Palmer, AK is a city which can be found in the Matanuska Valley. It is located approximately 42 miles east of Anchorage. It is a popular destination with people visiting Alaska because it is easy to get to by road. Here are the top 20 things to do when you visit Palmer.
20. Bleeding Heart Brewery
This is one of Alaska’s smallest breweries in terms of production. It is located in the center of Palmer, with the iconic water tower as the back drop. The location of the brewery gives it a really unique feel, and the same can be said for the beer that is brewed here. The beers that they produce are sold in Palmer and also further afield in Alaska. Guided tours of the brewery are available and there is also the opportunity to visit the tap room and sample the beers that are on offer. There is also a small kitchen that serves snacks to accompany the drinks.
19. Fishing Tours
Fishing is a very popular pastime in Palmer, and there are many companies that offer fishing tours. Fishing can take place in a river or lake, and ice fishing is also available in certain months of the year. The different tours that are on offer vary in length and some of them may involve visiting several locations in one trip. Taking part in a fishing tour can be a relaxing way to spend some time and also gives you the opportunity to see some of the beautiful scenery that Alaska has to offer.
18. Musk Ox Farm
The Musk Ox Farm is home to a herd of over 80 oxen. Musk Ox were once an endangered species in Alaska, a place they have called home since the Ice Age. The Musk Ox Farm was established with the aim of ensuring that the species survive and that they are well cared for. Guided tours are available which explain in detail how the farm is run. The herd produce qiviut yarn which is used to produce one of the finest wools in the world. Items made from the wool are available in the gift shop.
17. Palmer Visitor Information Center
The visitor information center has plenty of maps and leaflets with details of attractions in the area that you may want to visit. There is also a museum on the site. It is a good idea to check the site before you visit as it will have details of all upcoming events. The museum and visitor center is located in the same building in downtown Palmer. The history of the town is explored through exhibits, local artwork and guided tours of all the points of interest.
16. Arkose Brewery
The tour of Arkose Brewery lasts around thirty minutes and you will be given samples of some of the beers that are brewed here. The brewery was founded in 2012 by husband and wife team Stephen and June Gerteisen. Arkose was the first craft brewery to be established in Palmer and has more than 16 beers on tap at any one time. You can also buy some bottles to take home with you. Community events are also held at the brewery from time to time and so there may also be other things going on when you visit.
15. Pioneer Falls
Pioneer Falls is not far from Palmer and is a great place to go for a hike. Waterfall Records point out that you do not have to hike very far to get a good close up view of the Falls. The falls are in quite a secluded location away from the main road, and this means that there are not always a lot of other people around. This combined with the surroundings of the falls mean it can be a really relaxing day out.
14. Reflections Lake
As the name suggests this lake is a great place to sit and reflect on things. Many people choose to come here with a picnic so they can really appreciate the beauty of the area while they eat. The walking trail around the lake is perfect if you are looking for a gentle stroll rather than a hike. The information boards around the lake are really useful for identifying the wildlife you come across. There is also an observation tower which is a great place to get a view of the whole lake and surrounding area.
13. Matanuska Brewing
The Matanuska Brewing Company has their brewery on the site of what used to be the Matanuska Maid Dairy Facility. The company was founded in 2017 by Kevin Burton and Matt Tomter. Kevin spent 20 years working at the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage before making the transition into running his own business, so he knows the industry inside out. The brewery has a tasting room that you can visit and sample some of their latest beers. They also serve food from an open kitchen where you can watch your food being prepared before it is presented to you.
12. Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours
Full-day and half-day tours are available from Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours, so you can fit an excursion around your other plans. According to Alaska Visit, these tours give you the chance to see scenery and wildlife that you won't see elsewhere. Tours take place in ATVs or snowmobiles in the winter. They are led by local people who have excellent knowledge of the area and are proud to call it home. The tours are a great way to see the parts of Palmer that are a little off the beaten path.
11. Government Peak Recreation Area
There are many different activities that are available in the recreation area. You can hike or ride a bike along the trails, and even ski down the side of the mountain in the winter months. There is also a hill that is very popular for sledding when it has been snowing. It is easy to navigate around the area as all of the trails are well signposted. The whole area has scenery which can take your breath away and it is easy to spend a whole day exploring here.
