Get an extra portion of history and adventure when your playground includes the Matanuska-Susitna Valley! The area cuts a wide swath north of Anchorage, from the Knik River over to the Susitna River—and as far north as Denali State Park. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Take a drive on the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway (pictured, top). This 135-mile stretch of road actually starts in Anchorage. When you come to the “Y” before the Wasilla cut-off to the Parks Highway, bear right and continue through Palmer. The biggest feature of the byway is the Matanuska River itself. You can’t miss it as you make your way up the valley. There are several scenic pullouts where you can get out, grab a few snapshots and gaze at the natural beauty of the river and the mountains beyond. Then, of course, you’ll reach the top of the valley with unimpeded views of the giant Matanuska Glacier.
2. A little history lesson. Check out the museums in the valley, each of which concentrates on a special story or theme:
a. The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry. Located at Mile 47 of the Parks Highway near the Wasilla Airport, MATI tells the story of the people and machines that opened Alaska to exploration and growth. Check out the trains, the tractors and the snowmachines on display! The museum opens on Mother’s Day.
b. Palmer Museum of History and Art. Learn about the agricultural history of the Palmer area. Check out the farm equipment collection on display, the garden and the other exhibits on display. Located at the Palmer Visitor Center, 723 S. Valley Way in Palmer .
c. Colony House Museum in Palmer (quite close to the Palmer Visitor Center!), at 316 E. Elmwood St. The house was build in 1935 as an original “colony farm house” as part of the New Deal program that sent settlers to Palmer.
d. Dorothy Page Museum in Wasilla. Built as a community hall in 1931, the structure was a social center: dances, political meetings and basketball games. Today, the museum is home to many artifacts and exhibits from the area, including a mining gallery, an recreated trading post and the historic town site whcih is adjacent to the museum.
e. Talkeetna Historical Society. The Talkeetna Historical Society Museum is located in downtown Talkeetna, in the town’s original school building built in 1936. See exhibits and photos that portray the “real” Talkeetna: native people, aviators, gold miners, trappers and many others. There’s even a room-sized model of Denali and the surrounding peaks!
3. Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine. One of my favorite daytrips is a drive up to Independence Mine (pictured, right). The area still is an active mining district, but there’s a state historical park at the site of what once was one of Alaska’s largest gold mining camps. Depending on the weather and the snow-pack, the road over Hatcher Pass may be open and you can drive over the top to the Wasilla side. It’s a beautiful drive—you’ll want to stop along the way for photos (right)!
Don’t forget to eat! We ate at Turkey Red in Palmer. It’s known for its “eat local” focus. But we just went for the pie…which was EPIC!! Pictured, below.
Learn more about fun activities in the Mat-Su Valley. Stop in at the Visitor Information Center, Mile 35.5 Parks Highway (take Trunk Road Exit). Or, check online.
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