Unspoiled beauty, wide-open spaces
The area is a geographic medley of wetlands, tundra, silver-blue glaciers and endless miles of streams, rivers and lakes. It also offers scenic views of the Chugach, Alaska, Talkeetna and Wrangell-St. Elias mountain ranges. Hundreds of public-use trails offer access for hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, ATV and horseback riding. Mat-Su golf courses have the Chugach Range as a backdrop. MATANUSKASUSITNA VALLEY is a place with unspoiled beauty, wide- open spaces and pastoral charm. Commonly called the Mat- Su or Mat- Su Valley (or just the Valley), the region covers more than 25,000 square miles across the valleys of the Matanuska and Susitna rivers.
This area is distinctive on many levels. It’s the official start of two of Alaska’s most celebrated events: the historic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race out of Willow, and the Iron Dog snowmobile race, departing from nearby Big Lake.
The area is also well known for having a rapidly expanding population. It’s the fastest-growing region in the state. An easy 45-minute drive from Anchorage, the Valley attracts those who seek more affordable housing, a rural setting and a relaxed lifestyle. The local landscape reflects an assortment of modern subdivisions and log cabin homes.
The Valley is also the center of Alaska’s agriculture industry, containing the largest concentration of farms in the state. Thanks to a 100-day growing season, the area produces more vegetables than anywhere else in Alaska. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you may grow 125-pound cabbages.
Wasilla and Palmer are the most prominent communities in the Valley. Perched near the northern edge of Knik Arm, Wasilla (pop. 8,064) is a 42-mile drive from downtown Anchorage and sprawls along the Parks Highway.
Palmer (pop. 6,087), has a densely populated downtown and miles of outlying farmland. It’s the site of the Alaska State Fair, an event that draws half a million people each year. Palmer holds several world records for its oversized vegetables and raises locally sold, supermarket produce.
In 1935, Palmer became the site of the Matanuska Colony where 202 Midwest farm families were sent to “settle” the Matanuska Valley and bring agriculture to Alaska. This history may be viewed in the Colony House Museum.
Wasilla and Palmer may be rural communities, but they have their share of amenities. Residents and visitors enjoy a variety of ethnicities in restaurants in addition to typical restaurant chains, a multi-plex movie theater, major retail stores, world-class golfing and unlimited options for other outdoor recreation. COPPER RIVER VALLEY Alaska’s Copper River Valley encompasses more than 20,000 square miles of breathtaking scenery. The region—also called the Copper Valley or Copper Basin—is bound by Prince William Sound to the south, the Alaska Range to the north, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to the east, and the Talkeetna and Chugach mountains to the west.
The impressive Wrangell-St. Elias mountains contain the greatest collection of peaks over 16,000 feet on the continent, topped by the 18,029-foot Mount St. Elias—second tallest peak in the U.S. The 300-mile-long Copper River—highly prized for its bountiful wild salmon runs—winds through this region. Other rivers in the area include the Gulkana and Klutina, which are highly regarded for their king and red salmon. These waters have some of the best salmon fishing in the world.
Fishing is wildly popular here but other favorite pastimes include boating, canoeing, snow machining (or snowmobiling, as its known down south), skiing, backpacking and camping. Explore the historic Kennecott Mine at small-town Kennicott or hike the Kennicott Glacier