15 Best Things to Do in Palmer, AK

15 Best Things to Do in Palmer, AK

Welcome to the heart of Alaska, Palmer.

Living here, I've come to appreciate this charming city and its myriad of treasures.

Nestled in the majestic Matanuska Valley, Palmer is an idyllic blend of Alaskan wilderness, thriving agriculture, and intriguing history.

I cherish the sense of serenity and community this city offers, alongside the incredible adventures that await just outside my doorstep.

So, buckle up for a unique Alaskan journey as I guide you through the best things to do in Palmer, Alaska.

You're in for a delightful surprise.

Let's uncover the magic of Palmer together!

Immerse in Local History at Independence Mine State Historical Park

Daytime view of Independence Mine State Historical Park
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

Everyone in place knows that there's something magical about the drive up to Independence Mine State Historical Park.

The ever-changing Alaskan scenery is as breathtaking as you'd imagine.

Every curve in the road reveals a new vista, a fresh perspective.

And when you finally reach the park? Ah, it's a sight to behold.

It's an iconic landmark, home to a fascinating gold-mining museum and interactive mine camp tours, all nestled in the heart of the mountains.

The real charm, however, is in exploring the remnants of the once bustling mine camp.

The guided tours are a treat, especially with Salmonberry Tours.

They walk you through several of the old structures, giving a unique peek into the lives of the miners who once called this place home.

The valley's views are picture-perfect, and the buildings? They stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era, each with a story to tell.

Wooden ruins at Independence Mine State Historical Park
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

Of course, it's not all perfect. Some parts of the park could use a bit more attention, in my humble opinion.

More story boards, for instance, to identify all structures, even those that have fallen into decay.

And wouldn't it be nice if the footpath that winds its way around the top of the mill had story boards too?

They'd give us a glimpse of what the place was like in its prime.

Despite all this, Independence Mine State Historical Park retains its allure. It's not just some tourist trap.

It's a place where history resonates with nature, where walking the paved and dirt trails is a journey back in time.

The snow-kissed trails, even at the end of June, add an extra dash of charm to the whole experience.

Old building at Independence Mine State Historical Park
Alisa Metzler / Shutterstock.com

Hike the Lazy Mountain Recreation Area

Just when you think you've seen all the wonders of Alaska, you somehow stumble upon a new spectacle of nature that leaves you breathless.

This was exactly my experience when I first set foot on the trails of the Lazy Mountain Recreation Area.

Each step I took on this trail was a journey into the wild, filled with beautiful scenery that never failed to amaze me.

Every twist and turn of the path revealed a new panorama, a new sight to behold.

I remember how the colors of the plants and trees seemed to change with each passing second, offering a kaleidoscope of hues that made my adventure even more magical.

Having hiked numerous times, I can proudly say that this trail is not for the faint of heart.

It's a rigorous climb that can take up to four hours round trip, depending on your pace.

But the reward at the end, oh, it's worth every drop of sweat!

As you reach the peak, it feels like you're standing on top of the world, with the stunning Alaskan landscape stretching out below you in all its glory.

One of the things I truly love about the Lazy Mountain Recreation Area is its versatility as a recreational trail.

It's as welcoming to the novice hiker as it is challenging to the seasoned veteran.

So, whether you're a thrill-seeker looking for your next adrenaline rush or just someone who craves the serenity and peace that only nature can provide, Lazy Mountain Recreation Area has something for you.

A Local's Guide to Sunderland Ranch

As someone who knows the area well, I can't recommend Sunderland Ranch enough.

Just a short 50-minute drive from Anchorage, this tranquil haven offers a unique blend of adventure and relaxation.

From the moment I stepped onto the property, I was greeted with nothing but warm, Alaskan hospitality.

The picturesque views of mountains, hills, valleys, and farmland are a sight to behold.

Sunderland Ranch provides an authentic Alaskan experience that's hard to come by these days.

The trail rides are an absolute must; they're enjoyable and peaceful, with well-trained horses that add to the sense of safety and fun.

