Willow is a small town of 2,500 just north of Wasilla in the Mat-Su Valley. The village is at the center of a much larger census-designated area that encompasses a large swathe of the gorgeous Southcentral Alaska landscape. The center of the community itself is based at the confluence of Willow Creek and the much larger Susitna River.
The community is a popular jumping off point for numerous outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, boating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and so much more. The wonderfully scenic small town boasts incredible views of the awe-inspiring “great one” and it’s snowy white peaks in the Denali Mountain range in the distance.
Claims to Fame
Willow’s greatest claim to fame is arguably being the host to the world-famous Iditarod Dog Sled Race. The race moved north in 2008 when a lack of snow forced the move from its long-time starting point in Wasilla. The competition takes place in late March each year.
Believe it or not, Willow was almost made the state capital in the 1970s. The thought was to make the capital more accessible for the majority of Alaskans while keeping it out of the state’s largest city, Anchorage. Master plans were even laid out for developing the community, but the plan was ultimately defeated, and the capital remains in Juneau. Planners weren’t able to acquire adequate funding.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
Roni’s Chinook Deli & Pizza: The best burger is town, and that’s saying something! The locally owned joint is a Willow favorite, renowned in the region for its home-cooked goodness. Find an incredible selection of burgers, flatbread sandwiches and pizza in the heart of Willow, AK.
Dream a Dream Iditarod Dog Kennel: Open for tours throughout the year, the winter season offers immersive 3 hour or full-day experiences. The kennel is the home base of Iditarod competitor Vern Halter and his team of dogs. The property is also a bed and breakfast with two spacious, family-friendly apartments.
Willow Winter Carnival: This year will mark the event’s 56th year! Taking place on the last weekend of January and the first weekend of February, the festival is presented by the Willow Area Community Organization (WACO). There is always fantastic live music, crafts, games and fun children’s activities. Oh, and did we mention the prizes?