Photo Credit: Kathleen Barth

Best Things To Do In the Mat-Su Valley

Matanuska Glacier with mountains in the background reflected on the water.

Walk or climb on the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska's largest road-accessible glacier. Photo by Kathleen Barth.

1. See Matanuska Glacier

A group of people in a raft splashing through whitewater rapids.

NOVA leads a group on a thrilling whitewater adventure

Seize your chance to walk right up to—and touch—a massive river of ice! One of the biggest roadside glaciers, the Matanuska Glacier is roughly an hour north of Palmer/Wasilla on the gorgeous Glenn Highway. There’s a fee to walk up to it (the access point passes through private land), but there are other options if you just want to see it. You can also opt for a tour or expedition to really explore this natural wonder.

2. Get Out on the Water

See the stunning Alaskan backcountry on a rafting tour in the Mat-Su Valley. Choose a calm float or thrilling whitewater rapids—either way you’ll be treated to endless views and opportunities to spot wildlife.

The rivers of the Mat-Su Valley teem with salmon and trout, offering the opportunity to angle Alaska-style. You can experience the stellar fishing of the Mat-Su Valley in a number of ways: Book a fishing charter and cast from a raft, head to a fishing lodge, go angling along the roadside, or fly in to a remote spot!

A small, red plane soars above a mountainous Alaskan landscape

K2 Aviation soars above the Alaska Range

3. Get a Bird’s-eye View

Experience the thrill of flightseeing in the Mat-Su Valley: Choose an airplane or a helicopter and fly over the dramatic scenery, getting up-close views of the peaks of the Alaska Range, including Denali. Add a glacier landing and you’ll be able to step out onto a river of blue ice.

Feel the breeze in your hair with a trip down a zipline in the Mat-Su Valley, where you’ll find Alaska’s fastest zipline as well as a couple of its longest. In addition to the exciting ride, you’ll also see some gorgeous scenery as you fly through the canopy!

4. See the Backcountry

The lush Mat-Su Valley offers many opportunities to get out to see scenery and wildlife. Take an ATV or Jeep tour and you’ll splash through rivers as you drive over the tundra. Guided hiking tours offer options for all levels of hikers and feature amazing views. You can also meet Iditarod dogs and racers and experience the thrill of dog sledding any time of year, either on a glacier or on a wheeled sled through the forest. Everywhere you go, you’ll find breathtaking scenery; explore it with a hike on your own, or take scenic drive through areas like Hatcher Pass.

Musk Ox graze in a field with a red barn house and mountains in the background.

Encounter friendly giants at the Musk Ox Farm

5. Explore Alaska’s Agricultural Hub

As Alaska’s central area for farming and agriculture, the beautiful Mat-Su Valley makes for a fascinating and fun visit. Go on a sightseeing or food tour and meet the local farmers who grow giant vegetables here.

If you happen to visit the last week of August and first week of September, your trip will coincide with the Alaska State Fair, where Alaska's finest agricultural products are on display. Marvel at the giant vegetables grown under the midnight sun. Recent record breakers include a 2051 pound giant pumpkin in 2019, and a 138 pound green cabbage in 2012.

You’ll also want to meet some of area's unique animals. Visit the Reindeer and Musk Ox Farms!

6. Visit in Winter

The fun continues when the snow falls. Go snowmobiling, dog sledding, enjoy clear skies on a winter flightseeing tour, enjoy groomed cross-country ski trails, and more.

Mat-Su Valley Day Tours & Attractions View All

Season: Year Round $230+ 1 to 2 hrs

While you may nev­er join the ranks of climbers who have sum­mit­ed Denali, an up-close view of North Amer­i­ca’s tallest peak can still be yours. K2 Avi­a­tion offers once-in-a-life­time flight­see­ing tours among and above the Alas­ka Range. Add a glac­i­er land­ing to get a sense of how immense these peaks real­ly are.

Season: May 20 to Sep 16 $64+ 2.5 to 4.5 hrs

Explore Alas­ka on foot — take a scenic day hike into the South Denali area. Choose one of 3 great hikes; from an easy, 2‑mile stroll to a mod­er­ate­ly stren­u­ous 5½-hour hike. You’ll get spec­tac­u­lar views and see plen­ty of wildlife as you trek with your expe­ri­enced nat­u­ral­ist guide. Depend­ing on the hike you may pass pris­tine lakes, see an old pioneer’s cab­in, catch a glimpse of Mt. McKin­ley, and even have the chance to spot for­ag­ing bears. These  ...more

Season: Mid-May to Mid-September $110 Round Trip 6 hrs

The Hur­ri­cane Turn Train oper­ates on Thurs­day through Sun­day between Tal­keet­na and Hur­ri­cane Gulch from mid May to mid Sep­tem­ber. You can either take a scenic jour­ney round trip, or you can ask to be let off at whichev­er mile mark­er you choose. This train is how many peo­ple who live in the back­coun­try gain access to their homes or cab­ins. It is also pop­u­lar for fish­er­men who gain access to some great fish­ing spots by train. Get back on the  ...more

Sam­ple deli­cious syrup and sweets made from birch trees at Kahilt­na Birch­works in Tal­keet­na — the world’s largest pro­duc­er of birch syrup. Stop in to shop, or for a tour of the facil­i­ty at mile 1.1 of the Tal­keet­na Spur Rd, just off the Parks High­way. You’ll also find Alaskan food prod­ucts (many wild har­vest­ed), botan­i­cals, and func­tion­al art like pot­tery, tiles, birch bark and wood crafts. Prod­ucts are also avail­able online. 

Season: May 15 to Sep 15 $99 per person 3 hrs

Go for a relax­ing 3‑hour float trip down gen­tle Wil­low Creek as you take in the gor­geous scenery of the Alaskan back­coun­try. Depart­ing from Pio­neer Lodge, just off the Parks High­way south of Tal­keet­na, you’ll board a raft with up to 6 oth­ers and an expert guide. Then just kick back, or grab a pad­dle if you like: You can expect easy-glid­ing Class I and II rapids on this gen­tle river.

Season: Year Round $245+ Full day, half day and multi-day

Head out into the Alaskan wilder­ness on this excit­ing ATV adven­ture, dri­ving through woods and splash­ing through rivers on your way to a gor­geous glacial moraine sur­round­ed by tow­er­ing snow-capped peaks. Trans­porta­tion from Anchor­age included.

Season: Year Round $99+ Summer | $169+ Winter 1 - 8 hours

Expe­ri­ence the excite­ment of rac­ing cham­pi­on sled dogs at the Alas­ka Mush­ing School, just 75 min­utes from Anchor­age. Get a professional’s insight into the mush­ing lifestyle as you ride behind a team of ener­getic sled dogs on trails con­nect­ed to the famous Idi­tar­od route. Bun­dle up and ride in com­fort, or brave the cold and dri­ve the team yourself!

Season: May - September $550+ fly-in fishing day trip, $1,248+ overnight all-inclusive 1 - 6+ Nights

Explor­ing Alaska’s back­coun­try lakes, forests and rivers is a phe­nom­e­nal expe­ri­ence. Wilder­ness Place Lodge — tucked away on a remote riv­er north­west of Anchor­age — offers excel­lent access to near­ly any fresh­wa­ter fish you came to Alas­ka for, along with a unique eco-trav­el expe­ri­ence that comes with a high lev­el of ser­vice, a vari­ety of non-fish­ing activ­i­ties and the mel­low free­dom to cre­ate an Alaskan expe­ri­ence that suits your own taste.

Season: Mid-May to Mid-September $89+ 3 hrs to full day excursions

There’s climb­ing a moun­tain – and then there’s climb­ing an ICE moun­tain. Regard­less of your climb­ing abil­i­ty or expe­ri­ence, you’ll end the day feel­ing ful­filled and inspired. MICA also offers short, guid­ed hikes and longer treks if you pre­fer a more leisure­ly explore of the glac­i­er and its grandeur.

Season: Mid-May to Mid-September $99 2 hrs

Noth­ing gets your heart pound­ing like zoom­ing high above a glacial­ly carved val­ley. The Nitro and G2 are two of the longest zips in Alas­ka, and the G2 is the fastest in the state. You’ll get the most amaz­ing minute or so of sight-see­ing you’ve ever had, glid­ing up to a half mile near the Matanus­ka Riv­er, and into the forest­ed area around Matanus­ka Glacier.

Season: Nov 15 to Apr 04 $255+ Half Day, Full Day, Multi-Day

Own­ers Mat­ti and Dan can­not think of a bet­ter way to appre­ci­ate Alas­ka than shar­ing it with oth­ers. Mat­ti was born and raised in Palmer, Alas­ka and has been on snow­ma­chines most of her life. Alas­ka Back­coun­try Adven­tures offers mild to wild” expe­ri­ences and prides itself on pro­vid­ing a cus­tomized expe­ri­ence for all lev­els of abil­i­ty. It offers the widest vari­ety of expe­di­tions on the lat­est and great­est equipment.

