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 part because you can easily touch it.
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.
To see the glacier, you can just take one of the pullouts all along the highway —each with great photo ops—or you can drive near the glacier’s edge for up-close photos. One qualifier: Access to the glacier is on private land, so there’s a $30 fee for an unguided visit. In the winter, there is only a guided option for $100 per person.
If getting close isn’t enough, you can also join a guiding company for a glacier hike, ice climbing class or rafting trip (with the option of either scenic or whitewater routes). The sheer ice walls, deep blue holes (called moulins) and creaking ice make it an unforgettable experience.
Keep an eye out for summertime ice-climbers at this most impressive roadside glacier.
Some 15,000 years later, it now has a four-mile wide towering face that you can walk right up to and touch. Matanuska is so massive that the water flowing out of its snout forms the roaring Matanuska River.
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.
102 miles north of Anchorage