Boy, 15, dies after going into cardiac arrest while hiking Harding Icefield Trail

A 15-year-old boy died Monday after going into cardiac arrest while hiking the Harding Icefield Trail in Seward, the Alaska Department of Public Safety reported Tuesday. The incident is being investigated by both the Alaska State Troopers and the National Park Service, the park service said in a Tuesday press release.

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers’ Seward Post on the afternoon of July 17 received a report that CPR was being performed on a boy roughly 3.7 miles into the Harding Icefield Trail, the department said in a dispatch. CPR was performed by bystanders that included volunteers from a local guide service and National Park Service staff until LifeMed paramedics arrived, the park service said.

The park service said a LifeFlight helicopter carrying paramedics was able to land at the scene to provide additional resuscitation efforts.

Lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful and the boy was pronounced dead at 3:12 p.m. due to cardiac arrest, troopers said. His body was taken to Soldotna, then released to the State Medical Examiner’s Office. The boy’s next of kin, troopers said, were notified of his death.

The park service in its own press release said Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the Bear Creek Fire Department, the Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps and LifeMed Alaska also responded to the incident alongside the Alaska State Troopers and the park service.

“The National Park Service sincerely appreciates the ongoing support from all the agencies that helped with this incident and our partnership with the Alaska State Troopers for their support during critical missions,” the service said.

The Harding Icefield Trail runs 4.1 miles from the Exit Glacier Area of Kenai Fjords National Park to the Harding Icefield. Considered a strenuous trail, the National Park Service says hikers gain 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile of the trail, which is 8.2 miles and takes between six and eight hours to complete.

The park service has previously urged caution to those planning to hike the trail, and recommend that hikers carry at least 2 liters of water per person and be prepared for storms, high winds, intense sunlight and sudden temperature changes.

After two hikers were rescued within weeks of each other during summer 2021, park rangers said the trail is the most strenuous hike in the park and that most accidents on the trail happen while people are coming down.

Kenai Fjords National Park via social media announced last Tuesday that the Harding Icefield Trail was safe to travel along its full length, but said hikers should follow flags to avoid “unseen hazards.” After the Top of the Cliffs Overlook, roughly 2.4 miles into the trail, the part said the trail is slippery and snowy “that is best approached with caution and the use of trekking poles.”

Up-to-date trail conditions are shared by Kenai Fjords National Park on social media and posted on the National Park Service’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at