Photo Credit: Box Lake Ridge

Palmer / Wasilla Hiking Trails

For more, see our Anchorage Parks & Trails Page.

Palmer / Wasilla lie just 45 minutes from Anchorage. See our list of other area trails that you can get to in about an hour.

Show Map

Parks & Trails

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

You’ll find even more play­grounds that take advan­tage of the unique assets of their loca­tions. Here’s a list of our top picks!

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.

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: 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

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: 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

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

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: 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 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 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: 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

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

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

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.

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.

Difficulty: Easy

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: 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: 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: 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

Difficulty: Difficult

A steep trail leads down to the creek from the grav­el park­ing lot. Only pedes­tri­an traf­fic is allowed on the trails (sor­ry, no ATV’s). The trail is dif­fi­cult going at times due to its steep grade and lack of upkeep so watch your foot­ing and per­haps take a hik­ing stick.

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: 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

Alcantra Ath­let­ic Com­plex Trail Sys­tem has approx­i­mate­ly 1.6 miles (2.5 kilo­me­ters) of trails which form two loops; one short loop around the base­ball fields and anoth­er longer loop that par­al­lels the res­i­den­tial area to the south. There are two short­er trails that con­nect the ath­let­ic fields, Lar­son Ele­men­tary School and Tee­land Mid­dle School to the loops. Most of the trail net­work tra­vers­es gen­tle ter­rain through a mixed for­est of birch and  ...more

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: 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: 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: 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: 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

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: Difficult Distance: 1 mile

On the west side of Boden­burg Butte, this some­what steep trail leads to the top of the butte, which juts out of the val­ley and offers panoram­ic views of all the area’s top fea­tures: Matanus­ka and Knik Riv­er val­leys, Tal­keet­na Moun­tains, Pio­neer Peak, and even the Knik Glac­i­er. The first ½ mile is a wide grav­el path through spruce and alder trees, and there’s a bench where you can sit and enjoy a nice view of the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains and…  ...more

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: Moderate Distance: 6 miles

Access to the Palmer-Moose Creek RR Trail is slight­ly tricky. Park­ing is avail­able in the way­side. Cross the high­way, then fol­low the creek side trail to the old rail­road bed and trail.

Distance: 2 miles

This 2 mile round trip hike begins right at the Sum­mit Lake Recre­ation Area park­ing lot at the crest of Hatch­er Pass. 

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

Difficulty: Easy

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

With camp­ing, pic­nic pavil­ions, hik­ing trails and a play­ground, this is a good spot for a lunch or some play time with the kids, before or after dri­ving the the Old Glenn Highway. 

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: 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. 

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

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: 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. 

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 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: Moderate

Con­nect­ing the trails up Lazy Moun­tain and Matanus­ka Peak, this trail is easy and rel­a­tive­ly flat — per­fect for hik­ing, bik­ing, run­ning, rid­ing hors­es (in the sum­mer), and ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing (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 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.

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

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

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 Distance: 2 miles

Only a few miles out­side of Palmer, this pop­u­lar win­ter recre­ation area fea­tures groomed cross-coun­try ski­ing trails that are also open to snow­shoe­ing and ski­jor­ing. The upper trails are designed for novices, while the low­er trails are meant for experts. If you real­ly want to go big — and have good weath­er — access the Lazy Moun­tain Trail and climb high into the alpine, with views of the Matanus­ka and Knik Riv­er val­leys. (Note: To avoid a…  ...more

[{"slug":"palmer-wasilla","title":"Palmer \/ Wasilla Area"},{"slug":"willow","title":"Willow"},{"slug":"anchorage","title":"Anchorage"},{"slug":"mat-su-valley","title":"3 Days in the Mat-Su Valley"}]

Explore Further

Expert Advice