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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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 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.
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.
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...
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 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.
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 More...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 spruce. The area is part of the greenbelt for Woodfield Estates, a residential subdivision that surrounds the school and athletic complex.