Season: Jun 01 to Sep 16 $443 3.5 hrs

Go hik­ing in the Alaskan wilder­ness, but book­end your hike with a spec­tac­u­lar heli­copter ride. Lift off from Tal­keet­na for a short, scenic flight into the bore­al for­est around town. Then get ready to start hik­ing with your expe­ri­enced nat­u­ral­ist guide. You’ll get great views of Denali, the Alas­ka Range, and count­less moun­tain peaks as you walk through the alpine tun­dra of the South Denali area — it’s a hiker’s par­adise only acces­si­ble by chopper.  ...more

Season: Mid-November to mid-April $200+ 3.5+ hrs

Hop aboard an eco-friend­ly snow­mo­bile in Gird­wood and ride on groomed trails beneath mas­sive, 7,000-foot glaciat­ed peaks or vis­it the daz­zling blue ice of Spencer Glac­i­er. Or, head north of Anchor­age for a trail ride through mid-alpine black spruce forests. No expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary, all gear pro­vid­ed, and warm bev­er­ages and snacks included. 

Season: Mid-May -- Mid-October $225+ 3-9 hours

Explore the rivers of south­cen­tral Alas­ka on a float or fish­ing trip guid­ed by Hell Bent Fish­ing Char­ters. Raft along a scenic riv­er hid­ing away just min­utes off the road sys­tem. It fits per­fect­ly into a half day or full day, when you want to step out of the hus­tle and bus­tle of your vaca­tion and into authen­tic Alaska.

Season: Jun 15 to Sep 14 $95+ 4 - 5 hrs

Tour work­ing farms in Palmer, Anchor­age, and Tal­keet­na. You’ll take guid­ed walks around the farms, touch­ing plants, breath­ing in the air and some­times even tast­ing some­thing fresh­ly picked. But there is also a lot of sto­ry­telling, learn­ing about the unique chal­lenges that Alas­ka farm­ers face. Some tours offer option to sam­ple oth­er local prod­ucts like Alas­ka beer and birch syrup.

Season: Jun 11 to Aug 20 $95+ 2.5 to 3 hrs

Expe­ri­ence a scenic float along a glacial riv­er. Just 90 min­utes from Anchor­age, the Matanus­ka Glac­i­er is Alaska’s largest road-acces­si­ble glac­i­er, and the water run­ning under­neath cre­ates a riv­er that’s per­fect for raft­ing. You’ll float down­stream for up to 2 hours, tak­ing in the scenery along the way — moun­tains, riv­er chan­nels, hill­sides, moraines — and look­ing out for wildlife. It’s fun for the whole fam­i­ly — any­one ages 5 and up can do this  ...more

Season: Year Round $379+ 1 hr - full day

For out­stand­ing view­ing and incred­i­ble access to remote places, there’s noth­ing like flight­see­ing by heli­copter. Join Alas­ka Heli­copter Tours – a local­ly-owned, high­ly-respect­ed heli­copter tour and char­ter com­pa­ny – for excur­sions that reveal hid­den sites just min­utes from Anchor­age. Spot wildlife from the air, stand on a glac­i­er or land on a remote airstrip.

Season: May 15 to Sep 20 $75+ 2 to 5 hrs

Get hands-on and up close as you learn about local ani­mals, trap­pers, and the Dena’ina Indi­ans, with the wilder­ness as your class­room. Mahay’s Jet Boat Adven­tures makes it pos­si­ble with their jet boat adven­tures on the Susit­na, Tal­keet­na and Chulit­na Rivers. For some vis­i­tors, this explo­ration will be their deep­est immer­sion into the Alaskan wilder­ness — some­thing you just can’t get from a flight­see­ing tour, a cruise, or a car.

Season: Year Round $220+

Local­ly known as The Glac­i­er Land­ing Com­pa­ny,” TAT has been fly­ing climbers and sight­seers to the Alas­ka Range and Denali since 1947. Tal­keet­na Air Taxi fea­tures a cus­tom-designed fleet of planes, a ded­i­cat­ed cus­tomer ser­vice team, and a vari­ety of tours for every budget.

Season: May 13 to Sep 13 $125+ 4.5 hours

There’s still gold in Alas­ka, and you can learn from Denali Gold Tours what it takes to pan for the shiny flakes in pris­tine water near Trap­per Creek. Spend a half-day or full-day in the gor­geous Alas­ka coun­try­side with your guide, who will share old-timer pan­ning tech­niques and sto­ries from the dra­mat­ic days of Alaska’s gold rush.

