Matanuska Glacier in Alaska is the largest glacier in United States accessible by car. One can walk on this glacier without having to air-land on it or even do strenuous hikes up the mountains. This glacier lies about 100 miles northeast of Anchorage, is 27 miles long, 4 miles wide and its terminus can be seen from a viewpoint on Glenn Highway. Just past the viewpoint it is accessible with a fee, which is not much for the unbelievable experience.
First view of the glacier was from the Matanuska State Recreation Area on Glenn highway. Couple of miles further we took exit 102 and drove down the valley to Glacier Park. We payed for entrance at the store and drove past the gate on a rugged road to the trail head. The trail was a 1/4 mile dry and wet uneven surface marked with orange cones. Beyond that, one could venture as far as you dare. So we followed other people, wearing just regular sneakers and no special equipment.
Note: A guided tour is highly recommended to safely hike this glacier because the guides know where exactly to go and where not to. While its thrilling and adventurous to do it on your own, it is highly risky and unsafe. The ice may look solid and steady under your feet but it can be unstable, break and pull you down.
The rugged trail soon became a surface of slushy ice mixed with gravel and dirt crunching under our shoes. Little streams of fresh water flowed on the surface making it muddy and sloshy in some areas. It was a pleasant summer day, but as you would expect it felt colder as we advanced towards the glacier. As we advanced, we climbed up and down hard ice trying not to bend an ankle or slide on slippery ice in the process.
All that blue ice enormous and breath taking, the mountains around multiple times gigantic and beautiful, made for a jaw dropping landscape. We saw crystal blue ice through crevasses and water from melting ice gush out of the cracks. We tried not to wander off to the edge of broken ice or too far out of sight from other people.
It seemed like we hiked for an hour when we reached a little glacial pool. We were surrounded by blue ice and we couldn't see the trail behind us anymore. We spent some time breathing in the surrounding landscape. We were completely in bliss. People on guided tours with proper equipment were hiking on the other side of the pool, we couldn't help but feel jealous of them for venturing in deeper.
Anyways, after a while of resting we headed back. Hiking back was harder as it was difficult to trace back our steps.
If you cannot quite comprehend how massive the glacier is, look at the left corner in the picture below. In the red circle are 2 adults climbing their way up the glacier (click to zoom). Insane!!
Where to Stay: We stayed in Springhill suites in Anchorage during our first trip and Alaska garden gate in Palmer during second. Other best rated hotels in those areas: Hotels in Anchorage and Hotels in Palmer.
Getting there: Drive northeast from Anchorage on Glenn highway AK-1 for a 100 miles to glacier viewpoint. Take exit 102 and drive to the store at Glacier Park where you pay to drive further and access the glacier.
Fee: $25 per person for unguided tour and $100 per person for guided tour.
What to Bring: Dress in warm layers, sunglasses, water, sturdy shoes, crampons, and a camera.
Time to Spend: 2-3hrs.