Want to touch a glacier? The Matanuska spills from mountains that rim Prince William Sound to the head of the Matanuska Valley—a colossal, rippled, silt-scoured river of ice more than 20 miles long. It’s so massive that the equally impressive Matanuska River boils right from its snout. And yet, you can park within a few minute’s walk.

View of the Matanuska Glacier from the Glenn Highway

View of the Matanuska Glacier from the Glenn Highway. If you want to get closer, join a guided trek.

Woman walking on the Matanuska Glacier

Guides equip you with crampons and a helmet to safely explore the ice. Photo by: Nina Gardino

The Biggest Roadside Glacier in Alaska

Being able to walk up to any glacier is a stunning experience, and this big boy is the biggest, and perhaps, most impressive roadside glacier in the entire state. If getting close isn’t enough, you can also join a guiding company for a day trip. The sheer ice walls, deep drain holes called moulins, the blue-lit caves and the groaning, creaking sounds make the visit unforgettable. It’s easy to spend a couple days in Glacier View, thanks to the great lodges—not the big, cruise-circuit lodges, but intimate, family-run places that attract independent-minded travelers.

How to Get to the Matanuska Glacier

It's a 2-hour scenic drive along the Glenn Highway from Anchorage, or about 1 hr and 15 minutes from Palmer. This road trip gives you a feel for the colorful adventurers, guides and backcountry Alaskans who live in these remote corners of the state. Some tour operators offer a shuttle from Anchorage.

How to See the Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier Overlook & State Recreation Area

For a stunning vista of the glacier—with a vantage that allows you to see up the valley as it curves deeper into the ice-bound coastal range—check out the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area at Mile 101. There's a day use parking fee, but you'll find toilets and picnic tables. The trail to the overlook takes about 20 minutes to walk. Once there you can use the telescopes to get a closer view of the ice. There are also 6 campsites for those needing a spot to overnight. Further up the road at MP 103, there's another scenic pullout just beside the highway with no parking fee.

Boy scales the Matanuska Glacier with the help of a guide

If you want to up the adventure, opt for an ice climbing experience!

Glacier Treks, Hikes, & Ice Climbs

You don’t just have scan this Ice Age remnant from a distance. You can approach the Matanuska on foot, after you enter the private Matanuska Glacier Park and drive to the terminus parking area. With a guide, you can explore the gritty terminal area, with mounds of debris and blackened ice, or venture onto aprons of low angle ice. Go on a guided tour to walk on the glacier itself or try some climbing. They will enhance the experience with coaching and gear, leaven it with glacial lore, and work to ensure your safety in a potentially dangerous environment. Some of these experiences are available in winter too! Guides we recommend:

Getting There

Glacier Park Road
Sutton, AK 99674

Just a 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage, 50 miles west to the Palmer area, the Matanuska Glacier sits off the scenic but less-traveled Glenn Highway.

Head north from Anchorage up the Glenn Highway, past Palmer and Sutton, into the Chugach Mountains. At Mile 102, turn toward the river at South Glacier Park Road and enter the privately owned Matanuska Glacier Park Resort. The road descends the steep hill and crosses the Matanuska River on a privately owned bridge.

If you do not have a vehicle, AK Tripping offers private transportation with an experienced local driver for groups of up to 4 in a comfortable Toyota Highlander.

Driving Directions