The Mat-Su Valley is a hiker's paradise, with thousands of miles of trails in seemingly every direction. The Mat-Su Valley spans 23,000 square miles, so if hiking in Alaska is your dream, you've come to the right place. For individual trail maps, click here.
One of the most picturesque places on Earth, Denali State Park, is one of the most popular places to hike. Denali State Park is located just south of the national park, and is home to numerous trails that get you into the backcountry. Kesugi Ridge is a very popular multi-day trek for hikers with lots of experience. It has expansive views of Denali, Mount Hunter, Mount Foraker and the rest of the Alaska Range. For an easy hike with great views, try the loop around Kesugi Ken Campground near Mile 135 Parks Highway.
Talkeetna is south of Denali State Park and offers a multitude of trails of varying length. Talkeetna is also where people from around the world come to climb Denali. They fly from Talkeetna to base camp, starting a two-week ascent to the summit. On average, it about 50 percent of the climbers succeed in reaching the summit. To climb Denali, however, you must be a very experienced mountaineer.
Casual hikers will find a unique adventure in hiking Matanuska Glacier. Located on the Glenn Highway, Matanuska Glacier is Alaska's largest road-accessible glacier. You can access the glacier on your own or go on a guided hike, which is recommended. Using crampons for traction, guides will take you across the timeless glacial ice for a hike you'll never forget.
Another popular hike in the Palmer area is the Butte, which is a 900-foot formation that includes stairs to climb to the top. While a short hike, it is also a bit challenging due to the vertical rise. Once on top, however, you are treated to unbelievable views of the Matanuska Valley and the Chugach Mountains.
Hatcher Pass has numerous trails that are perfect for beginners and advanced hikers alike. Gold Cord Trail, Gold Mint Trail and the Reed Lakes Trail are all great places for hikers.
No matter where you head out, make sure you are "bear aware" and make noise. It's also a good idea to bring along sunscreen, extra water and bug repellent.
In many parts of Alaska one can see glaciers, but in the Mat-Su Valley, you can actually get out and touch one. Adventure seekers will be thrilled with the ice climbing options. Alaska glacier treks and boat trips are ideal for families. And for a rare lifetime opportunity, land on a glacier via flightseeing plane at Denali's base camp, or helicopter onto the timeless blue ice of Matansuka Glacier.
The Matanuska Glacier is one of Alaska's most spectacular glaciers, is also one of the oldest. It looms 13,000 feet high over the Glenn Highway, is 27 miles long, stretches four miles across and is easily seen at Mile 101 Glenn Highway. Access to this glacier is through a private concessionaire at Mile 102. Drive the two miles from the park gate to the moraine to set foot on the ice. For a safe alternative and the best visitor experience, hire a local guide who can outfit you with proper gear and lead you on a glacier trek to blue lakes and ice caves. Bring the sunscreen and water bottle to fill up on icy, glacier water!
The Knik Glacier averages about 200 feet thick. Its face is about three miles long at the head of Knik River. Before the great earthquake of 1964, Knik Glacier used to seal off Lake George Gorge causing Lake George to form. Each spring, the water would erode the glacier ice dam and as much as 150 million gallons of water per minute would begin to pour through the gorge, at times forming a wall of water 150 feet high. Visitors can enjoy viewing this natural wonder on an air boat, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or flightseeing trip. Stay the night at local area lodges for the ultimate glacier experience.
Alaska is one of the few places in the world where you can land on a glacier. For the best views, a flightseeing tour of the glaciers surrounding Denali, including Ruth Basin and Tokositna Glacier is the way to go. During certain times of the year, pilots land on the Kahiltna and Ruth Glaciers, allowing passengers to walk safely on the icy rivers below. Ideal months for a glacier landing are in early summer or early fall when the temperatures are cooler. This is truly a spiritual experience and sure to be one of your trip's highlights.
Matanuska and Knik glaciers can be explored via helicopter for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From a helicopter, you see the deep blue hues of the glacier ice. Unlike Denali flightseeing, you land on ice rather than snow at Matanuska and Knik glaciers. Helicopter tours offer a unique way to explore these glaciers.
Cast a line in the Mat-Su Valley for an Alaska fishing trip experience of a lifetime. Anglers are lured to the Mat-Su's remote river valleys, secluded mountain lakes, bountiful natural lakes and freshwater streams containing a cornucopia of wild Alaska king salmon, silver salmon, Alaska lake trout, champion rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, Arctic char, northern pike and more. Fish on your own, stay at an Alaska fishing lodge, or use an Alaska fishing charter to catch your dream fish.
Fly fishing in Alaska for salmon and trout is exactly how you've dreamt it is, especially in the peaceful, pristine Mat-Su Valley. Travel in comfort by jet boat or small airplane to a remote destination for wade-in fishing. Experienced fly fishing guides cater to both beginner and skilled fly fisherman.
