Top Attractions to See & Do in Our Area
Even if you only have a few days, you can do it all in the Mat-Su Valley. Explore Denali (Mt. McKinley), glaciers, and wildlife… Your adventures can include canoeing, rafting, climbing, birding, fishing, flightseeing, nearby or back-country hiking, horseback riding, ATV’ing or snowmachining. Call us for more information about activities or see the Activities page of our website.
To view a short video, showcasing the Mat-Su Valley’s gorgeous scenery and ideas of what you can do here, click here.
Top Attractions to Do & See in Our Area
1. Hatcher Pass Guests consistently say this is one of the most beautiful places they’ve ever seen, worldwide. The spectacular scenery with lush, green 3000-8000 foot mountains are a compact mountain ecosystem that give you that away-from-it-all feeling during your 10-mile drive through the pass. It is located just 15 minutes from Alaska Garden Gate B&B.
Driving into the pass area, you leave the farms and woods of the Valley and start to drive along a surging river, full of boulders the size of small cars, right next to the road. Great photo opps! Be alert for wildlife.
You’ll climb gently to Independence Mine area, a historic gold mine with interesting interpretive signs along a walking path and original buildings. Drive up a mile further to the actual pass where you’ll find Summit Lake, a small, blue-green glacier-fed lake. There’ll probably still be ice on it if you visit before mid-July. The snow stays year-round. On the short walk around the lake, you’ll see up close the delicate alpine plants that flower by the millions. Most travelers will want to turn around and return the way they came: the road over the pass to Willow is very rugged. The Willow river grows from several trickles coming down from the mountain snowcaps to a rolling stream where flecks of gold shine in the sun. Here’s where mining claims, sometimes hand painted on any spare wood and nailed to trees, are taken seriously (spelling errors included at no charge) Don’t encourage a miner to shoot at you by panning on his claim.
If you hadn’t already planned to do this, go Flightseeing with Talkeetna Air Taxi at the Talkeetna airport. Go! I’m serious! Where else on earth can you fly over the summit of a 20,000+ mountain and take in that kind of scenery for a scant $200 or so, flown by highly experienced bush pilots?
3. While you’re at the Palmer Visitors’ Center , the log cabin in downtown Palmer, take a stroll through their bountiful summer garden, including huge vegetables and ornamentals. In the Visitors’ Center is a hidden gem: a small museum recounting the history of the Palmer farm Colony, started by President Roosevelt in the Depression, to give a new start to starving families from the Upper Midwest and provide food for the military.
4. The Matanuska Glacier is east of Palmer 45 minutes. The drive is full of panoramic vistas as you wind along the Matanuska River. You can see and touch the blue ice, as well as walk onto it for miles. Watch out for crevasses! Contact Mica Guides for guide service onto the glacier.
5. Take an ATV tour or boat tour of the Knik Glacier or go flightseeing over it. When you’re up the river at the foot of the glacier, you are REMOTE. It’s exquisite.
6. Located just north of Palmer is the Musk Ox Farm. The Musk Ox Farm is the only place in the world where these exotic animals are raised on a farm, and one of only a handful of places where humans and musk ox are in the same place (skip this attraction if you’d rather view them on the northern coast of Greenland or on the rocky steppes of Siberia).
7. The headquarters of the Iditarod sled dog race are located a few miles south of the Alaska Railroad train depot in Wasilla. You can take a cart ride pulled by the dogs for $5. It’s a nice place to stop by if you’re mildly interested, and fascinating and full of rich information, if you’re into mushing. Free cute puppy cuddling and neat musherabilia to take home as unique souvenirs.
8. Eklutna Historical Park/Russian Orthodox church and cemetary. This native Athabaskan village has been continually inhabited since 1650. If this is of interest to you, you won’t want to miss the Alaska Native Heritage Center, on the edge of Anchorage. You can easily spend a day there.
9. Take a hike: Short hikes include Bodenburg Butte, Thunderbird Falls, or any of the trails in Hatcher Pass. More vigorous climbs include Pioneer Peak (6600 feet; 8 hours up and back), Lazy Mountain, or Matanuska Peak, all right around Palmer. It’s also fun to ride horses or ATVs into these same areas.
10. The tiny town museum in Knik, south of Wasilla, is packed with quaint Alaskana; call ahead for times they’re open. Want a dose of “real Alaskans?” Wind your way out to the Knik Bar for a beer or prime rib dinner.
11. Alaska State Fair: if you’re here during the last two weeks of August, you must go. You’ll be amazed for any number of reasons. Giant vegetables, small-town appeal and good eatin’, too.
12. Tsunami Warning Center In little ol’ Palmer, NOAA tracks the seismic activity for the whole north
Pacific including sensors in Russia and Japan (the Hawaii NOAA bureau tracks the southern Pacific to Australia). Did you know a tsunami wave originating
in Japan could reach Alaska in less than 6 hours? The NOAA folks in Palmer give a fascinating tour, every Friday at 1, 2, and 3 p.m.
13. Don’t forget fishing! No Alaska trip is complete
without fishing the great rivers of the Mat-Su, rich in salmon, trout, and all kinds of big fish. We recommend the knowledgeable and fun folks at Fishtale Charters.