Matanuska Glacier: The Easiest Glacier to Traverse in Alaska

Matanuska Glacier | Introduction

Matanuska Glacier is a privately owned glacier known for its accessibility and relatively flat terrain, allowing visitors to walk directly on the ice. This unique feature makes it a popular destination for those wanting an up-close glacier experience. Having visited Matanuska Glacier, I can say it was one of the most memorable highlights of my Alaska trip.

Matanuska Glacier | Getting there

If you are staying in Anchorage, Matanuska Glacier is a convenient day trip. You can find various guided hiking and shuttle day tours from Anchorage, such as the Matanuska Glacier Hike Day Tour. This is a great option if you want to see the glacier without traveling too far.

For those on a self-driving trip, you can drive to the glacier yourself. It's important to research the route ahead of time. When we visited in 2014, it wasn't listed on Google Maps, but now you can find its approximate location on the map. However, finding the entrance can still be tricky.

Matanuska Glacier is close to the main highway (Route 1). Head towards Glacier View, and you will soon see the flat glacier from a distance. To reach the glacier entrance, you will need to drive on an unpaved road until you see a small shop and a gate. Since it’s private property, there is an entrance fee. After paying, the staff will open the gate, and you can drive up to the glacier entrance.

Matanuska Glacier | Glacier Adventure

Once you park your car, the hiking begins. Up close, the glacier’s flat surface reveals more of its rugged beauty. Since it's private land, there aren't well-maintained trails like in public parks. Instead, some traffic cones mark the path forward. Though not immediately apparent in photos, there are often streams of melting ice water on the ground, making the surface slippery and potentially dangerous, so be cautious.

The initial part of the hike is relatively easy, despite some muddy and slippery spots. We saw several older tourists walking slowly but steadily. As you approach the glacier, you'll see a lake formed by glacier meltwater. A sign warns that the property owner is not responsible for your safety beyond this point.

The allure of the glacier often outweighs the cautionary signs. The chance to walk on a glacier is rare, and like many others, we ventured further. A few steps onto the ice revealed a solid sheet of ice beneath what we initially thought was just mud. Walking on such a vast ice surface is chilly, with cold air rising from below and the water making it slippery.

Even on what seems like a flat ice surface, the glacier's meltwater has carved deep grooves. Getting closer to the glacier's center requires careful navigation around these crevasses. It’s a fascinating and time-consuming experience. Up close, the ice has a hint of blue, adding to its ethereal beauty.

In the small shop where you pay the entrance fee, you can also hire a tour guide and rent professional equipment, allowing for a more extended exploration of up to two hours further onto the glacier. However, like most visitors, we chose to turn back after reaching a certain point, as going further appeared increasingly risky.

Further reading

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