Where else can you walk to the end of Main Street and find yourself at the confluence of three wild rivers, overlooking a 20,000-foot peak? Close to downtown, this large, river-centered park offers wide open, untouched spaces, along with great panoramic view of the Alaska Range.
Come here to see the mingling of 3 swift glacial rivers: the Talkeetna, Susitna, and Chulitna More...
Summit Lake, located some 60 miles north of Anchorage at the crest of Hatcher Pass, offers a short, memorable lakeside ramble. Here you can explore the surrounding gullies and slopes or just sit and watch hang gliders drift out over the long Willow Creek Valley, which extends for miles from the west side of the pass.
Are you a mountain runner looking for a tough workout? Consider Pioneer Ridge Trail. This trail, located a 1-hour drive north of Anchorage on scenic Knik River Road, climbs some 5,200 feet over its 6 miles. Other trails, like Lazy Mountain Trail and Mount Marathon Race Route, may be steeper or rockier, but no trail in the Chugach Mountains climbs so steadily for so long as Pioneer Ridge.
Located one-third of the way from Palmer to Wasilla, this 33-mile trail system meanders through boreal forest, farmland, and the rolling moraines left by the glaciers of the last Ice Age. The trails are some of the only non-mountain, non-motorized pathways in the area, and they’re popular with dog walkers, mountain bikers, geo-cachers, cross-country skiers, runners, and More...
Visible outside the windows of the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau, this state wildlife refuge is the result of the 1964 earthquake. Literally overnight, the land dropped by 6 to 20 feet; hay fields and pastureland became salt flats and marshland. Once home to cows and grains, the land is now prime habitat for moose, birds, and fish. Some 20,000 acres are protected in the More...
Beginning a 1-hour drive north of Anchorage in Government Hill Recreation Area, Government Peak Race Trail offers a fine opportunity for a hard workout; it climbs some 3,700 vertical feet in just 3 miles. Plus, this climb doesn’t include any extraordinary dangers. (A friend refers to one short ledge on this trail as “death rock,” but she tends to exaggerate.) Some sections require special care to negotiate, but you won’t have to traverse any high cliffs or climb any sheer faces during your workout.
The Plumley-Maud Trail can be accessed from the end of Maud Road, or from the corner on Plumley Road near Caudill Road. 1) Access from Maud Road: From Palmer go south east 3 1/2 miles on the Old Glenn Highway, take a left on Maud Road, follow Maud Road for 1 1/2 miles. There is a small turn around and limited parking before the creek directly east of the road. Please More...
This 4.5-mile trail, some 2 hours north of Anchorage on the west side of Hatcher Pass, climbs 1,000 feet up a very typical Talkeetna valley—long, broad, and lined with towering peaks on both sides. It also passes by relics and ruins of old mining days, when these valleys echoed with the sounds of picks and drills.
The 5-mile-long Eska Falls Trail is located a 2-hour drive north of Anchorage in the mountains above the town of Sutton. And it leads to one of nature’s symmetrically framed wonders—a 100-foot waterfall located at the end of a mile-long valley that’s flanked by two massive summits. This setting makes Eska Falls not so much a hike to a destination as much as a hike to a presentation.
In the Talkeetna Mountains between the towns of Willow and Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a local favorite for recreation or a scenic drive. Hike in alpine tundra dotted with wildflowers and ptarmigan, ski fresh, deep powder, or visit Independence Mine Historical State Park.
From Anchorage, it's a 3-hour road trip (roundtrip). You can also hit Hatcher Pass on the way up to More...
Want to feel dwarfed by Alaska’s mountains? Take a 2-hour drive north on the Parks Highway and then up Hatcher Pass Road, where you’ll find this 2-mile-long ATV trail—a wide but occasionally steep path that leads to the crest of Box Lake Ridge. From the big, rounded top of this ridge, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the enormous Talkeetna Mountains that surround you.
Some 50 miles north of Anchorage, this 1.5-mile trail makes for a fine family outing. From the picnic table at the uppermost end of the trail, you’ll find a satisfying panoramic view of the Matanuska River and Knik River valleys. It’s a view as good, or better, than that from many summits.
Beginning almost 120 miles northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway, the trail to the summit of Gunsight Mountain takes a while to reach. After all, it involves a 3.5-mile, 3,300-foot climb through some very big country. But the view from the top makes for an all-day excursion that you won’t easily forget.
You will see a sign for the Gold Mint Trailhead just before the road turns sharply to the left after the Motherlode Lodge. This is a long, mellow hike with only serious elevation gain at the very end. There is some brush initially, but soon it leads you to an open tundra valley. Beaver dams have rerouted the trail in an odd way and add interest to the hike, but there is a bridge at the first crossing. The river might need to be crossed. You can check with the ranger if crossing is safe at the time.
With a length of just 1.5 miles and a summit reaching only 874 feet, West Butte Trail on Bodenburg Butte—a 45-minute drive north of Anchorage—makes for a fine family outing. But even if you’re a more experienced hiker, don’t let the butte’s dwarf-like height dissuade you. This small bump in the center of a grand alluvial plain offers far-reaching views from its summit; plus, the climb includes a pulse-quickening 0.25 miles of stairs up the steep north face.
About a half a mile past where the road turns sharply left (by the old Motherlode Restaurant) is a pull off on the left and archangel road to the right. The road is dirt, and in the summertime you can drive the trail for a mile or two, but it is pitted with deep holes and rocks. After a mile or two, a parking area and trail turns off to the right. Here the trail continues with little elevation gain initially, but after a mile or so you will begin the steeper section, with lots of boulder jumping. The trail turns left and follows a creek over some beautiful waterfalls, and eventually ends up at the Reed lakes, which are being fed by glaciers and are turquoise blue. While it's possible in a day, most prefer to do this as an overnight backpacking trip.
The Fishhook Trailhead parking lot is located at mile 16.5 of Hatcher Pass Road. This area is actively used year round. In the summer it's a great area to hike and in late summer the slopes are abundant with blueberries. This trailhead also leads to Marmot Mountain, were paragliders launch from the top and land in the parking lot. In the winter, the area draws individuals to sled, ski and snowmachine. This trailhead intersects with The Hatcher Pass Snowmobile Corridor Trail, making it an launching point for a ride to over Hatcher Pass to the West.
Two trails travel over the Mat-Su College lands; one from the college and one from Snodgrass Hall. The Mat-Su College trailhead leads to a hilly loop and opens to beautiful views of Lazy Mountain, Twin Peaks, Bodenburge Butte, and Knik Glacier—the best mountain views in the entire greenbelt system.
This recreation area is just a mile and a half from town, but it feels like wilderness—with deep woods and several lakes, it's a great place to hike, run, canoe, fish, or look for wildlife. Watch for otters, beavers, bears, foxes, moose, and more than 100 species of birds, including raptors and loons. The park's best feature is a nicely groomed 3.5-mile walking trail around X More...
The trail varies from lowland birch, spruce and cottonwood along Troublesome Creek to alpine tundra on Kesugi Ridge. The highlight of this trail system is the fantastic view of Denali and the Alaska Range the hiker gets on a clear day from the alpine areas of Kesugi Ridge.
No official trail in Southcentral Alaska climbs as high as Matanuska Peak Trail. Beginning in a subdivision across the Matanuska River from Palmer, this nearly 6-mile-long trail runs up some 5,700 vertical feet. Your destination is the 6,119-foot summit of Matanuska Peak, the very prominent rock spire that fills the sky just east of Palmer. But despite the imposing appearance of this mountain, the trail to its summit requires no extensive rock-scrambling or rock-climbing skills; just some boulder hopping, a bit of balance, and a lot of energy.
It’s not very often that people can see a glacier in an untamed and remote location, far from any road or cruise-ship route. But if you feel capable and confident enough to climb a very rough trail up many vertical feet of rocky terrain, then you might consider undertaking the hike to Snowbird Pass, located high in the Talkeetna Mountains just north of Hatcher Pass. From this vantage point you can look down the entire length of Snowbird Glacier. And you probably won’t have to share that view with anyone but your hiking companion(s). Enveloped by that magical sense of remote solitude, the view becomes all the more special.
As you approach the Independence Mine Parking Lot, the trail can be seen to the far right end. It crosses over a small bridge, and winds up past an old abandoned mining cabin, and then up a debris field and finally to the lake. Round trip, the hike is almost 2 miles, and the elevation gain is approximately 600 feet. The trail can be muddy and wet for the first .25 miles, but it's worth the hike to see Gold Cord Lake, and a great view of the Mine area. If you are adventurous, you can climb to the pass at the back end of the lake for views in Archangel Valley. Marmots, Arctic ground squirrels, and tundra birds are often seen and heard on the hike.
