Hiking in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley is one of the best ways to see gorgeous sights while getting a bit of exercise. There is a wide variety of places to go from super easy to pretty intense. This guide should help you find the best trail for your group, whether they be local or from outside.
Thunderbird Falls: The best place to go if you are new to hiking or don’t have the appropriate shoes or gear is Thunderbird Falls. There is a well-maintained, flat trail back through the woods to viewing platforms near the waterfall. The entire hike, including returning is only about two miles so you can do it on the spur of the moment without needing to even carry water.
The Butte: If you are looking for a tame afternoon hike the Butte is wonderful. There are two sides to choose from depending on your mood. The back side is almost completely stairs, very steep but usually ends up being better because it is less frequented. The front side always has tons of people so the entire first half is super-fine dust. On the front side there is a field with horses halfway up where the dusty part generally ends; you then get to climb up rock faces. The view of Palmer is outlandishly good from all parts of the Butte. Watch out at the top as small airplanes sometimes buzz over really low. The entire hike takes 1-3 hours depending on if you want to enjoy the exercise or beauty more.
Hatchers Pass: This is really a flexible place to go. There is a trail that goes back several miles, vast areas with high bush blueberries, and idyllic places to camp everywhere. It’s one of the best places to go camping as long as you are careful about the wildlife. There are many black and brown bears as wells as wolves and more, particularly in the fall as the berries ripen. An old mine and much of the equipment and buildings are still up for a taste of Gold Rush Alaska. It is also a very popular natural skiing area in the winter.
Lazy Mountain: Lazy is a harder climb but still something you can do in a day. You hike over a series of rises along the ridges which helps with elevation sickness. You do end up fairly high but it’s gradual enough that you don’t have to worry. The final ascent is shale and rock faces- difficult but rewarding. The entire hike takes four to eight hours so make sure to wear layers; it may be sunny at the base and snowing at the peak.