Alaska is a dream destination for many people. They come to see the amazing wildlife, the magnificent mountains, and fish for giants. While cruises and vacation packages are great for many, I like to provide some insight to some of the lesser known, but just as amazing places the state has to offer, that you won't see on a cruise.
One of these places is the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (or Mat-Su for short). This area is just a couple hours away from Anchorage and offers the tourist every possible Alaska dream experience.
Salmon fishing in Alaska is among the best in the world. Popular destinations for salmon fishers include the Kenai River, Whittier, Seward, among others. For those interested in chasing down a King salmon and don't want to pay an arm and a leg for a charter, the Mat-Su offers a quieter, but just as likely to yield a monster, fishing experience. Montana Creek is among the best, but you can get a hold of a king in almost any of the rivers that lace through the Mat-Su Valley.
You can fish for other varieties of salmon as well. The Mat-Su river system offers anglers opportunities for Coho Salmon, Pink Salmon, Steelhead Trout, Rainbow Trout, and more.
You will drive through the Mat-Su valley on your way to visit Denali. All along the drive you have the potential to see moose or bear. Scan the rocky mountain faces for white dots, and if you see any, you'll be looking at mountain goats. To increase your chances of seeing the amazing creatures that call Alaska home, check out some of the hundreds of hiking trails.
With such an abundance of wildlife, the Mat-Su Valley is a great destination for big game hunters.
I've already mentioned hiking (there's over 2,00 miles worth of trails) and hunting, but that's not all the Mat-Su region has to offer.
- The Susitna Rivers (Big Su and Little Su) offer whitewater rafting.
- The Chugach, Talkeetna, and Alaskan Mountains offer incredible mountain climbing opportunities
- There are some great paths for mountain biking
- Take a ride in a bush plane for some incredible views of the Matanuska glacier and Denali
- Forage for some of Alaska's edible vegetation like rosehips, mushrooms, and berries.
- There are ample camping opportunities, from cabin campers to back country tent camping.
- Some of the best canoeing in the entire state of Alaska can be found here.
- Pan for gold outside of Wasilla.
- Wasilla is also the home of the official starting point for the Iditarod Dog Sled race. You can ride on a dog sled any time of year.
Alaska State Fair
The Alaska State Fair in Palmer, AK, has everybody's favorite fair items: fried foods, fun rides, exhibits, and more. The can't miss item here is the record breaking produce on display. Take your caribou on a stick to this section and you'll begin to feel like your in the movie Honey I Shrunk The Kids. We're talking zucchini the size of baseball bats, cabbages as big as small cars, and melons and pumpkins that need trucks to haul them. They all grow so big thanks to some quality fertilizer from farmers and the non-stop sunlight of the Alaskan Summers.
Matanuska Glacier - This is the largest glacier in Alaska that you can drive to. It's a must stop for anyone visiting the Valley.
Mount Susitna - also known as the sleeping lady, is an easily identifiable mountain of the Alaska mountain range, visible from Anchorage.
Hatcher Pass - this scenic, former prospecting site offers ample opportuniy for hiking and berry picking in warm weather, and skiing and sledding in the winter.
And of course...Palin
Tour guides offer visitors drive-bys of her house, school, and government offices. She has restaurant food items with her name, and you can snap a photo with her image at the Wasilla chamber of commerce.
image courtesy of the Asssociated Press