Talkeetna may have one of Alaska’s best adult playgrounds, as it hosts mountain climbers and adventurers from all over the world, but that doesn’t mean kids don’t fit in, too. A group of mothers got together in 2008 and built this playground, worthy of a frontier town. Constructed from rough-hewn timbers, the play area incorporates mazes, cabins, swings, slides, and even art from local children.
This trail provides spring, summer and autumn waterway access to remote Refuge wetlands as well as the upper reaches of Knik Arm. Recreational opportunities include fishing during the summer and waterfowl hunting access each autumn. When winter conditions are right, ice-biking is popular as well.
Just past Archangel Road, you will see a pullout on the left. In the winter months, this is an extremely popular spot among backcountry skiers and snowboarders. However, this steep, unmaintained freestyle is not recommended for novices. During the summer months the trails are used for mountain biking.
This is one of four trails that lead to the high Kesugi Ridge along the Parks Highway about an hour north of Talkeetna. The trail begins in a forested area and ends up above the tree line looking down on muliple drainages. The view at the top is wonderful, so bring a camera! It takes about 2 hours on average to get above treeline.
Crooked Lake Trail connects the Big Lake area with trails to the west and north. The trail heads west from Papoose Twins Lake Road and connects with the Iron Dog Trail, which then continues on to the Susitna River. The trail is approximately 10 miles long from Papoose Twins Lake Road to the Iron Dog Trail. The trails traverse large swamps and ridges of mixed forest. Crthwest for about More...
The Hill Trail is the most strenuous trail of the four at the lodge, with a steep incline at the beginning. It also has some of the most scenic overlooks. From the front door of the lodge, turn to the left and head clockwise on the lodge road. Take the path up the hill to the "Moose" overlook, where you’ll find a view of the Alaska Range and Denali (on clear days). More...
Part of the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, this trail meanders through tidal flats and wetlands. Highlights are great views of the mountains surrounding Palmer (Pioneer Peak, the Chugach and Talkeetna ranges) and excellent bird watching.
Two trails travel over the Mat-Su College lands; one from the college and one from Snodgrass Hall. The Mat-Su College trailhead leads to a hilly loop and opens to beautiful views of Lazy Mountain, Twin Peaks, Bodenburge Butte, and Knik Glacier—the best mountain views in the entire greenbelt system. There are signs indicating what you see in the distance, as well as benches in a More...
This trail follows an old railroad bed and is a great walk from downtown Palmer, with views of the Matanuska River and Chugach Range. Arrange for a shuttle at Moose Creek if you want to make this a one-way, 6.1-mile trip, to Moose Creek State Recreation Wayside Moose Creek State Recreation Wayside.
This trail, located 90 minutes north of Anchorage just across the Matanuska River from downtown Palmer, makes no pretense about its purpose. Almost immediately after leaving the parking area, it begins to climb straight up the steep west face of Lazy Mountain. For some 2,000 feet, there’s nary a switchback or respite as the trail winds up to the summit More...
This is a wheelchair-accessible trail that is for walkers. This is not a challenging running trail. The trail offers a beautiful panorama of Three sisters, Pioneer Peak, Knik Glacier, Bodenburg Butte, and the Talkeetnas. The observation deck overlooks Okeson Pond.
Stand on the beach at Talkeetna Riverfront Park and you may notice folks fishing on the point across the river. You can get there too. Start by walking up the Talkeetna river and crossing over the massive railroad bridge. Imagine yourself back in the 1920s; Talkeetna was the most populous city in Alaska, and the Railroad commission chose it to be the headquarters for building the rail More...
This is part of the Chickaloon-Knik-Nelchina Trail System. The trail then goes to the left about a mile to a high cliff that overlooks Kings River. This trail gives hunters access to game country which keeps the trail free of brush but makes mud holes muddier. The first part of the trail is good for the whole family but gets more difficult as it continues on.
Looking to break up your drive with a jog or bike ride? This little-used, 2-mile section of the former Glenn Highway has little to no traffic. Rocks and shrubs are creeping onto the road surface in places. It's quiet, scenic, and hilly. The roadway is officially closed in the middle but easily-passable.
This trail is the northernmost trail that provides access to Kesugi Ridge. On a clear day, Little Coal Creek Trail takes you to amazing views of Denali (Mt. McKinley). It also gives you those views in the shortest amount of time, about 1.5 hours, of any of the access trails to Kesugi Ridge.