Palmer, Alaska

The first people in Palmer were native Athabaskans.  They lived a subsistence lifestyle, moving through the area along trade routes that followed the Matanuska River.  In the 1890’s, George Palmer, a logger from Pennsylvania came up to Alaska via Seattle.  Described as a rugged entrepreneur and credited with growing the first vegetables in the area, George Palmer created a trading post right on the Matanuska river to include stores, renting horse teams, the first hay reaper in the area and even a post master by 1904.  Palmer became a gateway for fur traders, trappers and gold miners to enter the Alaskan Interior. The first homesteaders arrived in Palmer in 1914 and one family still lives in the area as they recently celebrated their 100th year anniversary of the homestead.  The coal mines were developed in the area with the expansion of the population and with the growth of the coal mines, came the Alaska Central Railroad in 1904. World War I spurred the need for coal and by 1917, the US Navy had constructed a railway from Seward to the Chickaloon coal deposits.  At the end of the war, the land was distributed to army vets and opened for more homesteading opportunities.

The great depression played a role in President Roosevelt’s New Deals.  In 1935, President Roosevelt’s new deal established the Matanuska Colony.  Under this new deal, 203 midwest families made the trek by plane and ship to the fertile valley that would become the first farming and agricultural community.  The families were eventually given 40 acre tracks of land each.  Moving these families who mostly came from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, was an experiment that turned out to change the town of Palmer forever. These days, Palmer is still a small little community but now it is known as a garden hub for the state.  Due to its unique microclimate the area is better suited for produce growth and even has a reputation for growing larger than normal vegetables.

If you want to know more about the Matanuska Colony you can visit this page here

Palmer has never been known as a stop on the tour when you go to Alaska but if you are interested in a very unique farming town and the ways our homesteaders grew their properties and made Alaska work for growth, it should be a stop on your list.  There are plenty of places to stay and lots of things to see and do. 

Where to Stay

Hotels and Lodges

Alaska Glacier Lodge
29979 E Knik River Rd, Palmer, AK 99645
(877) 745-4575

The Lodge offers helicopter tours as well as beautiful small cabins with great views.  Sitting right near the Kink Glacier, this high end lodge provides the best views with a restaurant in the lodge for fine dining as well. Cabins are clean and neat, beds are comfortable.  This lodge sits well outside the Palmer downtown.

Eagle Hotel
918 S Colony Way, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 333-9000

The hotel looks a little sketchy but keep going and you will be surprised at the large entry way and large modern rooms.  Looks a little like transition housing but is a comfortable place to lay your head while you visit Palmer.


Valley Hotel & 24/7 Open Café
606 S Alaska St, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-3330

Serving guests since 1948, This hotel is one of the most well-known in the area. It’s a cute quaint little place that has a café with great breakfast. Comfortable beds and downtown so you can explore the little shops in Palmer.           

Pioneer Motel

124 W Arctic Ave, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-3425

A motel that has been a part of Palmer since 1953.  They boast 8 beautiful cabins to stay in as well as 18 guest rooms. Great customer Service.  Not a fancy place but a comfortable place to rest your head.  Conveniently located in the heart of Palmer close to shops and restaurants.  

Inns, Cabins and B&Bs;:

Colony Inn

325 E Elmwood Ave, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-3330

Great location if you want to sightsee and dine. A wonderful place to stay if you want to be comfortable but don’t need all the extra amenities.  Very Clean and great price for what you get.  The check in process is a little weird as you have to go down the street to check in.

Windflower Bed and Breakfast

1365 S Badger Rd, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 982-5609

Cute little B&B, close to trails with great views of the mountains. Great attentive host.

Alaska’s Harvest Bed & Breakfast

2252 N Love Dr, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-4263

The place was well decorated and homey.  The host was so nice and kind.  Great food, and environment.  Such a gem of a place to stay. 

Snowgoose Pond B&B

10460 E Snowgoose Cir, Palmer, AK 99645
(281) 686-4363

This place is absolutely beautiful.  The accommodations are amazing, very comfortable with tasty breakfast.  The views are phenomenal, and the owners are friendly and kind. 

RV and Camping

Paradise Alaska RV PARK

16199 E Outer Springer Loop, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 775-6359

Showers, fire pit, dumping and Wifi.  This place has all the things you’ll need in your RV.