Along the trail, you'll encounter sights of elk, cattle, and even a creek brimming with young salmon.

Parents will be glad to know that the staff are incredibly patient with children and beginners.

My youngest, who usually shies away from such activities, has now signed up for horse riding lessons.

She came back from her first session with a huge smile on her face, exclaiming, "I love the Ranch Life!"

But it's not all about the horses.

The ranch also boasts a charming bed and breakfast, perfect for a family getaway.

The rustic, Alaskan vibe of the B&B adds to the overall charm of the place.

They even cater to special events like birthday parties.

Stepping Back in Time at the Colony House Museum

Each time I swing open the door to the Colony House Museum, it feels as though I'm stepping out of my everyday life and into the heartbreakingly beautiful narrative of the past.

A fascinating capsule of history, the museum authentically recreates the atmosphere of a bygone era.

Every corner, every artifact, and every room in Colony House Museum is meticulously detailed, giving visitors like me a comprehensive understanding of our colonist history.

Each visit feels like a new experience, with the opportunity to unravel more about the life of early colonists in Palmer.

The dedication and hard work of the volunteers who maintain the museum are very evident.

Not only do they keep the museum in pristine condition, but they also breathe life into the history that it represents.

Their knowledge and enthusiasm are infectious, making every tour a delightful journey through time.

And if you're in Palmer, the Colony House Museum is an experience you should not miss.

It's not just a museum; it's a living, breathing testament to our shared history, a priceless piece of our collective heritage.

From the moment you step in until you leave, you're bound to leave with a deeper appreciation for the city and its vibrant, rich past.

Conquering the West Butte Trail

When living life in the valley, one of the best ways to spend a day is by embarking on a trek up the West Butte Trail.

Each time I lace up my hiking boots to conquer the West Butte Trail, I'm greeted with the familiar scent of the forest's canopy.

The trail starts off gently, guiding you through the lush greenery before gradually becoming steeper.

There's a certain rhythm to this hike, a dance between the hiker and the 505 steps leading to the top.

At about the three-fourth mark, a welcoming bench overlooking invites you to catch your breath before the real climb begins.

I've found myself here in different seasons, and each time the West Butte Trail reveals a different side of itself.

The muddy paths during the rainy season, the slippery sections when the frost sets in, and the perfect conditions during the summer all add to the charm of this hike.

Halfway through the journey, a picnic table signals the commencement of a challenging switch-back staircase.

Despite its initial intimidation, the handrails offer a comforting guide to help you ascend the butte.

But the steep climb is nothing compared to the reward that awaits at the summit.

Once you reach the top, you're welcomed by miraculous views that stretch in every direction, encapsulating the vast farmland, surrounding mountains, and distant glaciers.

The panorama from the summit is nothing short of breathtaking, and I often find myself spending more time at the top than I do on the trail itself.

It's a sight that never gets old and one that makes every step (all 505 of them) worth it.

The West Butte Trail is a testament to the beauty of the Matsugo region and a must-do activity for anyone, regardless of age or hiking experience.

I've seen kids, older folks, and even pets (with a leash) making their way up, and the sense of accomplishment they display once at the top is truly heartwarming.

Meet the Furry Residents of Reindeer Farm

A person posing with a reindeer at Reindeer Farm
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Gosh, I can't tell you how many times I've been to the Reindeer Farm, and it never fails to amaze me.

There's something utterly enchanting about getting up close and personal with those gentle creatures.

The staff there they're like a bunch of friendly elves, always ready to share a story or two about the reindeer and the other animals that call the farm home.

You see, aside from the reindeer, the farm is a sanctuary for many rescued animals who are given a second chance at life.

It's heartwarming to see them all look so healthy and well cared for.

The people here not only know what they're doing, but they also do it with such palpable love and respect for the animals.

One thing that always strikes me as particularly delightful is how interactive the whole experience is. It's not just about looking at the animals from a distance.

