Surrounded by Alaska’s rich history and lore, Palmer is a quiet town, with a population of 7,300. It was originally settled by the Dena’ina and Ahtna Athabaskans who lived in the area for thousands of years. They practiced a subsistence lifestyle and traded with other local native groups.

The first white settlers were homesteaders who carved a permanent community out of the Alaska wilderness. Construction of the road system and the Alaska Railroad fueled population growth and Palmer is now a bedroom community for Anchorage. Whether you want to golf, fish, hike the many trails in the area or eat a fantastic meal, Palmer is the place for you. The pedestrian-friendly downtown is filled with small shops offering books, gifts, arts and crafts from the area’s artisans. From just about any point in Palmer you are ringed by majestic mountain peaks.

Palmer is located in the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley and is known for it’s rich farmland that grows world record sized vegetables. These can been seen every year at the Alaska State Fair, which hosts music stars and many family friendly events. Held annually in Palmer during the last week of August.

Palmer Museum & Visitor Center in the rustic log cabin downtown. Open daily in the summer. Items from Palmer’s pioneer days are displayed in the museum. 723 South Valley Way. 907-745-8878

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Best Places to Stay in Palmer, AK

Valley Hotel

The Valley Hotel is owned and operated by old-time Alaskans. Cozy rooms with cable TV. Cafe, lounge, and liquor store at the hotel.

Colony Inn

Stay at the restored Matanuska Colony Teacher’s Dormitory. Originally built in 1935, the 12 rooms have private baths, TV, and views of the surrounding mountains.

Alaska Backcountry Cottages

Alaska Backcountry Cottages are near Palmer, at the foot of the Chugach Mountains. They offer guests amazing views and the opportunity to explore real Alaska. Your hosts are long-time Alaskans who love helping guests create the vacation of a lifetime. 

Camping in Palmer Alaska

Big Bear RV Park

Big Bear RV Park is family owned and operated. This clean and friendly campground is centrally located in the heart of the Mat-Su Valley just a few miles from both the cities of Palmer and Wasilla. The park has a total of 47 RV sites, 6 cabins, and 6 tent sites. Showers, WiFi, potable water, and a dump station are included with those staying. 

Finger Lake State Recreation Site

Finger Lake State Recreation Site is six miles from Palmer at Mile 1.5 Bogard Road in Wasilla. 36 campsites, 10 picnic sites, water, toilets, and a boat launch.

Matanuska River Park

Matanuska River Park at mile 17 Old Glenn Highway. 86 spaces for tents or RV’s, flush toilets, showers, dump stations, picnic tables, grills, and park pavilions. River access, observation deck, fishing, athletic fields, and parking area.


Best Things to Do in Palmer Alaska

Musk Ox Farm

Musk Ox Farm For nearly 60 years this nonprofit has been practicing gentle, low-stress animal husbandry in raising musk oxen for their incredible underwool – Qiviut. Qiviut is 8 times warmer than wool and softer than cashmere. Brand-new educational center and daily tours. Pull-through parking for all size RV’s. Open year-round. 12850 E. Archie Rd. (mile 50.1 Glenn Hwy). 


Palmer Museum & Visitor Center

The Palmer Museum & Visitor Center is located in the rustic log cabin downtown. We are open year-round for visitors. We have displays depicting Palmer’s history in the museum with an adjacent showcase garden. Additionally, we offer self-guided audio tours around Palmer’s historic district. We also guided “walk and talk” tours every day at 1p from June 1st to August 31st. Rates are $7 per person for audio and $10 per person for guided. Our address is 723 S Valley Way, and our phone number is 907-746-7668.

Alaska State Fair

Palmer Fairgrounds in the last week of August. The state’s largest fair with craft booths, live entertainment and home of record-setting giant vegetables and beautiful flower gardens.  Events like trade shows, horse shows, concerts, children’s activities, and a kid zone. Fun for all.

You will find numerous State campgrounds and more than 50 resorts scattered throughout the region. A large network of paved highways and country roads provide access to fishing, hunting, boating, water skiing, sailing and resort vacationing for which the area is renowned.

Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass is 18-miles north of Palmer, in the high mountain summits. Cabins left from the Gold Rush still rest on the summit of the highest peaks to the lowest areas of the valley. Summer activities include hiking, biking, camping & wildlife viewing.

You can reach Hatcher Pass on the Palmer Fishhook Road, at Mile 49 of the Glenn Highway. The road is paved from Palmer to Hatcher Pass and accesses the very interesting Independence Mine State Historical Park.

Independence Mine State Historical Park

Independence Mine State Historical Park at Hatcher Pass is protected by the Alaska State Parks and offers a preserved experience of what life was like back in the Gold Rush. Inside this historic mine you’ll see displays about mining, natural history, and the Independence Mine story. A guided tour will take you inside some of the mining camps’ historic buildings. Open daily from June 16th through Labor Day from 11 am to 6 pm.

Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours

Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours offers summer ATV tours and winter snowmobile tours for every type of enthusiast. Day trips and multi-day safaris into the Alaska backcountry. 

Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area

At Mile 101 on the Glenn Highway, you’ll find the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site. The recreation site has 12 campsites on a gravel loop road, a water pump, toilets, fire pits, and picnic tables. A Nature Trail leads 20 minutes through the forest to glacier viewing platforms. Summer activities include hiking, glacier trekking, and river rafting. Winter activities include skiing, snowshoeing, and snow machining. Although no access is provided to the glacier from the recreation site, it provides some of the safest and best public viewing opportunities within the area.

Matanuska Glacier

The Matanuska Glacier is Alaska’s largest glacier accessible by car. The glacier is reached at Mile 102 on the Glenn Highway, a one-hour drive from Palmer. There is a Glacier access fee of $25, which allows you to take a self-guided hike or you can hire a local guide that will share their knowledge of the area and provide glacier trekking equipment including crampons, helmets and poles.


Hiking in Palmer Alaska

Eska Creek Falls Trail

The Eska Creek Falls Trail is moderately difficult as the trail climbs 1300 feet in 2.5 miles. At the 1600-foot elevation, the trail crosses into the alpine tundra. Great views of the Matanuska River valley. 

West Bodenburg Butte Trail

This is a great hike that is moderately difficult. Great views of the Matanuska Valley, Knik Glacier, Pioneer Peak, and The Talkeetna mountains. 


Palmer Alaska Map

The map of Palmer shows the downtown core where you will find the Palmer Museum and Visitor Center. On the southern edge of the map is the Alaska State Fairgrounds.

Map of Palmer
Map of Palmer


Palmer Alaska FAQs

What is Palmer, Alaska, known for?

Palmer is most known for its creation as a farming colony during US President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1935. Palmer has a fertile valley and is the only Alaskan community to develop an agricultural lifestyle. Palmer is also home to the Alaska State Fair, known for its 100-pound-plus cabbages and other enormous vegetables. Its unique microclimate of long summer days and access to suitable soil and water allows it to grow gigantic vegetables.

As a planned community, it has a very walkable downtown filled with small local shops and restaurants. It is known for being quaint and safe.

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