Bodenburg Butte, or “the Butte” as locals call it, is a very popular hike near the town of Palmer, Alaska. The view which can be gained from the top of the Butte are some of the prettiest around in my opinion. From here you have incredible views of the Matanuska Susitna Valley, Pioneer Peak, Knik Glacier, and Mount Susitna. The 360* views from this hike are absolutely incredible. So let’s get to the details of this hike.
West Butte Trail – MatSu Borough Park
The West Butte Trail can be accessed on Mothershead Lane off of Bodenburg Loop. This is a Matsu Borough Park, so you can either pay $40 for a year’s parking pass through the borough, or the $5 day use fee. This trail is the most popular trail leading to the top of the Butte – it is often called “the stair side” by locals. The first half of the trail is wide switchbacks leading up the hill. Even though they are switchbacks, they are still fairly steep. Halfway up, you’ll reach a bench with a beautiful view. And from there you begin the stairs. There are ___ stairs, and it is a workout. But don’t give up! It is worth the views at the top!
For a skilled hiker, this would be a moderate hike. And that’s what it is often described as. However, with young kids, this can be a more difficult hike depending on their skill level. Our kids (ages 7, 4, and 3) can do it, but we take our time and go slowly. There is some leg burn involved for us, so yes – we get some complaints. And we might bribe with snacks as the goal for the top. But it is doable. Just take your time and be willing to go slowly (and be prepared to use some parenting patience)!
The South Butte Trail – Private Property
On the other side of the Butte (technically called the south side) is another trail. This is on private property belonging to the Sandviks who generously continue to allow the public to use their property for recreation. There is no enforced payment for this side, but it is recommended that you donate $4 for day use or $20 for annual access. There is a donation box at the trailhead. The South Butte Trail is located directly off of Bodenburg Loop right before you get to the Reindeer Farm.
This side of the trail is often referred to as “the steep side” by locals. And it is steep. There are no switchbacks on the way up, so it is pretty much straight up. That said, our kids still did great with this trail. The biggest challenge with this trail is the fact that there is no single designated trail. It is more of a pick-your-own-adventure-trail. There are multiple paths leading to the top, so you might pick a more challenging trail or a nice smooth trail all the way up – and you won’t know which type you took until you try it. The first time we climbed this side, on the way up we picked a more challenging side which had us rock climbing sections of it. On the way down, we were able to find a much more gentle path with only a tiny bit of rock scrambling.
If you are looking for more information and are more of a visual learner (like me), don’t forget to check out our YouTube video adventure for climbing the south side of the Butte.
Which Trail Should I Take My Kids On?
If your kids are up for more of a challenge and can listen well to your instructions if you tell them to stop in their tracks, then the steep (south) side is the side for you. There were times we told our kids to freeze or stop immediately because we were uncomfortable with the rock ledge and we wanted to find the best path. If you are worried about your kids running off or not listening, then I would recommend the West Butte Trail which has a designated trail that is better maintained with fewer ledges.
That said, the south side of the Butte is my favorite. The views are glorious the whole way up because there are far fewer trees blocking your view. This side also gets more sunshine so the trail dries faster from the mud and ice. And because it gets sunshine, it’s warmer! Only on the warmest days of Alaska do we not crave more sun. The West Butte Trail is almost entirely in the shade. Whereas the south side gets lots of sun and those killer views. Our kids also find the south side far more interesting. There are nooks and crannies and little side-explorations to take. The west side is pretty much just a trail that you need to stay on with less adventuring to do.
Take Your Kids Up the Butte!
So yes! Take your kids up the Bodenburg Butte! It is 100% worth it. Just designate several hours towards this accomplishment and take your time. You will be SO glad that you did this! The views at the top (and along the trail) are amazing. And if your kids are anything like mine, they will have a huge sense of accomplishment once they reach the top! As always, enjoy your hike, but be sure to pack out all your trash, keep your dogs on a leash, and be sure to clean up after your whole hiking party.
Be sure to check out the video we made of one of our hikes up the Butte! The views are incredible – and we caught some great shots of eagles soaring and some Alaska bush planes flying just feet overhead.