Visiting Matanuska Glacier: Your two best options

Last Updated on April 10, 2024

Matanuska Glacier is the easiest glacier to get to in Alaska that you can actually walk on – no flight or long gravel road to get there! This makes it one of the most popular glaciers to visit in Alaska and while you can see it from the Glenn Highway, you’ll need to be on a guided tour to step onto this stunning glacier.

I’m a former Alaskan and a current Alaska guide and trip planner as well as the host of the Alaska Uncovered Podcast. I love helping people find the best itinerary and adventures for them on their trip to Alaska. In this article I’ll give you the best two options in my opinion for experiencing Matanuska Glacier. Both of the companies I recommend are small local Alaskan businesses with excellent guides.

blue ice of a glacier covered in snow at Matanuska Glacier
Blue ice covered in snow in March on Matanuska Glacier

Can you walk on Matanuska Glacier without a tour?


While you can see the Matanuska Glacier from the Glenn Highway, if you want to explore Matanuska Glacier on foot you need to be on a guided tour. There are several options, the two I recommend are described in detail below.

a blue and white glacier in a valley surrounded by forested mountains and trees on a cloudy day
The view of Matanuska Glacier from the Glenn Highway in July

The land around the glacier is private property and at the time of this writing the owner of the property only allows access by tour.

I do not recommend hiking on or around any glacier without a guide, but on Matanuska Glacier it’s not optional.

How hard is it to walk on a glacier?

When you go on a glacier tour with a guide, they will provide you with spikes or crampons to attach to your boots to walk safely on the ice. It will still be slower walking than on pavement, but you don’t want to move fast anyway since you’ll be taking so many photos.

A person looking into an ice cave at Matanuska Glacier
The metal spikes attached to my boots (provided by our guide) make it easy to explore the ice

Be prepared to walk for a couple of miles over uneven ice. In a typical two hour experience on the glacier, you will probably walk a mile or two depending on the conditions. You’ll be stopping constantly for photos so you’ll appreciate the slow pace.

Make sure to follow your guides directions about where you can and cannot walk. This is for your safety as glacier travel is something to take seriously and your guide will know how to keep you safe.

A tour group crossing the ice of Matanuska Glacier
A tour group on Matanuska Glacier in March

Restrooms are available before you start your hike out onto the glacier, but there are no restroom facilities on the glacier itself.

How do you get to Matanuska Glacier from Anchorage?

Matanuska Glacier is about 100 miles from Anchorage along the Glenn Highway which goes from Palmer to Glennallen.

No matter how you get to the Matanuska Glacier, it will be a full day adventure. If you are driving yourself, allow 2.5 hours to get there (not including stops or weather/construction delays).

A big block of blue ice with some snow around it

What is the best time of year to hike on Matanuska Glacier?

I personally love doing this in winter, especially late winter (February and March) when temperatures are generally a bit less frigid and there are more hours of daylight.

The tour companies I recommend below offer tours in both winter and summer. Sometimes there is a transition time in fall and spring when the Matanuska Glacier is not safe to access and tours may not be offered.

You can definitely count on being able to do this tour November through March (winter) and late May through September (summer).

Best Matanuska Glacier full service tour from Anchorage

If you are staying and Anchorage and don’t have a car, or if you want to let someone else do the driving (especially in winter on the winding Glenn Highway) and you want a small group experience, then Greatland Adventures is the way to go.

Greatland will pick you up at your downtown Anchorage hotel (or at their office if you’re staying further from town) and take you out for an amazing day where you don’t have to think about a thing while exploring Matanuska Glacier.

With a guide ratio of 6:1 and lunch and snacks included, you will have an amazing day on this tour whether you choose a summer or winter tour. Greatland also offers private tours.

Listen to Steve from Greatland Adventures share about this tour on the podcast:

Best DIY or self drive tour of Matanuska Glacier

If you’re driving yourself and don’t mind a bit more of a DIY experience with a larger group but a lower price point, I recommend Glacier Tours.

Glacier Tours is located at Matanuska Glacier and does NOT provide transportation. Especially in winter, give yourself plenty of time (at least 2.5 hours) to get there from Anchorage. The road from the Glenn Highway down to the gate is only a mile but it is very steep and winding and gravel, take it slow!

Glacier Tours have a guide ratio of 18:1 and do not provide food. Their excellent guides will still show you an amazing time and do a good job of not giving you plenty of attention, even in a slightly bigger group. This is still a small group size compared to many other types of tours in Alaska.

If you’re self sufficient for driving and eating and are working on a budget, this is a great option for you in summer or winter (extra caution on the access road in winter).

A person walking between two walls of blue ice
Me coming out of an ice cave on a guided hike at Matanuska Glacier. Photo credit: Jamie Volz

What do you need to wear to hike on a glacier?

Your guide will provide spikes or crampons for your shoes and any other specific gear. You need to make sure that you have boots or very sturdy shoes- hiking boots, rubber boots or winter snow boots. Without this, you won’t have anything to attach your spikes or crampons to.

You’ll also want sunglasses no matter what the weather, any time of year. You’ll also want rain gear or snow gear depending on the time of year and sunscreen unless it’s the dead of winter.

The rain gear provides a nice sliding surface for the ice slides (super fun!) and protects you from wind even on a sunny day. Matanuska Glacier is often quite windy and the weather can change rapidly so you will definitely want this.

A person in a red puffy and blue and yellow hat with a backpack looking at the blue ice of a glacier. Text reads: how to visit matanuska glacier in alaska
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!