Fox Run Lodge & RV Campground

4466 Glenn Hwy, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 355-8641

Not quite inside Palmer but on the highway.  Located near a lodge with a restaurant and near a lake with boat rentals, this place offers all the usual amenities and more.  Beautiful views as well.

What to Eat

There are all the usual places to eat in palmer in regards to fast food so I will skip those for this section and move on to the places you SHOULD check out while visiting Palmer. 

The Noisy Goose

1890 Glenn Hwy, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 746-4600

Amazing selection of food and great service at this place. Super cute spot for lunch with good portions.

Sunrise Grill

918 S Colony Way, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 917-4536

Huge portions of diner food, great flavor and one of the best places to eat in Palmer. 

Palmer Alehouse

320 E Dahlia Ave, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 746-2537

Located in a historic building offering Alaskan-sized burgers, craft beers and hand cut fries.  Outdoor seating and free concerts are available in the summer. Great service and portions.

Turkey Red

550 S Alaska St, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 746-5544

A cute little Mediterranean Restaurant with Excellent sandwiches and good deserts to choose from. 

The Palmer Bar and Grill

828 S Colony Way, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-3041

Amazing staff and service.  A fun little bar with local craft beers and an amazing burger.

AK Best Phillys

550 S Alaska St, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-8778

Delicious food with lots of options.  Great service and atmosphere.

Vagabond Blues

642 S Alaska St Suite#208, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-2233

A cute little coffee spot – Sports a variety of gluten free snacks, good coffee, and pasties

Reuben Haus

105 S Valley Way, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 841-1602

Amazing sandwiches.  Fries and salads are also available.

La Fiesta Restaurant

132 Evergreen Ave, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 746-3335

Delicious Mexican food.  Authentic, kind staff and large portions!

Nudee Pho Thai Restaurant

775 Evergreen Ave, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 982-0043

Fast service and decent Thai food.  Try the spring rolls.

Pizza Ria Delphi

101 E Arctic Ave STE C, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-2929

Great food and service

Klondike Mike’s

820 S Colony Way, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-2676

A keto menu, burgers, awesome staff, and amazing food

Bleeding Heart Brewery

562 S Denali St, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 746-2421

A cute, quaint little brewery with great beer and food.   Unique and fun, these beers have original names and flavors.

Arkose Brewery

650 E Steel Loop, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 746-2337

Great outdoor seating in the summer and the beer and location are great as well.  A good beer selection.  Watch out for the google maps – sometimes it goes past.

Matanuska Brewery and Tap Room

513 S Valley Way, Palmer, AK 99645
(907) 745-2337

Great beers, good atmosphere and tasty burgers.  Good service for me when I went.

What to See and Do

Even though Palmer is a smaller, agricultural center there are still a lot of fun things to do here. 

Here are some specific Palmer places:

The Palmer Visitor’s Information Center

 Located in the heart of palmer in a cute little cabin is the visitors center which is packed full of knowledgeable people who have more information than this little web page could give you on what to see, where to go accompanied with maps and tour pamphlets.  Adjourning the visitors center is a museum of palmer and a gift shop.  Outside the visitors center is a garden that was originally supposed to display the varieties of plants that could be grown there but it has overgrown that use and now sports all types of plants!  A good place to rest and relax with plenty of parking for RVs.

Take a historic Tour through Palmer –

you can book a guided, private or listen to an audio tour.

The Colony House Museum –

One of the original farm houses built exclusively for the New Deal resettlement project.  Learn the history of how our pioneers came to palmer.  Original descendants staff the house and offer tons of knowledge.

Go Ziplining –

Alaska’s only tandem side by side Zipline Course surrounded by the mountain side on all directions.

Go check out the Reindeers!

Right past the farm fields and into the buttes, lives the Reindeer farm! You must reserve your spot in advance. You can check out a VIP tour if you go on the right days. You will also find a food truck, pony rides and tractor wagon rides, a hay maze ( if you go in the right season) and sometimes bouncy houses for additional costs.  In October, they have a fall festival and reserving your spot in advance is required.  

Check out the Musk Ox Farm! – Guided, educational tour through the Musk Ox farm to learn all about them and the natural history of them. A must see for children.

Check out the National Tsunami Warning Center – Your guide will be one of the scientists working in the center.