Season: November - March $150+ 3 hrs

Feel the thrill of explor­ing the Alaskan wilder­ness while dri­ving your own snow­mo­bile over the tun­dra, look­ing for wildlife and tak­ing in amaz­ing views. And on a clear day you’ll get an amaz­ing view of Denali.

Season: May 21 to Sep 18 $149 3 hrs

Com­bine great views of the Alas­ka Range and Denali with the thrill of ziplin­ing. Set in the forest­ed ridges above the Tal­keet­na Riv­er Val­ley, this is the far­thest-north canopy tour in North Amer­i­ca. On these nine ziplines and three sus­pen­sion bridges, you can get up close to the birch, cot­ton­wood, and spruce trees of the bore­al for­est — it’s earth’s largest ecosys­tem and a crit­i­cal nest­ing habi­tat for migrat­ing songbirds.

Season: May–October $200+ Half & Full-Day

These ATV and a side-by-side tours in scenic Hatch­er Pass with the option of half or full-day adven­tures are great for groups or fam­i­lies. Full day tour also includes a tour of Inde­pen­dence Mine State His­tor­i­cal Park. Walk the trails through the his­toric build­ings — and depend­ing on the time of year, stop to pan for gold or pick wild blue­ber­ries! Tours depart from Wil­low with trans­porta­tion avail­able from Anchorage.

Season: Jan - March & June 1 - Oct 7 $370+ Fly-in Day Hike | $365+ Overnight

This fly-in wilder­ness lodge on a pri­vate lake in the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains is a great place to unplug. Choose from 3 pri­vate cab­ins and enjoy home-cooked meals served fam­i­ly style with oth­er guests. Take guid­ed walks to look for wildlife or wild berries, or just relax and enjoy the peace and bliss­ful views.

Season: May 01 to Sep 30 $569+ 1.5 hrs

Stun­ning scenery, a thrilling ride and hap­py pup­pies: this tour out of the Anchor­age area offers an unbeat­able com­bi­na­tion of clas­sic Alas­ka expe­ri­ences that will delight fam­i­lies or — real­ly, any­body. Tak­ing a total of about 90 min­utes, and run­ning from mid-May to ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, this tour includes a Flight­see­ing round trip, a small friend­ly group envi­ron­ment, and plen­ty of one-on-one time with the dogs and their mushers.

Season: Year Round $59+ 1-3.5 hrs

Sum­mer or win­ter, vis­it a fam­i­ly-run cham­pi­on ken­nel, meet friend­ly dogs and an expe­ri­enced mush­er for a ride along pri­vate trails with views of Denali. Opt to ride in the sled or mush your own. Or, for a tru­ly authen­tic adven­ture, go on a train­ing run for the Idi­tar­od! Large groups and spe­cial events wel­come when orga­nized in advance.

Season: Year Round $600 full day fishing, $1300+ all-inclusive multi-day packages 8 hrs - Multi-Days

The North­woods Lodge is a remote lodge where vis­i­tors can find them­selves in a 45 minute flight from Anchor­age. The lodge spe­cial­izes in guid­ed fish­ing, and guests can enjoy 8 to 10 hours of fish­ing a day if they choose. Guides help you spin or fly fish for tro­phy king salmon, sil­ver and sock­eye salmon, or res­i­dent rain­bow trout, arc­tic grayling and north­ern pike

Season: Year Round $150+ 2+ hrs

Win­ter or sum­mer, expe­ri­ence the thrill of run­ning Idi­tar­od sled dogs and even have a chance to dri­ve! Meet the sled dogs and hear first-hand just what it’s like to run the Iditarod.

Season: Jul 02 to Sep 10 $1,295 per person 4 days

Get a unique view of the Alaskan wilder­ness on a four- or sev­en-day back­pack­ing trip through the back­coun­try. You’ll be trekking on Kesu­gi Ridge in Denali State Park, with mag­nif­i­cent views of Mt. McKin­ley and of course plen­ty of wildlife to spot along the way. Your expe­ri­enced nat­u­ral­ist guide will be with you the whole way, cook­ing up great meals at your camp­sites. You should be fit enough to car­ry a pack up mod­er­ate hills, though you’ll  ...more

Season: May through October $190+ 5 - 8 hours

Fish more of the hot spots with Phan­tom Char­ters, a fam­i­ly com­pa­ny run by folks who live to fish and bring a life­time of insid­er knowl­edge to your trip. Using spe­cial, shal­low-run­ning boats to get into hard-to-reach waters, they’ll take you to best riv­er fish­ing around Tal­keet­na. Wan­der the bank and cast for Sil­vers, Chums, Pinks, and Sock­eyes, or troll from behind the boat as well as shore fish for the Big Kings.

