Once a farming settlement in the 1930s, Palmer and the neighboring town of Wasilla, are still known as Alaska’s agricultural hub. And although both towns are fairly small, Palmer and Wasilla are both growing and are bustling with activity year-round. Just 45 minutes from downtown Anchorage, come for the day, or use this area as a basecamp for your Alaska vacation.

blue melt pool on the Knik Glacier

Blue melt pool on the Knik Glacier near Palmer. See it on a flightseeing tour with a glacier landing, or experience similar scenery on the nearby Matanuska Glacier.

Green northern lights glow above the mountains near Palmer, Alaska

Visit from late August through mid-April and you have the chance to view the northern lights.

Favorite Activities in Palmer & Wasilla

  • Glaciers: Two glaciers near the area wait to be explored. Drive an hour beyond Palmer to reach the Matanuska Glacier, the largest roadside glacier in the state. Take a guided to tour to walk on the ice, or a more advanced tour to include some ice climbing! The Knik Glacier can be reached on an ATV or flightseeing tour.
  • Hatcher Pass & Independence Mine: Set in the Talkeetna Mountains, between the towns of Willow and Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a favorite local hot spot for recreation or a scenic drive. Hike in alpine tundra dotted with wildflowers and ptarmigan, or visit Independence Mine Historical State Park.
  • Farming & Agriculture: Visit the Reindeer Farm, or the Musk Ox Farm where you can learn more about one of the Arctic’s oldest living species. Or, visit a you-pick farm in August or early September when it's time to harvest!
  • Fairs & Festivals: Check out the local fairs and festivals, like the Palmer "Friday Fling" open-air markets held throughout the summer. If you’re in town in late August, come to the state’s biggest annual event, the Alaska State Fair. Check out the hundreds of vendor booths, carnival rides, nightly concerts, and record-breaking giant vegetables.
  • Flightseeing: Take off via helicopter and soar over giant glaciers, admiring their deep crevasses and deep blue melt pools from above.
  • Hiking Trails: You could spend weeks hiking a new trail every day in this area. Explore alpine trails above treeline in Hatcher Pass. The Bodenburg Butte, a monument of nature, is a fabulous family hike with rewarding views of Knik Glacier and Pioneer Peak. See all hiking trails in the area.
  • ATV Tours: The trails around here are favored by the locals, so you know they're fun! Join an ATV tour where you'll plash through rivers on a trail to the face of a glacier. Or climb steep mountain trails in the Talkeetna Mountains.
  • Shopping: Browse items made by Alaskan artists is Meadow Lakes Market in Wasilla. You'll find a collection of authentic Alaskan-made jams, sweets, jewelry, clothing, soaps, and more.
  • Winter Recreation: Opportunities for winter recreation include downhill skiing, snowmobile tours, dog sledding, sledding, cross-country skiing, and the opportunity to see the northern lights.
Cars drive over a bridge over the Knik River on a sunny summer day in Palmer, Alaska

The views on the way to Palmer & Wasilla are outstanding. Here are the vehicle and railroad bridges over the Knik River.

Where to Stay During Your Visit

There are only a few large hotels in the area, but there are many fabulous locally own cabin or vacation rentals and B&Bs where you can soak up the local knowledge from your hosts! Depending on the location, your backyard could be in the middle of town or at the foot of a mountain. If you're in an RV or you brought your tent, there are also fabulous campgrounds in the area.

Getting to Palmer & Wasilla

  • Drive: Starting in Anchorage, you’ll head north on the Glenn Highway. After passing the Palmer Hay Flats, stay on the Glenn by taking on off-ramp towards Palmer. Heading to Wasilla? The same junction where the Glenn heads east is also the start of the Parks Highway. The Parks Highway passes through Wasilla. Beyond Wasilla lie the more rural communities of Houston, Big Lake, and Willow. If you're driving to Talkeetna or Denali, you'll pass through Wasilla.

  • Train: The Alaska Road's Denali Star train offers transportation to Wasilla from Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks.

Things to Do in Palmer & Wasilla


Where to Stay View All