Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats
Promoting responsible use and enjoyment of Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge
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Palmer Hay Flats Trails & Maps

Map & Wildlife Trail Guide
Mile 30 on the Glenn Highway at Knik River Access exit

This quiet lake at the confluence of Knik and Matanuska Rivers offers year round stunning views, and an easy 1 mile walk around the lake to the slough. The lakeside path through birch, cottonwood and alder host many songbirds for enjoyment spring through summer. Trumpeter swans, canvasbacks, Canada geese, golden eyes, as well as other waterfowl and shorebirds can usually be seen during spring migration in April and May. Canada geese, shorebirds and Pacific Loons have been known to nest in summer. Wildflowers are abundant in June. Summer and autumn mountain and sky reflections are spectacular spring, summer and autumn. Winter skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating offer the quintessential Alaskan winter wonderland enjoyment.

Park at the maintenance road for a short walk directly to the lake. The circular lakeside trailhead access is between this area and the river.

Trail and trailhead enhancements are ongoing. These include summer, 2008 trail widening/grading, and a future trail bridge at the slough. Contact Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats at for more information or to help with these improvements.


Parks Hwy about 2 miles from Glenn Highway exchange, to Fairview Loop then onto Hayfield Road to Refuge access sign
Trail Map - Cottonwood Creek Overview

Wide open spaces of this flat, easy trail bring to full awareness the vast expanse of this 20,000 acre Refuge. Uncountable wetland ponds and the upper reaches of Knik Arm estuarial waters bring thousands of migrating birds through this local jewel on the Pacific Flyway. April and May offer wonderful opportunities to view huge flocks of Trumpeter Swans and Snow Geese. Sandhill cranes, Canada geese and gulls from faraway arrive here to establish their summer nesting grounds. A summer weekend fishery is popular for this anadromous salmon stream.

Drive to the lower parking lot and venture across the Cottonwood Creek bridge. Wear high boots or waders and be mindful of the tides. (Add 45 minutes to 1 hour to the Anchorage tides.)

Trailhead improvements are ongoing. Contact Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats at for more information or to help with these improvements.


at Cottonwood Creek access
Trail Map - Scout Ridge Loop

The woodland bluff above Cottonwood Creek is a great place to enjoy a quiet walk in the woods. The trail is an easy 1.25 mile loop under a canopy of old birch and cottonwood that fills with bird song as spring becomes summer. Circling along the high bluff, through woods above Cottonwood Creek as it drops precipitously to the wetland expanse of the Refuge, it also passes by a picturesque small lake. As you proceed along the bluff, you will be passing through the ancient remains of a significant historical Athapaskan settlement. Late evening walks along this woodland trail will likely bring hooting great gray owls in springtime. A bonus for this recently improved trail is the new Scout Ridge Overlook. Partly sheltered, with resting bench and a spectacular viewpoint to savor the vast, stunning beauty of this Refuge awaits all who would linger. This is a great place to imagine open hay fields, grazing cattle, sheep and horses in Colony Days prior to the 1964 earthquake. The trail begins at the kiosk on the edge of the upper parking lot.

Trailhead and Overlook improvements are ongoing. Contact Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats at for more information or to help with these improvements.

Glenn Highway Frontage Road accessed via Trunk Road
Trail Map - Rabbit Slough Access Map

Spring, summer and autumn waterway access to remote Refuge wetlands and the upper reaches of Knik Arm is via this trailhead. Recreational opportunities include fishing in summer and waterfowl hunting access in autumn. When winter conditions are right, this is a popular winter ice-biking trail. Consult ADF&G at for fishing and hunting regulations specific to this Refuge.

Aerial Map with Trailheads - There are three main Trailhead access points on the Refuge, with varying opportunities for recreation and enjoyment. (See detailed Trail Descriptions for prominent recreational opportunities.)

Watershed and Upstream Illustration - Palmer Hay Flats Refuge is primarily an "estuarial" habitat of fresh and salt water mixture. As fresh waters flow and seep from "upstream", they pass through the Refuge mixing with tide waters of Knik Arm. This map illustrates the importance of clean, unpolluted and unobstructed flow of fresh water from upstream sources passing through our communities.