Hatcher Pass is a scenic mountain pass with plenty of opportunities for year-round outdoor activities.
Located 60 miles north of Anchorage, or a 90-minute drive, Hatcher Pass is a popular year-round destination known for it’s many hiking trails, backcountry huts, alpine lakes, winter skiing, mining history, and those iconic, red cabins.
Whether you’re a history nerd, photographer, or simply looking for a backcountry trail to explore, I’m going to share the best things to do in Hatcher Pass, Alaska.
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Top 10 Things To Do In Hatcher Pass, Alaska
- Top 10 Things To Do In Hatcher Pass, Alaska
- Things to do in Hatcher Pass in Summer
- Things to do in Hatcher Pass in Fall
- Things to do in Hatcher Pass in Winter
- