Short and sweet, Bodenburg Butte offers easy access and spectacular scenery
Matt TunsethAlaska Dispatch News
June 2, 2015
Pioneer Peak as seen from atop Bodenburg Butte.MATT TUNSETH / ADN
PALMER -- The Mars-like surface of Bodenburg Butte was covered in children on a recent spring morning when students from nearby Knik Elementary staged a takeover of the red-hued landscape atop the 900-foot hunk of rock. As teachers and volunteers did their best to keep watch, the children ran, jumped and scrambled around the natural playground that’s become one of the Mat-Su’s most iconic and popular climbs.
Few hikes offer as much bang for the buck. Bodenburg Butte is a short, easily accessible climb near Palmer that provides 360-degree views from atop what’s essentially a large rock in the middle of a broad braided floodplain formed by the Knik and Matanuska rivers.
From the top, hikers can gaze upon a vast swath of rivers, forests and farmland stretching from Knik Glacier to Cook Inlet. To the south, 6,398-foot Pioneer Peak rises like a wall from surrounding farmland, while 6,119-foot Matanuska (Byers) Peak stands guard to the east. And nestled between the iconic peaks is Knik Glacier, its white-blue icy expanse drawing the eye like a giant shining gemstone. It’s an impressive vista and one that lures hundreds of hikers a day during peak summer weekends.
Although it’s a relatively short hike, “The Butte” offers an impressive amount of diversity. There are two main hiking trails up, a borough-maintained route on the northwest side and an unmaintained track up the south. Either way will get hikers to the top, and picking a path is often a matter of personal preference. However, there are significant differences between the trails that hikers should keep in mind.
“Old” south trail: DUSTY SIDE :)
The “old” trail up the Butte is actually on private land owned by the Sandvik family. There’s a $3 per vehicle fee to park at the small lot (there’s room for about a dozen vehicles), as well as a portable outhouse across the street. The trailhead is also accessed off the Old Glenn via Bodenburg Loop, but from the loop’s south end. The spot is easy to find because it’s marked by a flashing yellow traffic light and a sign for the nearby reindeer farm. Take the loop 0.6 miles to the small dirt parking lot.
The old trail is much steeper than the borough-maintained side. It’s also a lot dustier when conditions are dry, especially the first few hundred yards.
After a short, steep climb through willow and alder, the trail passes a barbed-wire fence marking a hillside horse pasture. There’s a small pond there, and horses can sometimes be seen grazing in the meadow.
After a short flat section, the trail goes through a section of steep cliffs that will present the toughest obstacle for most hikers. A mix of rock and dirt, the area can be tricky to traverse, but the easiest way is to follow the clear path to the right for as far as you can, then scramble the rest of the way. Small children may have difficulty with this section, which requires a bit of care to climb safely.
From the cliffs, the trail breaks out into the open again for the trip to the summit. Adventurous climbers can take the direct route up the rocky face, while an easier route can be found by following the trail around to the left, where it links up with the West Butte trails.