NOTICE: Trails may be closed due to local orders related to stopping the spread of COVID-19. The towns and counties you drive through to get to specific trails may be closed due to local orders. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off.

Knik Glacier Trail

Butte, Alaska (Matanuska-Susitna County)

Last Updated: 01/18/2020
5 / 5 ( 5 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 3-4
Length: 21 miles
Highest Elevation: 245 feet
Duration: About 5 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Butte
Nearest Town w/ Services: Palmer
Official Road Name: RST 17
Management Agency: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
District: Southcentral Regional Office
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles


Highlight: Knik Glacier Trail
The Knik trails offer picturesque Alaskan scenery! You have sand dunes, a beautiful glacial river, the chance to touch the Knik glacier, and this is all at the base of a beautiful set of mountain ranges on these 4x4 trails! These trails are probably the most popular offroad destinations in south-central Alaska. They are often filmed by out of state crews when they offroad in Alaska; parts of Expedition Overland (Season 1, Episode 5), Dirt Every Day (Episode 57), and Nitto's 2016 JK-Experience all have been filmed along these 4x4 trails. Viewing the Knik Glacier, gazing into a display of the northern lights in the darker months, and salmon fishing are all highly recommended activities of the area.



7 day forecast for Knik Glacier Trail

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
This typically is not a hard trail​ and is rated for the majority of the summer when excessively deep crossings are not present. Don't get lazy when crossing the rivers and creeks and only cross at the popular approved spots to minimize finding deep holes in the constantly changing glacial silt-bottomed rivers and not damaging fish habitat.

Technical Rating: 3-4

Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.
Read more about our rating system


This 4x4 trail goes to the sand dunes, then the trail from here out (RST 17) goes back to the glacier. The trail is very silty, almost always wet when not frozen, and most often rutted with mud. Sand, water, and tons of glacial silt are everywhere on this trail. The rivers and creeks are always changing course and depth and creek crossings are not recommended unless you are experienced and the depth is verified before driving. All of the creeks and rivers can exceed 4 feet in depth in places and have swept many vehicles away. Be careful. The area is always open and winter can be a good time to visit. When all the rivers are frozen over, it really speeds up the trip. Be aware, however, that the area can become very dangerous in the winter with icy ledges and shelves. Breaking through the ice into large puddles or rivers can also be a hazard. Stay on high ground to avoid these issues and travel in groups. ***Please note that this route is a winter route, that goes over many creeks and water, please travel only over designated legal river crossings when not frozen***
Lots of dirt bikes, side-by-sides, and ATVs zip around out here so be cautious around the many blind corners. Due to the wild nature of the Knik River, the river often takes out portions of trail and crossings can change in depth frequently. Be smart about water crossings.


1. Trailhead (0.00 mi)
Start of trail begins from first parking lot. If you need to air down do not block the trail, can get very congested on busy days.
2. Out of Woods (1.10 mi)
Once out of the woods head east going towards the Knik Glacier and up river.
3. Sand Dunes (1.50 mi)
This is the first set of sand dunes. Keep following the trail and check water crossings! Routes vary widely by season and this route was taken in the winter, summer routes can change. From here out try to stay on trails marked with orange and yellow tape in trees. If you follow the most popular trails you should stay on or near the GPS track available for download. Camping is popular near the tops of the sand dunes.
4. Correct Trail (12.80 mi)
Take the large trail through the woods, continuing straight leads to the slough and lots of dead ends.
5. Glacier (21.00 mi)
You are at the Knik Glacier! Water is extremely cold and often windy so dress appropriately even for short distance trips outside of your vehicle.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 61.526324, -149.006194

Starting Point: Anchorage

From Anchorage, take the Old Glenn Highway exit and continue for several miles. After you cross the Knik River, turn right onto E Sullivan Avenue. The parking lot and entrance to the trail is the large dirt staging area to the right after the Alaska Raceway Park and just before S Butte Airman Road. The main trail entrance is in the first dirt lot, the second lot is larger and better for trucks with trailers or RVs. There are other trails heading into the woods but beware, most are very tight and not recommended for vehicles. These smaller trails are great for ATVs, side-by-sides, and motorcycles. Parking is now available at the trailhead for $5 per vehicle or $40 for a year-long pass per vehicle. The payment drop box is located on the far side of the latrines that are open year-round.


