The Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway follows a path carved by ancient glaciers. Following the braided Matanuska River for over half its length, this Byway winds through 135 miles of the most impressive terrain on earth..
Winters present you with a splendid sky show when the Northern Lights dance among the snow-capped mountains, while summers bring you endless days to roam in fields of wildflowers and ancient forests.
Start your journey in downtown Anchorage, where you soon see the Chugach Mountains that parallel the Byway along its entire route.
Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center off Muldoon Road, which provides the visitor a glimpse at Alaska's five major Native groups.
Eagle River Nature Center (Mile 13.4) Just 30 minutes out of town, you'll come to the dramatic Eagle River Valley and the nature center, the gateway to Chugach State Park. Pick the brains of the rangers for activities; perhaps you'll hike a section of the Iditarod Trail and hark back to the days when the trail was used as a mail route. Albert Loop Trail meanders three miles through prime beaver-watching territory and serves up great peak views. Access the 500,000-acre Chugach State Park and its many trails and attractions from Eagle River/ Chugiak.
Thunderbird Falls (Mile 25.2) Walk through the mossy forest of birch trees about one mile; you're soon surrounded by ferns, and then at the viewing platform, where you can watch the thunderous falls tumble down the rocky cliff face.
Eklutna Village Historical Park (Mile 26.5) provides another look into the heritage of the Athabascan Alaska Natives. Dating back to 1650, the park is the area's oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan Indian settlement. Russian Orthodox missionaries came here in the early 1800s, and you can still see St. Nicholas Church, the oldest standing building in greater Anchorage. Snap some pictures of the colorful Spirit Houses build over the graves of the deceased-a custom that came from the melding of the cultures. Up for a walk? It'll pay off with a glacier view, as well as the chance to see foxes, eagles, and black bears.
Eklutna Lake: On the other side of the highway, a 10-mile road leads to this secluded lake, a great spot to picnic, hike, or fish. Trails include the easy 8-mile Lakeside Trail or 6.5-mile Twin Peaks Trail, which climbs to magnificent views.
Old Glenn Highway (Mile 29.6) To explore the road less traveled, take the Old Glenn Highway to Palmer, a back road that feels like old Alaska. The roadside homes and farms are rural and private, with space and beauty all around them. You'll cross the old Knik River Bridge where you can get out and hike around, but there tend to be a lot of four-wheelers in the area.
Parks Highway Junction (Mile 35.3) Here's the start of the George Parks Highway, which leads north to Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks. Continuing east on the Glenn brings you toward Palmer, Matanuska Glacier, and McCarthy-Kennicott.
Palmer(Mile 42) This charming agricultural village was founded in 1935, when FDR moved 203 farm families out of the Dust Bowl for a fresh start in Alaska. Set between two ranges of towering mountains, Palmer's the home of the 80-pound cabbage and other freakishly large vegetables. See these giants at the visitor center, along with the world's only musk-ox farm. While you watch mating bulls butt heads, the farm harvests wool for the Oomingmak Producer's Coop in Anchorage. Enter historic Palmer and its many colony farms dating back to FDR's 1935 Depression era farming experiment. Palmer comes alive in late August with the annual Alaska State Fair.
Hatcher Pass (Mile 49.5) For a beautiful drive on some of the highest, most spectacular, and wildest roadway in the state, take a detour up Palmer-Fishhook Road (Hatcher Pass Road). After about 13 miles of modern pavement, you'll negotiate some rough conditions up and over the mountains-peaking at Hatcher Pass (3,886 feet). This old mining area is scenic, rich in history, and offers great hiking and berry picking. Hatcher Pass Road is 49 miles total and continues west to the Parks Highway (mile 71.2), near Willow.
Independence Mine: Before you reach the pass, turn off on Gold Cord Road (17 miles from Palmer). This short detour (1.2 miles) takes you to Independence Mine State Historical Park, where you can explore buildings and machinery from the 30's.
You enter the glacier-carved Matanuska River Canyon as you leave Palmer. The historic coal mining community of Sutton provides a look at early 1900 Alaska.
At the Byway's end at Eureka Summit, see four of Alaska's major mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, the Chugach Mountains, the Talkeetna Mountains and the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains.