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Your guide to Palmer
All About Palmer
The city of Palmer, situated northeast of Anchorage on the north shore of Alaska’s Matanuska River, is a year-round outdoor playground for nature enthusiasts and adventurers. The agrarian history in this area is still visible in its strong farming community. In the country, hayfields extend to awe-inspiring peaks, and some of the original family farms that started during the Great Depression still sell fresh produce along the roadside today. Every Friday in summer, locals ring in the weekend with a lively community event between the train depot and public library. Local bands, food trucks, and market stalls with a homemade vibe are all part of the fun. While you’re there, you can try the peanut brittle and pick up some local artwork.
The dramatic backdrop to the town, the Chugach Mountains, is a gateway luring you to explore the Lazy Mountain Trail — a challenging climb past spruce and birch trees to reach the 3,500-foot summit and drink in vistas of the Knik River Estuary. Wildlife lovers hiking the trails that snake through the mountain range can expect to spot reindeer, moose, foxes, and otters. And anglers head to the area for river fishing, lake fishing, and ice fishing. In town, many of Palmer’s original 1930s buildings are well preserved. After an active day, you can head to one of the cozy traditional bars serving locally brewed beer or settle in at a restaurant for freshly caught seafood.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Palmer
Unsurprisingly, winters in Palmer are long and snowy, and January is the coldest month of the year. If you’re engaging in ice fishing or outdoor activities, pack waterproof outerwear suitable for extreme cold. The summer heat is mild here, but comfortable, and at its peak, the midnight sun shines 20 hours per day. (Make sure you’re never caught outside at dusk without your limbs covered and mosquito repellent on hand.) For the lowest chance of rain, you may want to travel in April. August tends to be the wettest month, followed by a very short autumn in October before the snows descend again.
Consider visiting Palmer in mid-June, when Colony Days events are a carnival of the agricultural community, with traditional crafts, competitions, and games. During the last week and a half in August, the big state fair draws local crowds of nearly 300,000 for the celebrations. It’s a great time to see Palmer come to life with fairground rides, largest vegetable competitions, and food. For a festive time in winter, book your Palmer vacation rentals for early December, when the Colony Christmas Fairs offer local crafts and delicious creations.
Top things to do in Palmer
Matanuska Peak Trail
You’ll climb more than 5,500 vertical feet on this boulder-hopping route to craggy Matanuska Peak, just a 10-minute drive east, which offers protection from the wind on cold days and welcome shade in the summer. You can wind things up at the picnic table along McRoberts Creek, just over halfway, or take the rocky path to the summit and soak up the mountainous panorama, from snow-capped peaks to rocky outcrops.
Under an hour southeast of town, you can take a boat to the head of the Knik River, where nearly 30 miles of icy plain are dotted with weather-worn crevices and crystal-clear turquoise melt pools. The south-facing portion of the glacier is where you’re most likely to spot wolves and Dall sheep. You can even take a helicopter tour to see this incredible sight from a new perspective. Sunglasses and sunscreen are vital here, as the strong sun reflects off the pearl-white surface.
Just 22 miles north of Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a popular recreational area with panoramic views of the Talkeetna Mountains. In summer, you can pick blueberries as you hike your chosen trail. Popular pursuits in the winter include cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. There are groomed roads and trails around the Independence Mine State Historical Park and its abandoned gold mine, and guided visits can help you learn the story of the Alaskan Gold Rush.