Glenn Highway

The Glenn is hard to avoid if you want the full Alaska experience. Not only does it connect you with popular destinations and other major highways, this well-maintained road takes you from downtown Anchorage to Alaska’s farmlands, glaciers, and beyond. During your ride you’ll see amazing mountain views, drive by waterfalls, and gorgeous rivers. Or if you want to stretch your legs, you can pull over near mile 102, take a short hike, and touch a glacier! The highway is 135 miles (unless you include the Tok Cut-Off, making it 328 miles), and it’s not something to miss.

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Highway Guide

Anchorage to Glennallen

One of Alaska's Most Dramatic Drives: River Valleys, Glaciers, Mountains, & Alpine Country
Season: Mid May– Early September $30+ day rentals 1+ day rentals

Embark on an unfor­get­table pad­dling adven­ture in Alas­ka with AK Pad­dle­sports! Nes­tled just out­side Anchor­age, this fam­i­ly-found­ed com­pa­ny offers a vast selec­tion of top-qual­i­ty water­craft, includ­ing pad­dle­boards, kayaks, and canoes, avail­able for rent by the day. Expe­ri­ence the con­ve­nience of equip­ment deliv­ery and pick-up, allow­ing you to spend more time explor­ing Alaska’s scenic lakes.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Who can say no to a cool water­fall only a half-hour’s dri­ve from town? One of the most pop­u­lar first hikes” for fam­i­lies with small chil­dren, the one-mile trail to Thun­der­bird Falls tra­vers­es a hand­some birch for­est along the Eklut­na Riv­er canyon to reach a deck with views of a 200-foot water­fall. Dur­ing win­ter, the falls can freeze, form­ing fab­u­lous columns of blue ice.

Dat­ing back to 1650, the park is the area’s old­est con­tin­u­ous­ly inhab­it­ed Athabaskan set­tle­ment. View the col­or­ful Spir­it Hous­es built over the graves of the deceased, along with an Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Cross — a cus­tom that came from the meld­ing of the cultures.

The camp­ground is pret­ty open, since bark bee­tles killed the big, old spruce trees. The camp­sites attract RVers and campers, and each of the 24 sites has a fire ring and pic­nic table. There’s potable water at a hand pump. 

Difficulty: Easy

Look­ing to break up your dri­ve with a jog or bike ride? This lit­tle-used, 2‑mile sec­tion of the for­mer Glenn High­way has lit­tle to no traf­fic. Rocks and shrubs are creep­ing onto the road sur­face in places. It’s qui­et, scenic, and hilly. The road­way is offi­cial­ly closed in the mid­dle but easily-passable. 

The Matanus­ka State Park is the best place for a free view of the Matanus­ka Glac­i­er. You won’t be able to walk up to the glac­i­er (that’s at Mile 102 and is $30 per per­son), but this well-devel­oped site (wihch is also con­nect­ed to the near­by RV Park) offers plen­ty of park­ing, pub­lic restrooms, and excel­lent glac­i­er views and pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ties. You’ll also find: A half-dozen inter­pre­tive signs about glac­i­ers, ice crea­tures, spruce bark…  ...more

It’s only a small pull-out on the side of the high­way, but this is the clos­est view­point of the Matanus­ka Glac­i­er. If you don’t have a pow­er­ful zoom on your cam­era, or just want to get a great look at the ice, this is the spot. There’s only room for about six cars and the feel is a bit more rus­tic than the offi­cial state rec site a mile to the west, but you’ll be perched on a bluff over­look­ing the glac­i­er. Dis­tance 103.3 miles north of…  ...more

Season: Mid-May to Mid-September $160+ 3 hrs to full day excursions

There’s climb­ing a moun­tain – and then there’s climb­ing an ICE moun­tain. Regard­less of your climb­ing abil­i­ty or expe­ri­ence, you’ll end the day feel­ing ful­filled and inspired. MICA also offers short, guid­ed hikes and longer treks if you pre­fer a more leisure­ly explore of the glac­i­er and its grandeur.

Difficulty: Difficult

Lion’s Head is famous through­out the state. This rock out­crop­ping is the promi­nent fea­ture beside the Matanus­ka Glac­i­er and is fea­tured in mag­a­zines and adver­tise­ments all over Alas­ka. And you can hike it! You’ve got to be in good shape and ready for a scram­bling, one-hour climb. You’ll be reward­ed by great views, look­ing down a 2,000-foot cliff face to the glac­i­er. You’re panora­ma will include views of the Matanus­ka Riv­er, Cari­bou Creek with…  ...more

South-fac­ing slopes can con­cen­trate large num­bers of sheep that are espe­cial­ly vis­i­ble after green-up in the spring. Lodges in the area pro­vide spot­ting scopes and good advice, and there are sev­er­al pull­outs and trail­heads with safe parking.

Peo­ple love to pull off here and shoot a pho­to beside this clas­sic sign. A local the­o­ry on the creek name is that the crusty, old sour­dough who lived down near the creek used mules for guid­ing hunts. These mules pur­port­ed­ly escaped a lot, so the ass­es were always by the creek. Who knows? But it’s a clas­sic pho­to for the friends back home.

Just south of the Cari­bou Creek bridge near mile mark­er 104 on the Glenn High­way in the shad­ow of the Lion’s Head rock for­ma­tion, look for the turnoff for the Cari­bou Creek Recre­ation­al Min­ing Area. You are not going to get fab­u­lous­ly rich here and be the next star of the TV real­i­ty show Gold Rush, but you do have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to car­ry a gold pan and shov­el, hike the steep half-mile-long trail down to the creek, and pan for gold.

Some 15,000 years ago, this glac­i­er reached anoth­er 50 miles west to the Palmer area. It now has a four-mile wide tow­er­ing face that you can walk right up to and touch. Keep an eye out for sum­mer­time ice-climbers at this most impres­sive road­side glac­i­er. Direc­tions: Head north from Anchor­age on the Glenn High­way. At mile 102, you can dri­ve down to Glac­i­er Park (8882534480), then hike 15 – 20 min­utes to the face of glacier.Distance: 102 miles  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

Climb to the sum­mit of Belanger Pass, bike an all-day loop to Cari­bou Creek or off-road in a four-wheel­er or ATV. This pub­lic access area is a gate­way to adven­ture in the rolling tun­dra and alpine ridges of Belanger Pass and Syn­cline Moun­tain. The hike to the top of Belanger Pass is 90 min­utes, fol­low­ing an old, rut­ted road. You can also bike this, fol­low­ing the Min­ing Road Trail for an all-day, 35 mile ride to Syn­cline Moun­tain and Caribou…  ...more

This is one of Alaska’s pre­mier recre­ation mec­cas. You’ll see lots of big-boy toys around Eure­ka Sum­mit: RVs or big trucks pulling trail­ers with ATVs or brand new snow machines. This sum­mit receives sev­er­al feet of snow each win­ter, and rugged trails open access to the ter­rain dur­ing sum­mer. Eure­ka Sum­mit is the high­est point along the Glenn Highway.

Even though black spruce forests look sick­ly, they’re actu­al­ly healthy trees. Their shal­low roots spread over per­mafrost, so they grow slow­ly. Soil above the per­mafrost melts and freezes, buck­ling the ground and mak­ing the trees tip. This stand might’ve sprout­ed around the same time as World War I, or even ear­li­er. Maybe back when there were only ten miles of paved roads in the entire country.