10. Crevasse Moraine Trail System
The trails at the Crevasse Moraine Trail System can be enjoyed in both summer and winter as it is open all year round. The whole trail takes about four and a half hours to walk around at a moderate pace. The trails are also suitable for horse riding and mountain biking. There are uphill sections, but none of them have a really steep incline. On the way round the trail you will see plenty of wildlife such as eagles and moose.
9. Knik Glacier Tours
If you are visiting Palmer between May and September, then a Knik Glacier Tour can be a great day out. The website has full details of the day. The tour begins with a ride in a 4x4 that takes you to the glacier itself. This journey is not just a means to get to the glacier, it also provides an opportunity to see wildlife which is native to Alaska. Once you have arrived, you will enjoy the rest of the tour by boat which gives you the opportunity to get really closer to the glacier.
8. Colony House Museum
The external appearance of the Colony House Museum looks as the house would have looked in the 1930s and 40s, and this continues with the way the house is decorated internally. The items that are on display in the house give a real insight into the history of Palmer and the people who lived there. The staff are also very knowledgeable and more than happy to answer any questions that you may have. There is the opportunity to hear the testimonies of people who would have experienced colonial life as it was during this time period so the house provides a real trip back in time.
7. Sunderland Ranch
You can have horse riding lessons at the Sunderland Ranch, or you can just pay a visit to see how the ranch is operated. The experience is suitable for visitors of all ages. The staff at the ranch care deeply about the well-being of the horses, and this is evident from the way they interact with them. The trails that you can follow on while riding a horse are suitable for riders of all experience levels. If you are a competent rider, then you will have the chance to explore the areas just outside of the ranch on horseback.
6. Palmer Helicopter Tours
A helicopter tour is a great way to see more of Palmer than you would from the ground. It is also one of the best ways to appreciate the size and beauty of the Knik Glacier. The helicopter actually lands on the glacier, and you will be given around thirty minutes to disembark and explore the icy wilderness. The tour lasts for around seventy five minutes in total, including the time at the glacier, so there are also plenty of sights to enjoy from the air.
5. Bodenburg Butte Hiking Trail
There are points around this trail where you get a 360 degree view of the Matanuska Valley. It is one of the easiest trails in Palmer to walk along as it is just over a mile in length and the highest point is 874 feet. Alaska.org confirm that there are some steep steps on the north face of the Butte. However, these can be taken at your own pace. When you reach the top you will be able to see as far as the Chugach Mountains and the Knik Glacier.
4. Lazy Mountain
You can easily spend a whole day exploring Lazy Mountain. The trail to the top takes a few hours to complete but it can be longer if you want to take things slow, or stop to enjoy the scenery. There is parking at the start of the trail and it is recommended that you take plenty of water and snacks with you on the hike. Some people choose to take a picnic so they can have an opportunity to rest and make the most of the views.
3. National Tsunami Warning Center
The tours around the National Tsunami Warning Center are given by the scientists who actually work there. This means you get a really detailed overview of everything that happens at the center. Tour groups tend to be small, so there will be plenty of opportunity to ask any questions, and the tour guides are all really friendly. The tour gives you a really unique insight into the work that the scientists do here, and the scale of work that is involved in monitoring the whole world for signs of seismic activity.
2. Independence Mine State Historical Park
The Independence Mine is in the center of what was once one of the largest gold mining communities in Alaska. The park is located at the top of the Hatcher Pass, which gives some great views of the valley below. There is a visitor center which is located in the old Mine Manager's house. Here there are interactive displays that teach about the different types of mining that took place here. There are guided tours available or you can explore the mine and surrounding area at your own pace. Crazy Tourist recommends the self guided tour as the best way to explore the park.
1. Reindeer Farm
The Reindeer Farm is a great family day out, but it is just as popular with adults as it is with children. The farm first opened in 1987 and currently has a herd of around 100 reindeer. They also have Rocky Mountain Elk, a Yak, a Bison and a Moose. Visitors receive a guided tour of the farm and this includes the chance to meet the animals. Details of upcoming events can be found on their website and social media pages. It is recommended that you book your visit in advance to avoid disappointment.
Written by Liz Flynn
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