Reserve a charter and have a fishing guide show you the best spots and techniques to fish in Mat-Su Valley lakes and streams. They have a thorough knowledge of local regulations and will help you have a successful and productive Alaska and fishing trip. Charter and guide services also provide gear, tackle and bait.
The Mat-Su Valley is known as the "Stillwater Fishing Capital of Alaska" because the abundance of road-accessible lakes. Catch landlocked salmon, arctic char and rainbow trout in one of the many lakes. Don't forget about those big northern pike out there too!
Fishing in Alaska is not limited by season. Winter guides are available to scout winter ice fishing hot spots for landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling and Arctic char. Read more
Alaska sport fishing rivers in the Mat-Su Valley include the Deshka River, Willow Creek, Susitna River Tributaries, Little Susitna River, Montana Creek, Talkeenta River, Yentna River and more. View Alaska salmon run chart provided by ADF&G (pdf)
The ADF&G also produces an Alaska Fishing Lake Map database with fishing information and regulations for the entire state, including more than 80 Mat-Su Valley lakes in the areas of Talkeetna, Willow and Nancy Lake, Big Lake, Point Mackenzie, Palmer-Wasilla, the Glenn Highway. View the database here.
Alaska Fly in fishing lodges and resorts located near remote wilderness streams teeming wild Alaska salmon and trout are easily accessible from the Mat-Su Valley.
Fish road-accessible fishing hot spots along Parks Highway streams including Willow Creek, Little Willow Creek, Montana Creek and Little Susitna River.
Type "fishing" into the Member Business Search for Alaska fishing charters, guides, fishing lodges, lakeside inns or B&Bs.
Choose from fine dining to down home cafes and everything in between. The Mat-Su Valley has dining options in every region for every taste.
One of the unique things about the Mat-Su Valley is that it's the agricultural hub of Alaska, and many of these restaurants use ingredients grown locally right here in the Mat-Su Valley. The farm-to-table dining experiences are plentiful. We often tell our friends who travel from Anchorage that they've traveled farther than their food has when dining in Palmer. Turkey Red in downtown Palmer, for example, exclusively uses locally grown vegetables on their menu, and they aren't alone - you'll find fresh vegetables such as lettuce, onions, carrots and more on your plate. Alaska Grown - none fresher!
Talkeetna has the Wine Spectator-award winning Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge for fine dining, but also boasts local food trucks in the downtown area as well. The food options are as diverse as the people in the Mat-Su Valley.
Don't be surprised if your portions are Alaska-sized. This is just part of our style. Bon appétit!
Take a trip back in time to the once bustling trade center of Knik, Alaska, which once served as a major supply point for the Alaska interior during pre-Anchorage days.
Called home by many famous Alaska mushers, the Knik area is often referred to as the "Dog Mushing Center of the World." In fact, the first 15 miles of Knik Road are now designated as the Joe Redington Sr. Memorial Trail in memory of this famous Alaska musher who was instrumental in organizing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Several public and private tent and RV campgrounds are located along this drive.
Pick up Knik-Goose Bay Road in Wasilla at mile 42.2 of the Parks Highway.
The official Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters are located at mile 2.2 of Knik-Goose Bay Road. View Iditarod memorabilia, photos and footage, pick up souvenirs and take a thrilling summer dog sled ride. Open year-round in Wasilla, admission is free. www.iditarod.com
Settle in at Lake Lucille Park campground, an 80-acre public park located at the end of Endeavor Street. The campground includes 59 tent and RV spaces for tents, including two pull-thru spaces, non-motorized lake access, a boardwalk and fishing deck, restrooms, trails, fire pits and more. www.matsugov.us/RecServices/parks.cfm
At mile 4.1, follow Fairview Loop 1.9 miles to access the northern part of the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge. When the road makes a 90-degree turn follow the gravel side 1.5 miles to an observation deck for views of this 45-square mile complex of forest, wetlands and lakes that support a major calving and wintering ground for the Mat-Su moose population. Head back to Knik-Goose Bay Road. www.palmerhayflats.org
At mile 13.9, turn toward Knik Lake and the Knik Museum and Sled Dog Musher's Hall of Fame. Operated by the Wasilla-Knik Historical Society, famous dogs and dog mushers are honored here for their contributions to dog team travel and sled dog racing. The Museum occupies one of the two structures remaining from the Alaska Gold Rush era (1897-1917). Open summers.
When Knik-Goose Bay Road forks at Mile 17, stay to the right and follow Point Mackenzie Road 12 miles to the Little Susitna River and some of the finest wild Alaska salmon fishing in Southcentral Alaska. A public campground and boat launch are home to a number of fishing guide services.
Pavement ends on Knik-Goose Bay at mile 19.5, another junction point. After this point, four-wheel drive is highly encouraged for navigating the steep, rough road to Goose Bay State Game Refuge, a 10,880-acre refuge. There are no developed public-use facilities.