To explore the road less traveled, take the Old Glenn Highway to Palmer, a back road that feels like old Alaska. This 19-mile country road cuts through the heart of Alaska’s farmland and is a scenic, quiet alternative between Anchorage and Palmer. The road accesses state parks and recreation areas, petting zoos, and hiking trails and passes through picturesque terrain: pastoral countryside beneath the Chugach Mountains and Pioneer Peak. The area was populated during the Great Depression, when the federal government moved 203 farming families here from the Midwest. Some of those Matanuska Colony Farms are still around today, especially off of Bodenburg Loop Road. You can spend a few hours driving this country road, or make a day of it, with a picnic, hike and farm visit.
This unique fishery, about 25 miles north of Anchorage, is comprised of a small, artificial eddy of water that comes down from a power plant and connects to the main stem, Knik River. The glacial-fed water looks murky and blue-gray, and there’s very little current. While you won’t find much solitude here, you can usually find a spot to set up a lawn chair for some lazy fishing. There’s abundant parking, too, as well as restrooms.
With mountains overhead and a rushing river below that reflects the light in its swirling patterns, this bridge makes for a scenic crossing. You have to drive the old Glenn Highway to get here, but it’s a nice alternative to the main Glenn Highway.
On the north side of the Knik River Bridge, turn off the main roadway and drive down the riverbed.This is a good area to get out and hike around, you can walk beside the glacially-fed Knik River while under the dominant peaks of the Chugach Mountains and Pioneer Peak.
The heart of the Matanuska Colony Farms, this loop road travels through green pastures and cultivated farmland, and passes the Reindeer Farm, a petting zoo/wildlife rehab center with moose, reindeer, elk and bison.
With a length of just 1.5 miles and a summit reaching only 874 feet, West Butte Trail on Bodenburg Butte—a 45-minute drive north of Anchorage—makes for a fine family outing. But even if you’re a more experienced hiker, don’t let the butte’s dwarf-like height dissuade you. This small bump in the center of a grand alluvial plain offers far-reaching views from its summit; plus, the climb includes a pulse-quickening 0.25 miles of stairs up the steep north face.
This is a short day hike, but a fantastic fishing spot. There are many lake trout, grayling and whitefish. It is one of the best fishing spots in the area. Fox, bear, moose and caribou are often seen in this area and there are good berrypicking opportunities along the trail.
At Mile 11 on the Old Glenn Highway, turn onto Bodenburg Loop Road. Pyrahs Pioneer Peak U-Pick Farm sits at mile three of Bodenburg Loop. With up to 35 different kinds of produce to pick (weather dependent) this is a great way to get some fresh veggies for home. Prices are by the pound, and hours of operation vary by season.
The first farm in this area was homesteaded by More...
This trail, located 90 minutes north of Anchorage just across the Matanuska River from downtown Palmer, makes no pretense about its purpose. Almost immediately after leaving the parking area, it begins to climb straight up the steep west face of Lazy Mountain. For some 2,000 feet, there’s nary a switchback or respite as the trail winds up to the summit More...
Located 45 minutes from Anchorage, the Musk Ox farm project was conceived in the 1950s as an agrarian opportunity for villagers in Western Alaska; today it’s a fascinating look at an animal (and a way of life) that was perilously close to extinction. You can take a 30- to 40-minute tour of the farm and see some 70 musk ox. Since they’re friendly creatures, they may come right up to the fence to greet you.