Matanuska-Susitna Borough

About Trails

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB) is located in south central Alaska, an area of the state blessed with spectacular scenery, natural history and an abundance of wildlife. The Landscape and history is dramatic and diverse. Trails provide access to this beautiful country and offer unique experiences around every bend.

Throughout the MSB's history, economic and demographic growth has followed trail routes and corridors. From the native Alaskan hunting and trading routes, to the exploration by miners, homesteaders and fur traders, to the development of railroads and highways, access has been the key to the success of our community.

Residents and visitors use trails year-round for fishing and hunting, access to remote recreation property, hiking, horseback riding, biking, off-road vehicle riding, skiing, snow machining, dog mushing, skijoring, and snowshoeing. Demands for quality trails increases every year and is expected to continue as visitors and residents get outside and enjoy the MSB's natural beauty and wild country in ever increasing numbers.

Today in the MSB the importance of trails has come full circle. The abandoned trading routes, old mining routes and logging roads are once again becoming vital assets to the borough. Now many of the commerce and trade routes are used for recreation. The purpose of this website is to provide information about the recreational trail opportunities available in the MSB today.


Trailhead Fees

Parking Passes may be bought online.

Pass TypeCostBuy Online
Daily Parking Pass  $5.00  Buy Day-Use Pass Pass
 Annual Parking Pass  $40.00 Buy Annual Parking Pass
 Annual Parking Pass 2-Pack   $70.00 Buy Two-Pack

Payment of parking fees are required at the following trailheads:

Pioneer Ridge - Austin Helmers Government Peak Recreation Area West Butte Trailhead
Lazy Mountain Trailhead Jim Creek Recreation Area Alcantra (winter use only)
Crevasse Moraine Trailhead

Christiansen Lake Park

Ayrshire Trailhead
Big Lake Boat Launch Parking Lot

Talkeetna Downtown Park

Talkeetna Lakes Park Trailhead
  Wigmi Trailhead  

Regional Views of Trail Development

Susitna River Basin and beyond - The Susitna River basin is generally described as the area west of the Talkeetna Mountains, south and east of the Alaska Range and north of the Cook Inlet. It is dotted with lakes, ponds and expansive wetlands. Few roads exist west of the Susitna River so travel is restricted to those who have riverboats, dog-teams, snow machines and off-highway vehicles. The area is more accessible in the winter than in the summer. Once winter arrives the area is transformed. The rivers, lakes and wetlands freeze and turn into trail corridors.

Abandoned seismic trails and old mining routes, such as the National Historic Iditarod Trail, have found new life due to the increased use of snow machines. New winter trail routes that take advantage of the large expansive wetlands near Petersville and Trapper Creek continue to attract snowmachiners, dog mushers and cross country skiers. The area west of the Susitna River is sparsely populated, so services for trail travelers are few and far between. Access to the trails consists mostly of roadside parking areas, boat landings and frozen lakes. Land ownership is mixed so it is important to know where you are and stay on the trails marked for public use.

Matanuska Valley and Northeast View - The Matanuska valley area is generally described as the area north and east of the Chugach Mountains and north of the waters of the Cook Inlet. Two large glacier fed stream, the Matanuska River and the Knik River, flow from the east and empty into the tidal water at the head of Knik Arm. Between the braided flood plains of the rivers and the mountain foot slopes are a series of terraces interrupted by steep escarpments, v-shaped valleys and broad lowlands. Broad, nearly lever alluvial plans border the braided flood plains of the lower valley. Rising above these are the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountain ranges.

Many of the trails in the region are mining routes; some still actively used for access to placer mines in the Nelchina and Oshetna river drainage's. Other trails were established by early Alaskans as trading and hunting routes. Earlier recreational trail travel was by foot or horseback, but has changed with the technology. Now many recreational off-road-vehicle drivers and snowmachiners share the trails with horse back riders, hikers, dog mushers, skiers and mountain bikers. New winter trail routes that take advantage of the large alpine tundra near Eureka and Lake Louise are continuing to attract more snowmachiners and dog mushers.

The region is accessible year round by trail, but the terrain can be a challenge. Steep hills, bogs and rivers dictate the time of year and mode travel one uses. The main road and access to the region is the Glenn Highway, where most of the trails originate and where settlement and services are available. Trails in this region cross a variety of land ownership and some mining claims, so it is important to stay on trails marked as public and to respect private property.

Landowner Liability Law

In June 1999, Alaska enacted a landowner liability law that extended liability protection to landowners who establish trail easements across their property for recreation purposes. The act also extended protection to the public holders of those easements. The act as passed appears below.

Alaska Statutes Section 34.17.055. Tort immunity from personal injuries or death arising out of the use of land subject to a conservation easement.

(a) In addition to the immunity provided by AS 09.65.200, an owner of land, a portion of which is subject to a conservation easement that is 50 feet or less in width, that has been granted to and accepted by the state or a municipality, and that provides public access for recreational purposes on the land subject to the conservation easement is not liable in tort, except for an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence or reckless or intentional misconduct, for damages to a person who uses the easement to enter onto or remain on the land if (1) the person had no responsibility to compensate the owner for the person's use of the easement or the land; and (2) the damages arise out of the person's use of the easement for recreational purposes on the land.

(b) The immunity under (a) of this section extends to the grantee of the conservation easement providing public access to the land for recreational purposes.