Glenn Highway Audio Guide

The Glenn Highway is pure Alaska: a 135-mile mix of history and natural splendor running north from Anchorage. Get an insider’s perspective on some of the most scenic, historic, and fascinating spots along this important highway, which runs from Anchorage to Glenallen. Learn about the spectacular Matanuska Glacier—and the river that flows from it—and get the best spots to take in the view. Listen to the different kinds of forests, and all about the area’s colorful history—from shootouts to a chalet that’s part of an abandoned 1950’s ski resort. We’ll even fill you in on the modern mushers who live along this iconic highway.

Show Map

Points of Interest

The Glenn High­way leads from Anchor­age to Glen­nallen. The road between Glen­nallen and Tok has the same route num­ber (1), but is called the Tok-Cut­off. So it’s not tech­ni­cal­ly part of the Glenn, but they’re often lumped togeth­er. Dri­ving from Anchor­age to Glen­nallen takes about 4 – 5 hours.

Did you know Anchor­age has traf­fic issues? Rush-hour demon­strates this. Between 5 and 6pm just get­ting across town takes half an hour or more. But the Glenn High­way real­ly backs up, espe­cial­ly after work. Thou­sands of com­muters head home to Eagle Riv­er, Palmer, and Wasil­la. Fresh snow slows traf­fic even more. Dur­ing a storm, the trip from Anchor­age to Eagle Riv­er, just 15 miles north, can take an hour. 

Eagle Riv­er camp­ground is con­ve­nient and mod­ern. Right beside it are also class IV rapids. Kayak­ers and rafters call them Camp­ground Rapids. But near­by are a cou­ple of places not nor­mal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with camp­ing. Do you like ghost sto­ries? Do you have some trash pil­ing up in the back of your truck? Maybe you should stop in and have a look. But don’t say we did­n’t warn you!

The speed lim­it is 25. Peo­ple walk or ride a bike instead of dri­ve to the local book­store or cof­fee house. Gar­dens sprout up in almost every yard. This is no acci­dent. Palmer has grown slow­ly over the years, but res­i­dents work hard to keep that small town feel and their farm­ing roots intact. Most fresh pro­duce and milk prod­ucts grown or pro­duced in Alas­ka come from here. Com­mu­ni­ty sup­port­ed agri­cul­ture, or CSAs, are start­ing to pop up in the…  ...more

This pull-out won’t be here for­ev­er. The fast-flow­ing, glac­i­er-fed Matanus­ka Riv­er wash­es by right below, tak­ing dirt and debris with it every day. This is an excel­lent exam­ple of a braid­ed riv­er. Matanus­ka Glac­i­er, far­ther up the Glenn High­way, feeds this water­way. It’s fast and cold, and can be extreme­ly dan­ger­ous to nav­i­gate, though peo­ple do raft it. His­tor­i­cal­ly, Natives and gold seek­ers used the frozen riv­er for win­ter travel.

Keep your eyes open for rocks on the road above Long Lake. Alas­ka Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion clears boul­ders off the high­way in this slide area every day of the year, but you could still col­lide with one if you come around a cor­ner too fast. On the oth­er hand, don’t linger under this crum­bling bank!

Gee is a dog mush­ing term for turn right. Idi­tar­od mush­er Zack Steer owns Sheep Moun­tain Lodge and trains his team in this area. Spec­tac­u­lar col­ors on Sheep Moun­tain itself are from iron stains on ancient vol­canic soils.

In the 1950s, an Anchor­age fam­i­ly worked tire­less­ly at their dream of build­ing a ski resort here at the base of Gun­sight Moun­tain. They built a small chalet and erect­ed a rope tow. But financ­ing was always a prob­lem. Busi­ness did not boom. Today, the chalet is all that’s left of their efforts.

Prospect­ing in ear­ly Alas­ka meant col­or­ful char­ac­ters and remote liv­ing. Moun­tain pass­es were often the best routes for men hik­ing hun­dreds of miles to reach gold. Most min­ers owned at least one gun. And they shot to kill.

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.

It’s dis­ori­ent­ing to dri­ve through mile after mile of wilder­ness only to sud­den­ly arrive in a small town. You might ask, Why in the world would any­one live out here?“Glennallen may seem like it’s in the mid­dle of nowhere, but its ori­gins make sense. And about 500 peo­ple call it home. They work in sev­er­al indus­tries, main­ly tourism, gov­ern­ment ser­vices, edu­ca­tion, and health­care. There are also a few small farms in the area.