The town of Glenallen is named after two early explorers. Henry Allen was a lieutenant who travelled through this area in 1885 on his way to the Yukon River, and Capt. Edwin Glenn was part of the U.S. Government survey crew for the Richardson Highway that came through in 1898-99. Neither made Glenallen their home, though, setting a precedent for adventurists to follow: Glenallen is most often experienced as a supply stop en route to somewhere else.
People first moved here when the Glenn Highway was finished in 1945, linking the Copper River and Matanuska valleys. More came in 1956 with the opening of the Copper Valley School, founded by Jesuits and other religion-focused pioneers from both western Alaska and the Palmer area. The next big population push came in the late 1970’s. The town served as living quarters and supply depot for the building of the oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to the port in Valdez, and the folks who moved here then were known more for sinning than for soul-saving. Today, you’ll still find remnants of both groups.
There’s a grocery store, hotel/restaurant, post office, and gas stations—you’ll see everything from the Glenn Highway as you drive through. You’ll have to cross town lines to find beer and liquor, either before entering town (if you’re coming from Anchorage), or just north of the junction between the Glenn and Richardson Highways.
As you drive through town, you’ll also see Mt. Drum. This heavily glaciated, dormant volcano sits 25 miles east of Glenallen and rises to an elevation of 12,300 feet. The south side of this mountain blew out several hundred thousand years ago; pieces have been found in the Chugach Mountains just outside present-day Valdez, more than 120 miles away.
Summertime, when temperatures can reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit, is the time to visit—winters are long and cold. In January, the temperature hovers around minus-10 degrees Fahrenheit and can drop to minus-50.
Glennallen is also a part of the Copper River Watershed. Find the interpretive sign at the visitor's center and orient yourself in the watershed with a map of Ahtna native placenames. The Ahtna people’s geography took shape from their subsistence hunting and fishing activities, and their place names reflect those way-finding traditions.