The Parks Highway heads north from Anchorage to Denali and Fairbanks, but before you’re even close to either of these, the road takes you through the heart of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, named for the two rivers that drain this part of Alaska. Originally established as an agricultural center, the Mat-Su is now primarily a bedroom community for Anchorage, with reasonably priced homes and fast-spreading semiurban sprawl.
Two towns dominate the valley: The old farming settlement of Palmer is along the Glenn Highway 42 miles from Anchorage, while Wasilla rears its ugly face 40 miles north of Anchorage along the Parks Highway.
The Matanuska-Susitna Convention and Visitors Bureau (907/746-5000, www.alaskavisit.com, daily 8:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. mid-May–mid-Sept., closed mid-Sept.–mid-May) has a large visitors center just north of the junction of the Parks and Glenn Highways, and six miles south of Wasilla.
Take the Trunk Road Exit and follow the CVB signs. Inside you’ll find a plethora of brochures and stuffed critter heads lining the walls, Sarah Palin books (of course), plus free Wi-Fi and fishing info. When closed, check the lodging availability postings outside.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition