Trek to Matanuska Glacier
Matanuska is the largest glacier in the U.S. that you can reach by car. This spectacular attaction is about 27 miles long and four miles wide. Matanuska is a valley glacier, which essentially means it's a solid body of ice that flows like a river through an existing valley.
Just getting to the glacier is part of the fun. It's located about 100 miles northeast of Anchorage along the Glenn Highway. There's a state park at mile marker 101 with awesome views of this glacier from a distance, but if you want to get up close continue down the highway to mile marker 102. You'll see a sign for Matanuska Glacier Park. The glacier is actually on private property. When you turn off the highway you will go down a dirt and gravel road until you come to a small guest checkin building. This is where you'll pay your entry fee and enter the park. After another short drive you will come to a parking lot where your trek begins.
A few tips:
- Wear good hiking shoes
- Ice boots are not a bad idea
- Bring a treking pole for balance
- Bring a pack with snacks and bottled water
- Dress in layers, you'll be walking on ice
- Bring a camera, the views are awesome
The glacier is a short hike from the parking area. The park has set out cones for you to follow so you take the safest route, but the cones eventually stop and there's a sign that warns you proceed at your own risk from that point forward. We decided to continue our hike and get closer to the main body of the glacier.
If you call in advance or go during peak tourist season they offer guided tours of the glacier. Since I was in Alaska in October they weren't offering any tours. You can still enjoy the glacier, I just don't recommend going in too far. The ice is incredibly slick and there are deep cuts in the ice and holes that you can fall into if you aren't careful. If you take it slow and avoid the edge of the ice you should be fine.
The drive to get to Matanuska wraps through the mountains and is scenic. There are numerous places to stop on the side of the road and snap some photos. The drive back to Anchorage is a little less scenic. If you have time I definitely recommend a day trip out to Matanuska. It's a unique experience that you won't soon forget.