You can actually feed and pet the reindeer, which is a big hit with the kids - and, let's be honest, the adults too.

They also arrange horseback rides and winter sled rides, which are fun and exciting.

The gift shop on the farm is a treasure trove full of unique and interesting items.

And let's not forget the little coffee shop; it's the perfect spot to grab a cup of joe and reminisce about the day's experiences.

In the summertime, you can even grab a burger or hotdog and some yummy desserts while the kids enjoy the playground, hay bales, bubbles, and other activities.

It's an ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon.

This isn't just a farm; it's a community, a place where memories are made.

I've lost count of the number of times I've visited Reindeer Farm, and yet, I’m already planning my next trip.

I've even got a yearly pass!

Experiencing the Thrill at Alaska Raceway Park

There's an unexplainable thrill every time I make a trip to the Alaska Raceway Park.

It's more than just a place to watch cars and races, it's an atmosphere filled with the scent of burning rubber and the echoing roars of engines that seep into your bones.

It's a place where you can admire the breathtaking Alaskan view as you sit on the bleachers, while weather changes rapidly due to the surrounding mountains.

One thing that's always been a charm is how well-run the events are.

It's organized chaos, with the loud revving of engines that can leave your ears ringing at night if you're not prepared for it.

It's a part of the experience though, so I ensure to never forget my earplugs.

And trust me, a cushion can be your best friend if you plan on cheering for your favorite racers for the long haul.

That's not all, the Raceway Park also offers great deals, including military discounts which make it even more of a crowd-pleaser.

There's always a NASCAR or drag event happening, a spectacle for the whole family to enjoy.

It's the best racetrack in the state and I am proud to have it right here in my backyard.

Exploring the Heart of Alaska: DownTown Palmer

Aerial view of DownTown Palmer
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

When I first moved to Alaska, I wasn't sure what to expect.

The sheer beauty of the place, the magnificent mountains casting their shadows over the calm streets, and the friendly neighbors who welcomed me with open arms, it was beyond anything I could imagine.

Living in DownTown Palmer has been a wonderful chapter of my life.

The first thing you'll notice about DownTown Palmer is the quaint, small-town charm. It's quiet and peaceful, but never dull.

The local shops and cafes are always buzzing with activity, and the people are the friendliest you'll ever meet.

We're all like a big family here, always ready to lend a helping hand or share a friendly chat.

One of my favorite things about DownTown Palmer is the weekly farmer's market.

The fresh produce, along with the local artisan crafts, make for a delightful Saturday morning.

And let me tell you, there's nothing like sinking your teeth into a fresh Alaskan apple picked just the morning before.

The nature trails around DownTown Palmer are another highlight.

The breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the chance to spot some local wildlife is an experience that never gets old.

Whether it's a quick morning jog or a leisurely afternoon hike, these trails are my go-to place for some much-needed nature therapy.

Living in DownTown Palmer, every day is a new adventure. This place, its people, and the mesmerizing beauty all around is something that I cherish deeply.

If you're ever in Alaska, don't forget to visit DownTown Palmer. You might just fall in love, like I did.

Experience the Wilderness at Crevasse-Moraine Trailhead

There's something indescribable about taking a stroll through the Crevasse-Moraine Trailhead.

The trails wind around in such a captivating way that I can't resist exploring every twist and turn.

Often, I prefer a roundabout route rather than retracing my steps, just to experience something new.

The steady ascents and descents keep my legs feeling challenged, and the paths are well marked and maintained, making it an enjoyable workout.

Of course, the journey isn't complete without my furry companion.

However, hiking with my dog here often turns into an unexpected treasure hunt.

With the eagles and ravens shedding bones, there's always something interesting to find.

I've observed that other walkers are responsible, keeping their dogs under control and tidying up after them, which really creates a sense of community out there on the trails.

What I find particularly appealing about the Crevasse-Moraine Trailhead is how it reflects the old Palmer and Wasilla, before the urban bustle encroached upon the tranquility.

It's a reminder of the importance of preserving these trails for the wildlife, especially the birds.

This fast-growing valley is losing its habitat to development, and places like this trailhead are critical for maintaining the area's natural balance.

Parking at the trailhead is enforced, so don't forget to display your permit on the windshield of your vehicle.

And while the serenity of the place can make you forget, always remember to bring along some bug spray.

This way, you can fully immerse yourself in the peaceful experience that the Crevasse-Moraine Trailhead offers.

My Favorite Spot: The Noisy Goose

If you walk into a bustling cafe that has a homey vibe, serves some of the best American meals, and is filled with friendly staff and locals, you've probably stumbled upon my favorite spot in town: The Noisy Goose.

It's a family-owned establishment that's become my go-to whenever I'm in the mood for a hearty breakfast or lunch.

The sausage croissant is a must-try for first-timers. Trust me, you won't regret it.

But if you're looking for a lighter option, go for their seasonal fruit. It's always fresh and ripe, just the way I like it.

Visit on a Sunday and you'll be welcomed by staff dressed in their Sunday best, giving the homely café a touch of elegance amidst the typically casual setting.

It adds a charming flair to the overall experience, and elevates our little town's spirit.

It's a sight to behold, especially against the snowy backdrop of Palmer in mid-April.

The Noisy Goose isn't just about great food and service. It's an experience in itself. As you wait for your order, take a moment to look around.

The funny signs and decor are sure to make you giggle and if you're a man, you'll be relieved to know the restrooms are always clean.

If you're planning to eat with a group, don't worry about splitting the bill. They've got us covered.

The wait time is minimal, and the dishes are not only delicious but also eye-catching.

My personal favorite is the Chicken Fried Steak with Home Fries and Pancakes.

And the best part? The coffee. It's bottomless. So, you will find yourself lingering around and enjoying the bustling atmosphere a bit longer than you expected.

But isn't that what makes a place worth coming back to? The Noisy Goose certainly is for me.

If you're in the area, go ahead and give it a visit. And don't forget to try their corn fritters and veggie omelet too!

Discovering the Magic of Musk Oxen at The Musk Ox Farm

Aerial view of Musk Ox Farm
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

With a bounty of wildlife that makes Alaska a wonderland, I've always held a special fascination for the Musk Ox Farm.

This local, non-profit farm is not just a sanctuary that protects these majestic animals, but it's also an educational hub that sparks your curiosity about musk oxen.

I remember the first time I set foot on Musk Ox Farm.

It was like stepping into another world.

The vast green meadows were dotted with musk oxen, their shaggy coats glistening in the sun.

I was instantly taken in by their peaceful demeanor and was eager to learn more about these Ice Age survivors.

Over the years, I've joined several guided tours.

Each tour guide I've had the pleasure of meeting has been delightful and incredibly knowledgeable.

Oxen at Musk Ox Farm
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

I've learned that these magnificent creatures are not only survivors from the last Ice Age but also bearers of secret information still being unraveled by scientists.

The experience always leaves me with a sense of awe, reminding me of the value and importance of protecting our wildlife.

And let's not forget the gift shop.

It's packed with unique items, and I've picked up a few souvenirs from there, but the crown jewel has to be the soft musk ox wool blankets.

I even took part in a raffle once, hoping to win one of those cozy blankets.

Go Camping at Matanuska River Park

Sometimes, the simple joys of living in Alaska come from moments spent at Matanuska River Park.

Nestled just across from the Palmer Airport, the park is always well-kept and inviting.

I've spent countless nights camping there, and I've always appreciated the little luxuries, like flushing toilets and a shower in what they call the "comfort station."

The staff, particularly the lady who works in the office, are always friendly and ready to assist with anything.

Plus, the electrical hookup at the campsite is a real boon!

Matanuska River Park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with trails that lead directly to the beautiful Matanuska River.

However, the trail signs could use some improvements, as they're not always well-marked.

The map at the park entrance helps a bit, but it can be tricky navigating the trails without clearer signage.

