The Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Alaska, also known as the Mat-Su, covers over 23,000 square miles of Alaskan wilderness and is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to on the continent. Home to scenery such as mountains, glaciers, various wildlife, and tons of fun activities, road tripping to the Mat-Su is a must for adventurers, photographers, and nature-lovers alike.
With so much open space, it can be overwhelming to plan an itinerary on your own. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with this 7-day road trip itinerary and we can personally vouch for all of the hotels and activities listed here!
7-Day Road Trip Itinerary to Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley
Day 1: Fly Into Anchorage / Drive to Knik River
On the first day of your Alaskan road trip, arrive in Anchorage, pick up a rental car, and head out around Chugach State Park to Knik River. About an hour’s drive, Knik River is a secluded valley in Mat-Su and is home to some picturesque sites.
For accommodations tonight, I recommend staying at Knik River Lodge — a place offering cute cabins with all the amenities.
Day 2: Experience the Knik River Area
In Knik River, take advantage of the scenery and go on some adventures. Activity options here include going Flightseeing with Knik River Glacier Tour (where you’ll fly from your hotel and then land on Knik Glacier), wildlife viewing (this place has moose around every corner), taking a tour with Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tour (such as the ATV tour they offer), and going out on one of the many scenic hiking trails in the area.
Day 3: Drive Through Hatcher Pass
Located in the southwest Talkeetna Mountains, Hatcher Pass and the views you’ll get while driving through it are unbelievable. Hatcher Pass Road (also known as Fishhook Road) runs for roughly 60 miles between the towns of Palmer and Willow; winding its way through the mountains while giving you a substantial dose of Alaskan paradise.
Note that while the Palmer-Fishhook road is paved, only the road to Independence Bowl is open in the wintertime, and four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. When the snow melts, the road opens over Hatcher Pass, and vehicles can travel all the way to Willow. However, even with the snow melted, 22 miles of this road is gravel and can be quite treacherous at times.
For accommodations tonight, I recommend staying at Alaska Knotty Pine B&B in Palmer.
Day 4: Tour the Matanuska Glacier
Visible from the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway, the Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in Alaska that can be reached by a vehicle. Located between the towns of Palmer and Glennallen, you can access the glacier by entering the privately owned Matanuska Glacier Park where you’ll pay a small entrance fee.
Unless you know your way around a glacier, I highly recommend taking a tour, as the environment can be dangerous and only an experienced guide will know where to find the best views. When I visited the Matanuska Glacier, I took a tour with MICA Guides and they were awesome.
If touring a glacier isn’t your thing, another option in the area includes continuing along Hatcher Pass.
For accommodation tonight, stay at either the Sheep Mountain Lodge or Majestic Valley Wilderness Lodge.
Day 5: Drive to Talkeetna
Roughly a three-hour drive from either lodge listed above, the road to Talkeetna will take you along the Matanuska River, past Palmer and Willow, and then up parallel to the Susitna River. The views along this drive are unreal so you might want to take your time!
For accommodation tonight, stay at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.
Day 6: Experience Talkeetna
A cute little town at the base of the largest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley (Denali), Talkeetna is home to awesome panoramic views and plenty of adventurous activities.
I recommend taking a Flightseeing Tour with K2 Aviation (includes a glacier landing on Denali), taking a hike through the surrounding nature, or take a river tour with Mahay’s Jet Boat Adventures.
Day 7: Depart From Anchorage Airport
Given that the drive from Talkeetna will take you a little over two hours, I recommend booking either an afternoon or evening departure from Anchorage Airport. Giving yourself a little wiggle room for time, especially in Alaska, is so worth it!