April 22 in Earth Day around the world, a time to reflect on the importance the environment has on our surroundings. Here in Alaska, we have amazing natural beauty around every corner, and we know first hand how important nature is to our well being, both physically and mentally.

Our Alaska State Parks system provides a great opportunity for visitors and residents alike to get out and enjoy what Alaska is truly about and experience first-hand what it feels like to "unplug" for a while. We love all our state parks and state recreational areas, but here are a few of our favorites in the Mat-Su Valley:

Nancy Lakes State Recreation Area. Spend a day or spend a week, you won't be disappointed. There is an elaborate canoe trail system that interconnects the lakes, and several public use cabins along the way. This is an amazing place both in summer and in winter.

Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area. In addition to several lakes that provide great lake fishing near Palmer, this system is great because it's at the heart of a series of interconnected trail systems that comprise the Matanuska Greenbelt. You can spend hours exploring trails or the lakes.

Independence Mine State Historical Park. The mine and the surrounding area of Hatcher Pass is one of our favorite places in all of Alaska. Hiking, berry picking, gold panning and just exploring the mine are all ways you can have fun. Hatcher Pass is a local favorite. From July 4 through the end of August, consider driving "over the top" and visiting Summit Lake State Recreation Site as you make your way to Willow.

Denali State Park. While the national park gets much of the attention, the best kept secret is that Denali State Park actually is a better experience. It's less crowded, the views of Denali and the Alaska Range are amazing, their is a world-class campground at Kesugi Ken and you can hike, kayak or take advantage of the amazing photography opportunities.

Make every day Earth Day and get out end enjoy the Alaska State Parks.