Wasilla may be equally famous and infamous – well known as the headquarters of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, it gained a new level of notoriety as the hometown of Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate during the 2008 presidential election.
Wasilla is home to 10,000 residents in a scenic spot nestled between Lake Lucille and Lake Wasilla, surrounded by the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains. Located in the Mat-Su Valley on Alaska’s road system, Wasilla is 40 miles north by road from Anchorage and 315 miles south of Fairbanks.
Things to do
Iditarod and Dog Sledding
Just outside of Wasilla is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters, a log cabin museum featuring historical displays, video exhibits, photos of past champions, and race paraphernalia. A number of Iditarod racers live north of Wasilla and during the summer offer tours of their kennels, mushing demonstrations, and even rides in a sled.
Located on the Iditarod Trail itself, the Knik Museum and Sled Dog Musher's Hall of Fame is housed in one of the two remaining buildings from Knik's original townsite and was previously used as a pool hall and roadhouse. Today the museum features the Sled Dog Musher's Hall of Fame on the second floor and a collection of displays, clothing, furniture, and artifacts from Knik’s earlier days.
Wasilla serves as a gateway to the alpine adventure and beauty of Hatcher Pass. At 3,886 feet in elevation, the pass is above treeline and is a popular destination for its views of the jagged granite peaks of the Talkeetna Mountains, gold mine artifacts, hiking trails, and Independence Mine State Historical Park. The 272-acre park preserves the 16 buildings, shafts, and other remains of the Alaska-Pacific Mining Company, one of the leading hard rock gold mines in Alaska before it closed in 1955.
Located on Bogard Road between Wasilla and Palmer, Finger Lake State Recreation Site is a 47-acre park with a 41-site campground, picnic area, trails, and a boat launch that anglers can use to access the small lake.
Surrounding Wasilla in the Mat-Su Valley are lakes and rivers with fisheries that range from rainbow trout and grayling to lake trout and Arctic char. Among the most popular species is king salmon, which begin to move into the clear-water streams of the Susitna River drainage in early June. The Mat-Su Convention & Visitors Bureau visitor center provides information on road accessible sites, boat rentals, and outfitters and guides that can provide a day of trophy fishing in area waters.
Museums and Historic Sites
Preserving Wasilla's history is the Wasilla Museum. Displays include the re-creation of local miner O.G. Herning's trading post from the days before the railroad and a large area devoted to Iditarod founders Joe Reddington Sr. and Dorothy G. Page, with wooden dog sleds and Iditarod Race paraphernalia.
In an effort to preserve historical structures, Wasilla Historic Town Site Park was set up behind the Wasilla Museum. Today, the historic complex includes eight buildings including the town's 1917 one room schoolhouse, sauna house, blacksmith shop, and the Capitol Site building.
At Mile 47 of the George Parks Highway, the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry houses more than 200 major artifacts including aircraft, construction and mining equipment, tractors and farm machinery, fishing boats, railroad locomotives, and road vehicles. From manpower to modern aviation, with special attention to Alaska's many railroads, the museum is devoted to the machines that led to Alaska's development.
Staying in Wasilla
Wasilla is a full-service community where visitors will find a wide variety of shops, grocery stores, accommodations, restaurants, and two breweries. Lodging options include hotels, lodges, B&Bs, cabins, and vacation rentals.
Wasilla was established in 1917 as a supply base for gold and coal mining in the area. It remained a small town servicing the needs of local farmers until the early 1970s, when the George Parks Highway was built, providing access between Wasilla and Anchorage to the south and Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks to the north. The highway turned Wasilla into an important commercial center for visitors and other travelers passing through.