This gigantic glacier is the largest in the U.S. that can be reached by vehicle
Matanuska Glacier, one of Alaska's most accessible glaciers, is a stable 27-mile long river of ice flowing from the Chugach Mountains north almost to the Glenn Highway. With a four-mile wide terminus visible from one of Alaska's major highways, the Matanuska Glacier is the most popular roadside attraction between Anchorage and Glennallen, and tourists flock to the area in the summer for the glacier’s brilliant views and epic treks.
The Matanuska Glacier is a valley glacier, consisting of streams of flowing ice that create the headwaters of the Matanuska River. Now 60 miles south of Palmer, the position of the terminus has changed relatively little in the past 30 years. The glacier functions as a weather hole that naturally propels warm valley air upward. Due to this phenomenon, visitors will experience sunnier skies and a warmer environment compared to the rest of the Mat-Su Valley, making this a premier destination for those seeking glacial adventures.
Most visitors get close with the ice at Glacier Park, a private campground at Mile 102 of the Glenn Highway. A private road leads to a parking lot at the terminal moraine and from there visitors can access a 20-minute self-guided trail that takes them to the gravel-laced ice at the foot of the glacier. Explore this enormous river of ice with a guided glacier hike; the park offers a variety of tours led by experts with helmets, crampons and trekking poles included.
To the south of Glacier Park is Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site, a 229-acre recreation area located adjacent to the Glenn Highway at Mile 101. Although there is no direct access to the glacier, this state site provides some of the best views of the Matanuska Glacier and the headwaters of the Matanuska River. Visitors can take a 20 minutes stroll through the forested Edge Nature Trail to reach the glacier viewing platforms.
Beyond viewing the magnificence of the glacier, popular summer activities include glacier trekking, river rafting and hiking. Winter activities include skiing, snowshoeing and snow machining.
The Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site has 12 campsites on a gravel road that loops around the site and is equipped with a water pump, toilets, fire pits and picnic tables. Nearby Edge Nature Trail is a 20-minute path that curves through the boreal forest with interpretive signs to glacier viewing platforms.
There is a daily parking fee at the recreation site and a nightly fee for the campground.
Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site is accessible by road at Mile 101 of the Glenn Highway, 93 miles from Anchorage and 52 miles from Palmer. During the winter the site is closed due to heavy snow and ice conditions.
For more information contact the Alaska State Parks office (907-745-3975) in Wasilla.