Go for a drive to Hatcher’s Pass/ Independence Mine State Historical Park – See w real gold mining camp. Pan for gold here – independently with a pan and shovel. The visitor’s center is closed during winter.  

Go to the Alaska State Fair if you happen to be here in August!

Take a Tour!

Palmer has some of the most beautiful scenery with all the components of Alaska tucked right into its little area in Alaska.  You can take multiple tours to check out the surrounding mountains, glaciers etc.  Here are a few in the area:

Horseback Riding Tour

Horse Back Riding ToursGo into the mountains, take a sleigh ride – check them out and find out how to include horses in your trip!

Sunderland Ranch – Horseback riding, B&B’s and even camps for the kids to learn about horses.

Glacier/Flightseeing Tours/River Rafting

Check out Knik Glacier with a helicopter tour  – Year round from Alaska Glacier Lodge

Dogs and Helicopter ToursOut of palmer, play with the sled dogs and take a helicopter tour.

NOVA river and Glacier Tours – Take a river rafting trip, glacier trips including ice climbing or helicopter trips.

ATV/Snowmachine Riding Tours

Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours – Snowmachine and ATV tours since 2000.

Where to Hike/Camp

Alcantra Trail –  A 1.6 mile fully paved trail perfect for all people.  Can use these trails for skiing in the winter but if you are using them for hiking in the summer, it goes by a small wetland where youll be able to see wildlife if possible.

Crevasse-Moraine trail system – This trail system offers 6 miles of interconnected trails that are open all year.  The trails all vary on which ones are more difficult but if you follow the link in the title, the city of Palmer has put out awesome trail maps and information about them which you will find in the link.  These trails were made from an old glacier bed.

Government Peak Summer Trail –

Tons of trails in this area system, if you follow the link listed in the title, it will explain where they start and how many and how to get to them including a trail brochure.  You are able to run, hike, ski, and horseback on these trails.  Only thing to mention is the park area opens and closes at 8am-8-pm.  Plan accordingly so you don’t get locked in for the night.

Lazy Mountian Trail – 1of 2 trails on this mountain and the more steeper of the two –

This trail asends 3000ft in 2 miles. It is steep but also the fastest route up to the top of Lazy Mountian where you can see the Chugach and Talkeena Ranges (which in my opinion are some of the most beautiful mountains to see).  You will walk through forests and then into the alpine tundra with beautiful views of the Matanuska and Kink Rivers.   There is a picnic table half way up.

Lazy Moose Trail – 2 of 2 trails on Lazy Mountain – This is the longer yet gentler ascent that is mostly switchbacks for three miles this one starts on the right and joins the first trail at the picnic table.

Matanuska Peak trail –

Just over 4 miles, this trail has amazing views of both the main rivers in Palmer, the Matanuska and the Knik rivers with views of the cook inlet.  The beginning is easy but becomes harder the more you go. Bring clothing for varying weather patterns

Morgan Horse Trail –

An easy forested 2 mile trail around lazy mountain.  There are three access points to this forested trail. There are public bathrooms and picnic tables on this trail.

Palmer Moose Creek Railroad Trail –

Non motorized, this trail runs 6 miles from beginning to end along an old railroad bed parallel to the Matanuska River. You can begin this trail from downtown palmer or the moose creek trail.

Pioneer Ridge – Austen Helmers Trail –

This is a very strenuous, 12 mile trek ascending over 6,000 ft above the valley. The climb is challenging and requires the skills of an advanced hiker.  You can do this trip in one day but everyone recommends making camp and making it a two day journey. This trip is worth the views though.

Reed Lakes Trail –

 A 9 mile round trip trail following an old mining road in Hatcher’s Pass.  There is 2,000 ft in elevation but you will be able to see reed lake and waterfalls.   

West Butte Trail –

Wonderful views of palmer and the valley and only 10 minutes outside town, this trail is an 800 ft. butte and has a lot of benches to sit on in the area.  If you had to pick one hike to do this would be it.  Its quick and iconic and will give you the best views.

Long Lake Loop
– Near palmer and considered easy – this 4.5 mile loop is family friendly and a popular birding loop.

Reflections lake – this 1.1 mile loop loops around the lake and is a popular trail with visitors. It takes around 20-30 minutes to complete and is wheelchair friendly. Its pretty buggy out there so make sure to bring bug dope.

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