Although there is no specified area to camp (as the whole area is open to camping), one can sometimes find a bed of ashes from a previous traveler's fire close to the river or near the glacier. Most people camp on the south side of the trail on the flats between the trail and the river. There is a 14 day consecutive stay limit, as well as a fine for cutting a tree over 5 inches in diameter. If you do bring firewood, make sure not to bring pallets as you will get fined. Although the scenery is very tranquil and northern lights are often visible in the darker months you can expect to hear other vehicles most of the night. Bears and other wild animals live here so prepare for them and keep food secure in appropriate containers. No public restrooms available other than the latrines at the trailhead. On the other side of the river is the Knik River Lodge, a very nice place to stay and dine. Definitely a recommended stop if staying in the area.
Camping: Knik Glacier Trail

Land Use Issues

No permit required at this time, but land use may change soon as native corporations might be getting some more of this land we love.

Trail Reviews (8)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Due to the cold weather the trip was an easy drive the whole way and an amazing experience for the whole family. My new to me Land Cruiser did great.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Conditions were deteriorating quickly under the mid-afternoon sun. A side by side had broken thru the ice and some of the trucks in our group got stuck a few times. Pretty slushy by even midday when we left for home.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The start of the trail is at Jim Creek Recreation Area, best to know the actual name of the place when paying at the iron ranger to park in the lot. conditions were good, lots of mud puddles. Camped out and kept having Jettas and Kias going back and fourth passed our camp till about 3 am, guess we didn't get far enough out as that is commonplace at Knik.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Drove out from the parking lot to the Dunes today. Beautiful warm and sunny day. The trail to the dunes from the parking area is in decent shape, mostly hard pack snow and ice with a few 12" deep ruts full of water. The trail to the Matanuska Glacier is rapidly deteriorating but is mostly drivable for at least the first mile or more. Mostly ATV's out today but a couple of lifted trucks and a track vehicle were spotted coming back from the glacier.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
It rained on top of the snow pack which turned into an ice pack rather quickly. There was an oncoming group to maneuver around with that and the down hill parts left us half turned and sliding sideways into trees. Large groups are not recommended, there are places with plenty of passing room but the few places there isn't can be rather tricky and time consuming to get passed each other.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Had a nice trip to knik glacier took some first timers out there and went with some old guys too. Small rivers were all frozen and there was a couple weak spots in a few areas, had one guy break through. Temp was awesome had a good BBQ.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Went to the dunes and crossed Jim Creek where it was only 1 foot deep or so. Two vehicles were stuck quite badly in the muck and despite me trying to winch the Ford F150 out my winch just drug me across the mud even when anchored to a Jeep Grand Chereokee!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
While staying at the Knik Glacier Lodge on our honeymoon we wanted to see the glacier. We packed up our things in my IFS Tacoma on 33s and went for a spin. Although we had to turn back about halfway out to the glacier due to unforeseen circumstances it was still a great trip.

Questions & Answers (3)

Q: Would you recommend this trail for someone with a stock Rubicon? No lift, winch, or large tires. Stock sized blizzaks.
–Gary Brar (09/19/2018)
A: Rubicons are awesome, sweet rig! If you were going in a group it would be a fun trip, but a lot of people get stuck in the silt out there alone, and there are some deep creeks on the way out as well. What I'm getting at is to try and go with some people who have gone before or at least in a group. Stock 4x4s can make it all the way out to the glacier on most days though.
–Kyle Todd (09/19/2018)
Q: How does this trail usually look mid-August? I have a stock JL Rubicon. Thanks!
–Sha (06/28/2018)
A: Generally August is a great time to visit Knik, so far this year the last river crossing has been rather deep so take extra care there, walking it with waders first would be a smart thing to do. Enjoy the trail and post some pictures after your trip!
–Kyle Todd (06/28/2018)
Q: How is this trail mid September?
–Daniel Odell (09/08/2017)
A: The main thing to watch out for this time of year is the river crossings. The first crossing generally isnt very deep but the second and third crossings can be rather deep especially considering the amount of rain we have been having lately. Also, the river has eroded some of the trail this summer so be extra careful of that as well, (we are looking forward to re-mapping this trail soon.) If you go please submit a trip report with some pictures!
–Kyle Todd (09/09/2017)

Writer Information

Kyle Todd

Mapping Crew - Alaska

Kyle has been into off-roading since getting his license at 16 and wheeling the family SUV (possibly without informing his parents of these wheeling trips in their vehicles). He graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with an Electrical Engineering degree. He lives in south-central Alaska and is raising his two young kids. Kyle stays busy year-round by working full-time as an Electrical Engineer who tries to find time for hunting, good wheeling, fishing the local lakes, and raising his family. He has his ham radio technician license and is happy to communicate even when off the grid and always when on the trail. His goal is to create an amazing resource for locals and travelers alike to enjoy the seemingly endless beauty Alaska has to offer while respecting the trails and keeping them open for years and generations to come.
For individual use only, not to be shared.