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.
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.
At the very least, it’s a great excuse to drive the Glenn Highway. This road trip gives you a feel for the colorful adventurers, guides and backcountry Alaskans who live in these remote corners of the state. It’s easy to spend a couple days out here, thanks to the great lodges—not the big, cruise-circuit lodges, but intimate, family-run places that attract independent-minded travelers.
Best Viewing Spots
At the Glacier’s Toe
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 Resort and drive to the terminus parking area. Explore the gritty terminal area, with mounds of debris and blackened ice, or venture onto aprons of low angle ice. For those who want to walk on the glacier itself or try some climbing. Unless equipped and experienced for glacial travel, it’s best to hire a guide or join in a tour. 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. Plan to spend 1-2 hours.
Matanuska Glacier Overlook
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 are several other pullouts with glacier views.