Matanuska Glacier, located on the East side of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, is the largest road-accessible glacier in Alaska. The glacier is easily seen from several locations along the Glen Highway which runs for 189 miles between Anchorage and Glenallen, Alaska. The Glen Highway, a National Scenic Byway, is one of Alaska’s most beautiful highways and is well worth the time to experience for those who are touring Alaska by car on a self-drive itinerary and want to include such destinations as Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Valdez, Alaska. The Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site is located at mile 101 and provides some interpretive signage along with a short nature walk on a ridge above the Matanuska River. The recreation site is well worth the stop to stretch your legs as it’s near the half way mark between Anchorage and Glenallen.
If you want to experience Matanuska Glacier up close and perhaps take a hike on the glacier itself, you’ll want to visit the privately owned Glacier Park which provides access to the Glacier. The Glacier Park entrance is located at mile 102 of the Glenn Highway. You’ll have to check into their office where you’ll pay the entrance fee of $15 per person which helps maintain the road and parking lot near the glacier. Once parked, you’ll discover it is just a short walk before you’re at the terminus of the glacier. The visit is well worth it if you want to experience an easy hike on the glacier and some majestic views of the Chugach Moutains. You can also take a guided hike which you’ll need to set up in advance with the local Mica Guide Service.
A recent trip to Matanuska Glacier with my family this summer took us about 2 hours to drive from Anchorage. My family, including two daughters, found the experience of hiking on the glacier, touching glacier ice, and learning about glacial geology by experiencing it up close well worth it. My youngest daughter even said it was the highlight of her summer. There are no restaurant facilities at the park so be sure to pack a lunch or a snack. But, if you are looking for a great lunch for before or after your hike, about 11 miles up the road at mile 113 is Sheep Mountain Lodge which serves a great lunch and is one of my favorite roadside restaurants in Alaska. There are many other scenic stops on the Glen Highway, so take your time exploring the Matanuska Valley along the way.