Glenn Highway is bordered by the Chugach Mountain Range from beginning to end. Majestic rock formations rise in between the glaciers that are so prevalent in this area. When the day is clear, you can look to the north and catch a glimpse of Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in the United States.
Just past Palmer, the Chugach Mountains are joined by the Talkeetna Mountains. Fields of wild irises decorate the Palmer Hay Flats and follow the Knik River back to a glacier of the same name. Knik Glacier is located in the shadow of Mount Marcus Baker, one of the highest peaks in the Chugach Mountains.
You can see the Matanuska Glacier from the road. This huge mass of slow-melting ice displays the blue, gray, and white colors it has collected over the hundreds of years it has been retreating. When glaciers retreat, they leave streams and lakes behind: The Matanuska River is a collection of melted glacier water that runs among a bed of gray silt, creating a braided appearance. In summer, you can see where meltwater goes.
Glacial meltwater brings entire fields of wildflowers in the late spring and summer. Wetland areas such as the Palmer Hay Flats create views of marshy reeds and willows, where a tundra swan or a Canada goose may be swimming. All along the byway, sights of moose or Dall sheep are reminders that this land still belongs to nature.
The Glenn Highway takes you through several Alaskan towns (listed here from west to east).
Anchorage: The city of Anchorage began as a ramshackle community of rail workers living in tents. The community, settled in 1915, has grown and evolved into the largest city in Alaska, with 260,000 people. For a look at Alaskan culture, explore the Anchorage Museum of History and Art or the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Eagle River: This community, within the municipality of Anchorage, is nestled in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains and provides access to the Old Glenn Highway.
Eklutna: The Athabascan village of Eklutna has a museum, a Russian Orthodox church, and a cemetery with "spirit houses."
Palmer: Palmer is the seat of government for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the home of the Alaska State Fair, the center of colonial Alaskan history, and the heart of Alaska's breadbasket.
Chickaloon: This native community is nestled above the confluence of Moose Creek and the Matanuska River in the Talkeetna Mountains. It is the home of Alaska's first native-maintained school and Katie's Wall, built 60 years ago by Katie Wade to stop the cut slope from eroding. Many of the perennial shrubs she planted are still alive today.
Sutton: This quaint residential community is located in the Talkeetna Mountains. The Alpine Heritage and Cultural Center provides a look into Sutton's past.
Glacier View Community: The Glacier View Community provides several views of the Matanuska Glacier. Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area lets you walk up next to -- or even onto -- the glacier.
If you're looking to get a taste of the native cultures of Alaska -- and stumble across some amazing sights along the way -- the Glenn Highway is the scenic drive for you.
Find more useful information related to Alaska's Glenn Highway:
- Alaska Scenic Drives: Glenn Highway is just one of the scenic byways in Alaska. Check out the others.
- Anchorage, Eagle River, Wasilla: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Glenn Highway.
- Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Alaska? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
- How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.