The Valley


The Matanuska-Susitna Valley, more commonly known as “the Mat-Su” or simply “the Valley,” includes the towns of Wasilla and Palmer. About 45 minutes to an hour from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in ideal conditions, the area is attractive due to the more rural feel and spacious lots. Housing dollars go further in the Valley and many residents are attracted to the quieter feel.  

Residents here tend to appreciate the outdoors and move to the Valley to escape the urban feel of Anchorage. Alaska’s awe-inspiring splendor is on display nearly every day, with majestic Denali visible from most parts of the Valley.

The commute to JBER is a significant consideration when living in the Valley. There is a single thoroughfare connecting Anchorage and the Valley—the Glenn Highway—and any accidents or tie-ups can significantly lengthen an already long commute.


Valley residents are likely to be permanent residents or on a long tour of duty. There is less turnover, and your neighbor might be a military retiree who made the Valley a permanent home. The area is great for families, but is not as appealing to single military members due to the commute and the more rural feel. Most residents own rather than rent.

Neighborhood Feel

Homes are spread out, especially in Palmer. There are a lot of farms in the region, and lot sizes of an acre or more are common. Wasilla is less rural, but still offers the opportunity to spread out. Apartments, duplexes, and triplexes are available in Wasilla.

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Neighborhood Location

Neighborhood Info

The Valley - Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson - Palmer, AK -


Palmer is a quiet place with a small town vibe. You won’t find big box stores here, but you will find plenty of open spaces and a sense of town pride. Palmer residents actively maintain the heritage of the town and take pride in the agricultural importance of the region. The area appeals to those who are looking for a little more space.

Palmer is best known as the location for the Alaska State Fair, which takes place every August. Along with carnival rides, fair food, and a concert series, the fair has a reputation for showing record breaking vegetables—giant cabbage, anyone?


Homes in Palmer

Palmer offers mostly single family homes on large lots. Expect to see a lot of farmland around town.

The median home value for single family homes in Palmer is $243,000 according to the Zillow Home Value Index. Home Values are forecasted to increase by 4.8% in the coming year. According to Zillow’s Rental Index, the median rental rate for single-family homes in Palmer is $1,775.

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Commuting from Palmer

The commute to JBER from Palmer is significant. In ideal conditions, the Fort Richardson side of JBER is at least 40 minutes away, and the Elmendorf side is an hour away.

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Schools in Palmer

Schools in Palmer belong to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.  One of the highest rated schools is Academy Charter School, with a rating of 9, according to

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Wasilla offers a small town vibe, but has more conveniences to offer than nearby Palmer. Large single family homes with plenty of amenities can be easily found, along with apartments, duplexes, and triplexes. The rental market is more robust than in Palmer.

Many military members make a home in Wasilla, drawn to the plentiful outdoor activities and large homes. Lots sizes of an acre or more are common, allowing residents to spread out.


Homes in Wasilla

Homes in Wasilla vary, with single family homes, townhouses, and duplexes all commonly found. Large lots are readily available.

The median home value for single family homes in Wasilla is $224,000 according to the Zillow Home Value Index. According to Zillow’s Rental Index, the median rental rate for single-family homes is $1,693.

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Commuting from Wasilla

Traffic leaving Wasilla becomes heavy around 5:30 a.m., and the roads leading to the Glenn Highway are often congested. Expect a commute time of at least 40 minutes to JBER. Winter commutes can be longer.

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Schools in Wasilla

Schools in Wasilla belong to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. One of the highest rated schools is Midnight Sun Family Learning Center, with a rating of 8, according to Wasilla also offers an alternative high school, Burchell High School.

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Points of Interest

Reindeer Farm – Palmer

Pioneer Falls – Palmer

Lazy Mountain – Palmer

Musk Ox Farm – Palmer

Independence Mine Historical Park – Wasilla

Iditarod Headquarters – Wasilla

Wasilla Creek Wetlands Trail – Wasilla

Alaska Museum of Transportation and History – Wasilla


Big Plus

Lots sizes of an acre are common in the Valley and there are lots of opportunities to enjoy all the outdoor activities Alaska offers.

Many feel the Valley offers a more authentic Alaska experience than Anchorage. Land for outdoor activities is plentiful, and there are more options for hiking, snowmobiling (or snow machining, as you’ll more likely hear in Alaska), fishing, etc.

Without the city lights of Anchorage, the majesty of the Aurora Borealis is more visible in the Valley.


Things to Consider

The drive to JBER can be long, especially in the winter months. The Glenn Highway is the only road in and out of the Valley, and any accidents can wreak havoc on an already lengthy commute.  

Palmer and Wasilla can be windy, making the already cold winters feel downright frigid.

The highway authorities are good about clearing snow and making the road passable in the winter, but experience driving in winter conditions and studded snow tires are recommended. Due to the shorter winter days, commuters travel in the dark during the winter months, adding to the challenge of the drive.

How’s the Market?

Researching a far away area and finding home from the Lower 48 can be daunting. When all you have are photos and internet listings to go by, it can be an incredibly stressful undertaking. Having an experienced AgentHero is of tremendous value in this borderline-foreign market!

If you’re interested in renting, don’t feel like you are limited to renting sight-unseen. Our Scouts can help you out with a Facetime walk through, neighborhood “recon,” or by taking extra photos of the property you’re interested in. Like any urban area, you’ll find pockets of neglect that may get glossed over in real estate listings.

School Scoop

The public schools in the Valley belong to Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District (MSBSD).

Elementary schools are broken into kindergarten through second grade in one building, and third through fifth grades in a separate nearby building.

Homeschooling families have resources available through programs at MatSu Central, IDEA, and Twindly Bridges. Homeschooling is very popular and funding is available.

The district offers six charter schools, including Academy Charter School in Palmer and Fronteras Charter School, a Spanish immersion school in Wasilla..

Highlighted Areas

Palmer – Equestrian Acres, Snow Goose Pond

Wasilla – The Ranch – Wasilla Settlers Bay, Heritage Farms