And some trails head straight to the camping sites, which can be a bit off-putting if you're out for a quiet hike.

One thing to note: the bathrooms lock at 10 pm and don't open until 8 am the next morning.

This timing can be somewhat inconvenient for early risers or late-night bathroom visitors.

And, for light sleepers, the Palmer Airport's flight path directly over the campground may prove to be a challenge.

But for families, the park holds a treasure trove of activities!

There's a decent playground that can keep kids entertained for hours, a volleyball pit, and wide-open grassy fields perfect for running around.

The covered pavilions are a highlight, with picnic tables and a bbq grill, perfect for a good old-fashioned cookout.

Catch an Event at the Palmer Museum of History & Art

Wondering how to spend a quiet afternoon in Palmer?

Look no further than the Palmer Museum of History & Art.

Nestled in the heart of our town, this quaint museum is a treasure trove of local history, brimming with artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of our heritage.

Curious about our roots?

Step into the past and explore the fascinating history of the Palmer colonization project from the 1930s.

Trust me; it will give you a newfound appreciation of our charming town.

But Palmer Museum of History & Art isn't just about history; it's also a hub for community events. One of my yearly highlights is the Friday Fling event.

I usually drop by once or twice while it’s going on.

It’s a great way to support local businesses with all sorts of vendors selling a variety of products, from fresh vegetables and honey to handmade crafts like soap, sachets, and jewelry.

There's also live music to enjoy in the afternoon, making it a perfect outing for the entire family.

Another favorite spot of mine is the museum’s flower garden.

It's a peaceful refuge, perfect for a quiet stroll or a moment of reflection.

Book a Tee Time at Palmer Golf Course

Playing golf at the Palmer Golf Course is undoubtedly one of the perks of living here.

It’s my regular hangout, a place where I can enjoy the tranquility and the picturesque landscape.

My first-ever golf game was at this course, and what a joy it was.

The terrain was beautifully maintained, and the stunning backdrop of the mountains and glaciers on a clear day added a unique charm to the game.

It's more than just a golf course; it's a unique experience that keeps me coming back.

Over time, I've seen many golfers come and go with varying levels of expertise. Palmer Golf Course is a welcoming place for everyone, whether you're a beginner or a pro.

One day, I was playing 9 holes and decided to take a leisurely walk back, soaking in the lovely setting.

It was serene, peaceful, and rejuvenating.

The green fees are reasonably priced.

However, the most captivating part of the golfing experience at Palmer is the parade of planes taking off in the distance.

It's an interesting sight, adding a dash of adventure to the game.

Take a Selfie with a Giant Cabbage at Palmer Visitor Information Center

Far view of the Palmer Visitor Information Center
stellamc / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite spots in the city has to be the Palmer Visitor Information Center.

You'll find it right in the middle of the park, a hub of activity where visitors and locals alike come to soak up the unique atmosphere of our charming Alaskan town.

I often start my day there, renting a bike to cycle around the lush gardens that surround the center.

The scent of blooming flowers mingling with the crisp morning air is an experience you won't forget.

Of course, no visit to Palmer Visitor Information Center would be complete without paying homage to our world-renowned attraction - the world's largest cabbage statue!

It's a quirky little symbol of our town, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Just across the street from the center, you'll find the colonist memorial, a poignant tribute to the pioneers who shaped our city.

Take the time to read the signs; they offer a fascinating glimpse into the trials and triumphs of these hardworking individuals.

It's a humbling reminder of the strong, resilient spirit at the heart of our community.

Final Thoughts

There's just so much to appreciate about Palmer.

Every season brings a new beauty to the landscape and a new activity to engage in.

Whether it's hiking up the West Butte Trail, soaking up the history at Independence Mine State Historical Park, or bonding with the children over a visit to the Reindeer and Musk Ox farms, the best things to do in Palmer, Alaska, embody the very essence of Alaskan culture and camaraderie this city embodies so gracefully.

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