Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


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"Matanuska Glacier heads in the Chugach Mountains and trends northwest 27 miles.   
Some 18,000 years ago the glacier reached all the way to the Palmer area.
The glacier's average width is two miles; at its terminus it is four miles 
wide. The glacier has remained fairly stable the past 400 years."
~ The Milepost, 2015 edition, p. 337
Alaska has a variety of types of glaciers, some of which I've shown in the 2012 and 2015 journals -- tidewater glaciers such as Aialik Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park south of Seward, hanging glaciers like the ones along the Trail of Blue Ice in Portage Valley, cirque glaciers in bowls high on mountainsides, huge areas of ice like the Harding Ice Field, and several other types.

Two cirque glaciers above Matanuska Glacier, which is hidden in the valley in this view

The Matanuska Glacier is a great example of valley glaciers, which often extend for many miles in mountainous regions of the state.

Because so many miles of Matanuska Glacier parallel the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway, travelers can see different aspects of the glacier from several waysides along the road:


There are also excellent views of Matanuska Glacier from the state recreation site named for it at MP 101 on the Glenn Hwy.

Although there is no direct access to the glacier from the 300-acre recreation site, viewing decks along the Edge Nature Trail offer good views of the terminus of the glacier and the Matanuska River.

The only direct access to the glacier is at Glacier Park, a private operation located at MP 102 on the Glenn Highway. For a fee visitors can drive close to the glacier and either walk over to it on their own or hire a local guide company for a hike on the ice.

I took these pictures from the road of people (above the arrows) walking near the terminus on Friday:



When you look at the wide-angle pictures of the glacier, and then the close-ups, the tiny people show the large scale of the ice formations.

We've seen the glacier several times from the road and from the trail in the state recreation site. I'll include additional photos from those vantage points in this entry.

We've never gone down to hike on the glacier itself but that would certainly be a "cool" thing to do if you have the time and $$$. We've seen enough glaciers close up that we didn't think it was worth the cost for us to get right next to this one.


At the beginning of the July 10 entry I showed several pictures of the glacier that I took in the morning when we were driving eastbound to Grand View RV Park, as well as photos of another part of the glacier from the bluff behind the campground.

Later that afternoon, while Jim was preparing for the Fireweed 400 bike race, I drove nine miles down the highway to the state recreation site, taking more photos from overlooks on the way there and back, including all but one of the pictures above.

Here are some more photos I took of the glacier and nearby scenes along the road that day:

Lion's Head

The thin blue-white line is Matanuska Glacier

The glacier curves out of the mountains into the valley paralleling the Glenn Hwy.

Part of the 4-mile wide terminus of the glacier

Another view of the terminus -- and rain approaching

Another view of the glacial curve, framed by gray clouds

I could see rain heading toward me the whole time I was out there but somehow dodged it.


One reason we spent three nights at the Grand View RV Park was to have the opportunity to see Matanuska Glacier more closely than we did in 2012. (Another was to give Jim a day's rest after his 100-mile Fireweed bike race before we head to Denali National Park.)

Although we didn't get down to the glacier at Glacier Park, its only access point, we did enjoy the views from the Matanuska Glacier State Recreational Site from the viewing area at the parking area and from the platforms on the Edge interpretive nature trail.

Shelter with view of Matanuska Glacier and river at the rec. area

Beginning of the nature trail

The wide, smooth gravel trail begins up a small hill and comes to an intersection in about a quarter mile. I went straight, going clockwise around the loop.

The first part of the trail stays high and winds through pretty pine and aspen forest:


At the far end of the loop the trail descends and then parallels about 100 feet above the Matanuska River.

There are several interpretive signs along the trail and a couple decks on the river side with views upstream toward the glacier. The better your binoculars or zoom camera lens, the better you'll be able to see the terminus of the glacier:



There are good views of the cement-colored river (the color is the result of glacial silt) both upstream and downstream:


On the hill near the end/beginning of the trail is a sign about the rock glacier you can see across the highway  It's yet another type of glacier in Alaska.

The "glacier in disguise" is basically an icy glacier that has been covered partly or mostly in rocks. If the sign wasn't there you probably wouldn't even notice the formation. I marked it with an arrow in the second photo below:


I enjoyed the one-mile loop trail so much on Friday that I talked Jim into hiking it with me this morning (Sunday). It was a good way for him to stretch out after his long bike ride yesterday and there were hardly any other people around.

Since dogs are allowed on the trail, we took Cody and Casey with us:


These mountains are real cloud magnets!

We saw these three rafts floating down the river this morning.

If you're traveling along the Glenn Highway in this area, at minimum take some time to view the Matanuska Glacier from one or more of the large waysides. If you have more time, the one-mile nature trail at the state recreation area is a good option.

We mostly relaxed today at Grand View RV Park and talked with some of our neighbors and other people who stopped to eat at the restaurant, which is close to our site. It was busy all day, probably because there are very few places to eat between Glennallen and Palmer.

We talked with two young male cyclists from Great Britain who stopped for an hour to eat and rest. They have just begun a two-month cycling trek -- sans crew -- from Anchorage to Mexico. Cool!

We're excited about our plans, too. We're heading to Denali National Park tomorrow, our favorite place in Alaska. We hope to have some great photos and stories to share with you here.

Next entrythe drive from Grand View to Denali NP, with an overnight stop in Cantwell

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil