Matanuska Glacier

Glacier in Matanuska Glacier to Palmer

Some 18,000 years ago this glacier covered the entire area where the city of Palmer sits today. It must have appeared a supernatural force back then, whereas these days it’s merely a grand spectacle and open geological classroom. From a distance, the wall of ice looks like it should be patrolled by guys in black furry capes with funny Northern English accents.

Weirdly enough, the glacier – or at least the part you can visit – sits on private land. The entrepreneurial guy who claimed this natural wonder for himself tightly controls access to the glacier. Entry is via Glacier Park Resort (Mile 102), which charges $25 to follow its private road to a parking lot at the terminal moraine. From there, a self-guided trail will take you a couple of hundred yards onto the gravel-laced ice, carved and braided with translucent blue streams and pitted with deep ponds.

To go further, duck into the office of MICA Guides, which leads a ton of adventurous treks out onto the ice. You can go hiking on your own out onto the glacier, but come prepared with hiking shoes, cold-weather gear, and a sense of perspective. Clueless, giggling tourists wearing T-shirts and flat-soled shoes walk out on the ice all the time, and inevitably, they get stuck and saved by trained rescue crews. Seriously, be careful out here. There are gaps in the ice that can literally swallow a human body, and they appear out of nowhere. There's a reason they make you sign a consent form and waiver before you hit the frozen ground.

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