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Outdoors/Adventure

It’s odd, it’s bold. It’s Bodenburg Butte, and you should climb it.

  • Author: Alli Harvey
    | Alaska Outdoors
  • Updated: February 15
  • Published February 14

Bodenburg Butte on April 28, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / ADN archive)

There’s this knob of rock in my backyard that is the namesake of our neighborhood in Palmer, the Butte.

It’s kind of ugly. It’s just this big lump, really, not big enough to qualify as a mountain. Websites report heights varying from 700 to 900 feet, but I’ve always known it to be 800 feet and change.

Either way: It’s large enough to be a focal point of an entire community, although it’s quickly dwarfed by the actually giant peaks that frame the Mat-Su region.

In the summertime Bodenburg Butte is brown, dusty and dotted by green trees on the south side and more fully forested on the north. In the fall, some of those trees turn gold and it’s almost pretty — again, depending on which direction you’re looking from.

And in the winter, covered in snow, sunrise dawns pink and gold on the Butte — beautiful (ha!), if you take away the funny-looking glacier pebble highlighted in the center.

I can talk like this because I live here. Truth is I love it. I take pride in the Butte.

In the summer, Bodenburg Butte serves as the Westchester Lagoon of my neighborhood. It’s a place alive with people; the top is full of picnickers, families with little kids scrambling around the rocks, and even out-of-towners who come to summit the very hikeable oversized boulder.

It has a feeling of community and approachability. I may be wearing my usual annoyingly, brightly colored spandex when I hike it, but I’m usually in the minority. People are just there trying to get outside and have some quality time without dealing with the athletic, competitive vibe you may find at trailheads like Glen Alps in Anchorage or even Lazy Mountain in Palmer. The Butte feels more low-key and normal.

I love, love, love seeing people outside for the experience of it, whatever that looks like. It makes me especially happy seeing families with all ages heading up toward the top.

The Reindeer Farm sits on the south side of Bodenburg Butte. (Erik Hill / ADN archive)

For me, Bodenburg Butte serves as a relatively easy outing. If I want to get outside for something a little more than a walk but less than a day-long commitment, the Butte’s right there. It’s got a 360-degree view at the top showing off the Valley floor in all of its farming, river-winding glory, framed by the imposing Matanuska and Pioneer peaks. Knik Glacier is best viewed on a cloudy day when the blue really pops, making it hard to find a reason to bail because of clouds.

Even on one of the Mat-Su’s notoriously windy days, the north side of Bodenburg Butte is usually fairly sheltered in the woods. A new parking lot built by the Mat-Su Borough to accommodate the 24,000-plus hikers who head this way annually has plenty of space. Signage installed by the Great Land Trust, the nonprofit organization that retains a conservation easement on the property, makes for a fun walk, especially with kids. Stairs up this side of the Butte make the hike harder or easier, depending on your perspective.

So, yes, I talk a little smack about the funny, knob-like piece of bedrock at the center of my neighborhood. It’s bold, it’s odd, and those features suit me.

You can usually find me up on Bodenburg Butte about once every week in the summer, a little less in the winter. If you live in the region and haven’t tried it, I recommend it. Start from the north side access to get the interpretive trails, and bring your family.

Hikers near the top of Palmer's Bodenburg Butte. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)
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