Season: Jun 15 to Aug 20 $120+ 3.5 to 4 Hours

If you’re new to white­wa­ter raft­ing or expe­ri­enced in shoot­ing through rapids, Lion’s Head makes for an excit­ing white­wa­ter raft­ing trip. You’ll spend 2.5 hours speed­ing down class II, III, and IV white­wa­ter, either pad­dling your­self or hang­ing on as your guide steers the raft down­stream. All the while, you’ll be pass­ing through gor­geous wilder­ness — wide-open vis­tas with mas­sive rock for­ma­tions — where you’ll have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to look for  ...more

Season: Apr 17 to Oct 31 $259+ drive | $139+ passenger Half, Full, and Multi-Day

With Alas­ka Back­coun­try Adven­ture Tours, you can expe­ri­ence glac­i­ers inac­ces­si­ble by road. Nev­er fear if you’ve nev­er dri­ven an before; this com­pa­ny teach­es you to maneu­ver your ATV through the Alaskan wilder­ness with your guide at the lead. Your des­ti­na­tion is the mag­nif­i­cent Knik Glac­i­er, where you’ll enjoy lunch and gor­geous scenery.

Season: May 01 to Sep 15 $95+ 4 to 6 hrs

Expe­ri­ence the thrill of walk­ing or climb­ing on a glac­i­er. The Matanus­ka is Alaska’s largest road-acces­si­ble glac­i­er, and it’s just 90 min­utes from Anchor­age, so it’s an easy way to get up close and per­son­al with these amaz­ing nat­ur­al won­ders. You don’t need to be expe­ri­enced in either activ­i­ty — just be in good shape and up for adven­ture. You’ll either walk around on the glac­i­er with cram­pons or learn how to use an ice axe and safe­ly work your  ...more

Just south of the Cari­bou Creek bridge near mile mark­er 104 on the Glenn High­way in the shad­ow of the Lion’s Head rock for­ma­tion, look for the turnoff for the Cari­bou Creek Recre­ation­al Min­ing Area. You are not going to get fab­u­lous­ly rich here and be the next star of the TV real­i­ty show Gold Rush, but you do have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to car­ry a gold pan and shov­el, hike the steep half-mile-long trail down to the creek, and pan for gold.

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Mat-Su Valley Parks & Trails View All

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.

Difficulty: Easy

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.

Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 800 feet

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.

Explore the expan­sive grav­el beds or mean­der along the mighty Matanus­ka-Susit­na Riv­er and link up with the Mat­su Riv­er Park trails, locat­ed in the trees to the west.

Difficulty: Easy

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  ...more

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.

Difficulty: Moderate Elevation Gain: 2200 feet

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  ...more

There are some nice long down­hills with banked turns, a few shal­low creek cross­ings, and some chunk sec­tions. Most of this trail lies on south-fac­ing hill­sides, with views of the Knik Riv­er Val­ley and Pio­neer Peak.

Difficulty: Moderate Elevation Gain: 3700 feet

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  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

How to get ThereThe 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 12 miles on the Old Glenn High­way, take a left on Maud Road, fol­low Maud Road for 1 12 miles. There is a small turn around and lim­it­ed park­ing before the creek direct­ly east of the road. Please be care­ful not to block the entrance to the trail or the…  ...more

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.

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.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 16 miles Elevation Gain: 2900 feet

A straight­for­ward trip with big scenery pay­offs, like the pic­turesque Mint Hut and a val­ley dot­ted with hang­ing glac­i­ers. This trip is a great first back­pack­ing trip in Alas­ka with sim­ple logis­tics. It’s 16 miles with options for addi­tion­al miles and side trips.

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 Lake through lush old-growth for­est. Cus­tom log bench­es are a nice…  ...more

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  ...more

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.

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 refuge, which is a pop­u­lar recre­ation and wildlife-viewing…  ...more

Syn­cline Moun­tain fea­tures two sum­mits— whichev­er you choose, you’ll hike beneath a whole lot of sky and look out on a whole lot of country.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 10 miles

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.  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

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 equestrians.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 10 miles Elevation Gain: 1300 feet

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.

Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Gain: 5670 feet

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  ...more

Distance: 7 miles Elevation Gain: 3300 feet

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.

Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Gain: 5200 feet

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.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

This short, paved trail is an hour’s dri­ve north of Anchor­age in south­ern Wasil­la. It leads out to a bluff on Palmer Hay Flats — a large stretch of wet­lands with all kinds of wildlife. There, a view­ing plat­form over­looks the flats and the Chugach Moun­tains beyond.

Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Gain: 3000 feet

Why Take This Hike 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 ridge. It’s a tru­ly breath­less work­out. The Details Out of Palmer,…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

Dur­ing peri­ods of clear weath­er, this route through Denali State Park offers sim­i­lar ter­rain and scenery to Denali Nation­al Park — includ­ing unpar­al­leled views of Denali — with­out the cum­ber­some per­mit­ting process. This trail sys­tem offers many options for start­ing and end­ing points, as there are four trail­heads along its length. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

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  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles

This is a short day hike, but a fan­tas­tic fish­ing spot. There are many lake trout, grayling and white­fish. It is one of the best fish­ing spots in the area. Fox, bear, moose and cari­bou are often seen in this area and there are good berryp­ick­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties along the trail. 

Difficulty: Difficult

If you have some seri­ous time and seri­ous ener­gy, take an adven­ture: hike the 20 miles out the Chase Trail to see what’s left of a lux­u­ry hotel built as a lay­over for the rail­road jour­ney between Seward and Fairbanks.

Difficulty: Easy

This is part of the his­toric Chick­aloon-Knik-Nelchi­na Trail Sys­tem and trav­els high to show hik­ers beau­ti­ful sights. It starts in thick for­est, but grad­u­al­ly climbs past lakes into wide open spaces. It used to be used to sup­ply gold min­ers with equipment. 

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 4 miles

Beau­ti­ful ponds, water­falls, and moun­tain scenery make this a worth­while hike. Many birds, Arc­tic Ground Squir­rels and even a few ducks can be sight­ed enroute. The trail ends at Lane Hut at the end of the Val­ley. Extra explor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties are everywhere! 

Difficulty: Easy

This riverbed trail fol­lows the Knik Riv­er towards the Knik Riv­er Glac­i­er, with Pio­neer Peak loom­ing above. Hike this trail and you’ll under­stand why Pio­neer Peak is called The Watch­er.” Head east towards the Chugach Moun­tains, mean­while, and you’ll get a glimpse of the Knik Glac­i­er, glit­ter­ing 20 miles in the distance. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2 miles

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 few areas. (Be pre­pared for con­struc­tion as the col­lege grows…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

Lion’s Head is famous through­out the state. This rock out­crop­ping is the promi­nent fea­ture beside the Matanus­ka Glac­i­er and is fea­tured in mag­a­zines and adver­tise­ments all over Alas­ka. And you can hike it! You’ve got to be in good shape and ready for a scram­bling, one-hour climb. You’ll be reward­ed by great views, look­ing down a 2,000-foot cliff face to the glac­i­er. You’re panora­ma will include views of the Matanus­ka Riv­er, Cari­bou Creek with…  ...more

At the Gov­ern­ment Peak Recre­ation area you will find an exten­sive trail sys­tem for nordic ski­ing, walk­ing, hik­ing, fat tire bik­ing, and moun­tain bik­ing. The newest addi­tion is a Chalet that is avail­able to warm win­ter vis­i­tors. It’s also avail­able for rent.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 4 miles

The trail begins at the end of Archangel road. It mean­ders through alders and brush, gain­ing ele­va­tion slow­ly at first. Even­tu­al­ly it will lead you to a cab­in up in the alpine meadows.

Difficulty: Easy

Locat­ed north of Wasil­la about 45 min­utes on the west side of the Parks Hwy. Lakes are all con­nect­ed with trails, and make for a great day of canoe­ing. They can also be skied in the win­ter and camp­grounds are avail­able as well. This hike can only be done in win­ter or the lakes will not be frozen enough to walk on.

Difficulty: Easy

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate

Year round, multi­use trails that form a loop between the town of Tal­keet­na, the Tal­keet­na Riv­er and the rolling hills that lie east of town 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 15 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet

This trail leads to numer­ous mines in the area. This is a great place to explore old min­ing sites and get some pic­tures, as well as gold pan. This is a good day hike and can be long or short depend­ing on what you want to do. Be sure to take the whole fam­i­ly on this one!

Difficulty: Easy

At its peak, the Inde­pen­dence hard-rock gold mine was home to 206 work­ers and 16 fam­i­lies who lived high above tree line. Dig­ging and blast­ing, these work­ers recov­ered 140,000 ounces of gold before the mine shut down in the wake of World War II. There are 1.5 miles of paved walk­ways through­out the site, with infor­ma­tion­al plac­ards for a self-guid­ed tour. 

