite like seeing this breathtaking view for the first time in your life. The distance along this next portion of the Blue route is quite lengthy and there are plenty of good spots for photography. After some time, the Blue route finally turns inland, following the left side of a stream which flows down toward another beach. The trail then passes by a lake and turns left into a small canyon which is known as The Cleft. This narrow canyon is hiked up to its high point, after which you descend down the other side. The Cleft then ends and opens up into a vast green landscape at the bottom on the outskirts of town. Passing by some more sled dogs (which are fun to visit with, especially the puppies), the trail comes to an end near the quarry. We spent about 4 1/2 hours combining the Yellow and Blue routes, with another hour spent walking through town in both directions. So it was about a half-day hike in total. Later that evening, we did the midnight boat cruise of the icefjord. The midnight sun creates a unique array of colors on the icebergs which is very special to see. It was a fantastic way to end our time in Ilulissat and Greenland. The included full set of photos contains pictures from both the hike and boat cruise. Our hike took place on July 28, 2018.