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 when Sarah Palin was named as John McCain’s running mate during the 2008 presidential election.
Wasilla’s 7,000 residents were thrust into the national spotlight thanks to Palin. When the national media came calling during the presidential election, it discovered a scenic Alaska town nestled between Lake Lucille and Lake Wasilla and surrounded by the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains.
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 and a bedroom community for those who work in Anchorage but didn’t want to live in the city, which is just 43 miles to the south.
Things to do
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. More information on dog mushing and racing can be enjoyed at the Knik Museum & Sled Dog Musher's Hall of Fame, while 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.
Wasilla also serves as a gateway to the alpine adventure and beauty of Hatcher Pass. At 3,886 feet in elevation, the pass is above the tree line and a popular destination for its views of the shattered granite peaks of the Talkeetna Mountains, gold mine artifacts 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.
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.
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. Area visitor centers can provide information on road accessible sites, boat rentals and outfitters and guides that can provide a day of trophy fishing in area waters.
Dorothy G Page Museum
Preserving Wasilla's history is three galleries, two with permanent exhibits, is the Dorothy G. Page 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, necklaces and pins from past Iditarod races and other racing paraphernalia.
Finger Lake State Recreation Site
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 anglers can use to access the small lake.
Along with Palmer and Willow, Wasilla serves as a gateway to the alpine adventure and beauty of Hatcher Pass
. At 3,886 feet in elevation, the pass is above the tree line and a popular destination for its views of the shattered granite peaks of the Talkeetna Mountains, gold mine artifacts and Independence Mine State Historical Park
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters
The Iditarod Trail Headquarters
features a musuem with trophies, displays and photos as well as a video room and gift ship with souvenirs and memorabilia. Cart rides with sled dog teams in summer. Open year round.
Knik Museum and Sled Dog Mushers Hall of Fame
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 Kni earlier days.
Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry
At Mile 47 of the George Parks Highway, the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry houses more than 200 major artifacts include 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 lead to Alaska's development.
Old Wasilla Town Site Historical Park
In an effort to preserve historical structures, Old Wasilla Town Site Historical Park was set up on lots behind the Dorothy G. Page Museum. Today the historic complex includes eight buildings ranging from the town's 1917 one room school house and a sauna house to a blacksmith shop and the Capitol Site building.
Sled Dog Kennel Tours
A number of Iditarod racers live north of Wasilla and during the summer offer tours of their kennel, mushing demonstrations and even rides in a wheeled sled.
Wolf Lake State Recreation Site
Only 23 acres in size, Wolf Lake State Recreation Site
is on Engstrom Drive between Wasilla and Palmer and offers limited camping, picnic facilities, trails and fishing opportunities in the small lake.