Difficulty: Moderate

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 5 miles then turn­ing south­west for 7 ½ miles where it…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

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. 

The camp­ground is pret­ty open, since bark bee­tles killed the big, old spruce trees. The camp­sites attract RVers and campers, and each of the 24 sites has a fire ring and pic­nic table. There’s potable water at a hand pump. 

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. 

Be care­ful, it’s easy to miss this turn-off as you drop down the hill, but look out for the sign Cari­bou Creek Recre­ation­al Area.” This sel­dom-used camp­ground is a qui­et place to camp, away from high­way noise. It has fire rings and pic­nic tables, and there’s a trail to the creek. It’s a one-mile walk to the water. It’s a nice stream and it’s part of the State Recre­ation­al Gold Min­ing Area. So bring a pan and try your luck!

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 4 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet

On this trail, sum­mer hik­ers get an impres­sion of the land much like what the old min­ers got. The trail is very brushy in areas, but the trail is not well-marked. It is a great ski trail in winter. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

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. 

Difficulty: Easy

This is a great hike for a fam­i­ly pic­nic. This is part of the Chick­aloon-Knik-Nelchi­na Trail System.This trail cov­ers fair­ly flat ter­rain through big cot­ton­wood trees.

Difficulty: Moderate

This trail is part of the his­toric Chick­aloon-Knik-Nelchi­na Trail Sys­tem and, in the ear­ly sum­mer, almost always has Dall sheep birthing low on the moun­tain sides. There are moose here all the time. Be care­ful when cross­ing Boul­der Creek.

Difficulty: Moderate

Choose between four hik­ing trails on the McKin­ley Princess prop­er­ty, from easy to stren­u­ous, and explore the Alaskan wilder­ness, with great views and wildlife.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

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.

Difficulty: Easy

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 line between Seward and Anchorage.

Difficulty: Moderate

The Tal­keet­na Mail Trail and Cen­tral Trail are year round, mul­ti-use trails that run north south between Wil­low Creek and the Kash­wit­na Riv­er. The trails were orig­i­nal­ly used for haul­ing mail, but recent log­ging has opened new access and short dead-end trails lead­ing both east and west. Some of the trail cross­es wet areas that are sen­si­tive to heavy use. Plans are under­way to hard­en or relo­cate por­tions of the trail to bet­ter accom­mo­date year…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

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.

Difficulty: Easy

A win­ter trail sys­tem con­sist­ing of two north-south trails and one east-west route that allow snow­ma­chin­ers, dog mush­ers and skiers to trav­el the area lying north of Petersville Road and west of the Parks High­way. The com­bined mileage of the trails is over 50 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate

A win­ter trail sys­tem con­sist­ing of a series of loops that allow dog mush­ers (and oth­er non­mo­tor­ized trail users) to trav­el 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 or 16 miles depend­ing on the route one takes. The trails tra­verse large swamps and Black Spruce forests and are gen­er­al­ly wide enough for one dog sled (3 – 5’). In some places along the trails the tracks are wide enough for two sleds to pass. The trails must be trav­eled in a spe­cif­ic direc­tion to avoid…  ...more

You’ll get stun­ning views of Knik Glac­i­er, the Knik Riv­er, and the Chugach moun­tain range. Watch for eagles, either con­vers­ing on the sand bars or soar­ing overhead.

Difficulty: Moderate

Flathorn Lake Trail is approx­i­mate­ly 21 miles long and tra­vers­es the vast wet­lands of the Susit­na Flats Game Refuge and rolling hills of the Fish Creek water­shed. The trail allows snow­ma­chin­ers, dog mush­ers and skiers to trav­el from the Point MacKen­zie area to the Susit­na Sta­tion’ on the Susit­na Riv­er. The trail cross­es the Lit­tle Susit­na Riv­er, through a maze of frozen swamps and ponds, along Fish Creek, across Flathorn Lake before heading…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 5 miles

2019 UPDATE: Trail, day use area, kayak tours & rentals, and pub­lic use cab­ins are open, but the main camp­ground will be tem­porar­i­ly closed begin­ning in 2019 due to the dan­ger posed by trees infest­ed with spruce-bark bee­tles. Rot­ting trees have been top­pling. State parks plans to reopen the camp­ground after the haz­ardous trees have been removed. This is one of four trails that lead to Kesu­gi Ridge. From the Denali State Park camp­ground at  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

This is the best way to see the Mat-Su Val­ley from a bird’s-eye view with­out get­ting in an airplane.The trail leads through cot­ton­wood trees until the end of the tree­line. Moose, bears, Dall sheep and Ptarmi­gan are seen along the trail occasionally. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate

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. 

