Written by: Jenny
One of Alaska’s best kept secrets is the opportunity to camp at Matanuska Glacier. If asked to name my top 5 campsites in the world, Matanuska would be on that list. Along with Brooks Camp, Katmai, of course. This recent Parade magazine article about awe
perfectly sums up my feelings on the power of nature to transform, recharge, and inspire us.
Our favorite campsite at Matanuska Glacier is perched on top of a moraine, the glacier’s face and the reflective melt lake at our feet. The unbelievable vista spreads out before us like a gift.
This glacier, the largest of Alaska’s glaciers accessible by car, is some 26 miles long and about 4 miles wide at the terminus where we camp. It flows at the rate of about a foot a day, like a vast and solid river through the valley. Our camp is perfectly situated to take in spectacular sunsets above its pristine sparkle. The descending light seems to last forever because of the languid dip of Alaska’s midnight sun.
The owners of the campground run the concessions at the glacier, and there is a fee to camp, plus a fee to access the glacier. There are guided tours, or visitors are free to walk out on the glacier unguided if they prefer. Weekends can be busy with climbing groups and tours, but week days are relatively quiet.
We carry some lightweight crampons that we strap on, and then venture out for hours at a time, exploring. The ice patterns, sculpted ice forms, deep blue crevasses, lakes and mirror image reflections are mesmerizing. Even the muddy walk out to the glacier is fascinating with patterns I call “mud blooms” decorating the glacial silt.
The light is constantly changing, from overcast to brilliant blue skies and sunshine, morning light to alpine glow. The same scene never looks the same twice. Add in the expanses of magenta wildflowers and the golden glow of grass seeds and this is a place to take your breath away. Truly awe-some.
And as awesome as the day is, my favorite time is 9 pm, when the glacier closes and everyone goes home. Except for us campers, that is. Amazingly, for 2 of the 3 nights we camped here we were the only people who stayed overnight. On the third night a campsite about 1/8 mile away was occupied, but otherwise we have all this beauty and solitude to ourselves. Sheer bliss.
The camping is basic: no running water and outhouses for toilets. We have to take everything in with us, but it’s no price to pay for all of this. I’d recommend you visit as soon as you can, but that would mean I’d have to share. ;)
Happy (glacial) trails, Jenny