Palmer Hay Flats Trails & Maps
TRAIL MAP OF REFLECTIONS LAKE
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.
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
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.
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 http://wildlife.alaska.gov for fishing and hunting regulations specific to this Refuge.
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.