Difficulty: Easy

Get a real taste of Tal­keet­na by walk­ing a full loop around town. Start by strolling along the Susit­na Riv­er (down­stream) until you come to the end of the vil­lage airstrip. Then walk up D Street, which will bring you right back to Main Street. It’s a pop­u­lar route, so in the sum­mer you may well see peo­ple camp­ing, while in the win­ter peo­ple come here for snow­shoe­ing, ski­ing, dog mush­ing, and snowmachining.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 4 miles

This is the south­ern­most trail that leads to Kesu­gi Ridge. On aver­age, it takes a hik­er 4 hours to get above the tree­line. This trail is often closed due to flood­ing as well as bear activ­i­ty for the safe­ty of its hik­ers. Please check with Alaska’s Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources to make sure that the trail is open to hik­ers before start­ing this trip.

Difficulty: Moderate

With flat stretch­es and steep hills (that are groomed in win­ter), this trail is very pop­u­lar with moun­tain bik­ers, trail run­ners, and cross-coun­try skiers. It was built on land­fill, so as it expands, these trails will change. Most of it is rolling for­est that has cov­ered the grav­el­ly moraines left by retreat­ing glaciers.

Difficulty: Easy

The hik­ing here is most­ly flat with a few forest­ed hills, and there are nice views from the fields over­look­ing Matanus­ka Lake. For begin­ner hik­ers and bik­ers, this is the best place in the green­belt for easy walks.

Difficulty: Easy

This trail­head is just 100 yards from Matanus­ka Lake (the area’s most pop­u­lar lake), and is wheel­chair-acces­si­ble down to the lake and the fish­ing docks — it’s a great walk in the woods, past prime water­fowl habitat. 

Difficulty: Easy

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate

How to get There­Ac­cess to the Lake Lucille Park Trail Sys­tem is locat­ed at the north end of Endeav­or Road in Wasil­la. From Wasil­la — go south on the Knik-Goose Bay Road, 2 miles from Wasil­la take a right on Endeav­or Street and fol­low it for 12 mile to the park entrance and park­ing areas.General Descrip­tion­Lake Lucille Park has approx­i­mate­ly 1.6 miles (2.5 kilo­me­ters) of trails built around the perime­ter of the park and con­nect­ing the athletic…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Very few hik­ers use this trail­head (most opt for the Matanus­ka Lakes Trail­head), but it’s a good walk. It’s also very pop­u­lar for anglers. Be pre­pared for a rut­ted grav­el access road, which may not be plowed in winter. 

Difficulty: Easy

This trail fol­lows Trou­ble­some Creek .3 miles down to where it enters the broad, glacial grav­el bar of the Chuli­tan Riv­er. Mar­vel at the Ent-like Grandad­dy Cot­ton­wood, just five min­utes down the trail. The trail’s end has been swept away by floods, so it can be con­fus­ing, but the adven­tur­ous can keep going onto the Chulit­na’s grav­el bar to look for wildlife, tracks, or views of Denali. The large-leaved plants along the trail are Cow Parsnip and  ...more

Explore its many branch­es and beau­ti­ful views. You’ll also be reward­ed with flat, gen­tle hik­ing, all with gor­geous views.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 12 miles

This amaz­ing trail sys­tem was start­ed by min­ers 50 years ago, and today they are main­tained by Sheep Moun­tain Lodge Sheep Moun­tain Lodge own­er Zack Steer. Zoom down Thriller on your moun­tain bike, enjoy a pic­nic with a view at the top of Corkscrew, search for a geo­cache site or come berry pick­ing in the fall. There are 12 miles of main­tained trails, which are groomed for cross-coun­try ski­ing in win­ter. Peak blue­ber­ry sea­son is from Aug. 15…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Difficulty: Easy

This trail is in Inde­pen­dence Mine State His­tor­i­cal Park and is a self-guid­ed hike. This is one of many trails sur­round­ing Inde­pen­dence Mine. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

This one-mile trail around Reflec­tions Lake offers easy walk­ing year-round. Come with snow­shoes, skis, or ice skates dur­ing the win­ter months, or iden­ti­fy wild­flow­ers and for­est birds in sum­mer. Most­ly wood­ed, the trail does open up to views of the sur­round­ing moun­tains at one end of the lake, where the large for­est gives way to small­er trees and grass­es. Dawn and dusk here can be stun­ning, with sun­set col­ors play­ing across the water and on…  ...more

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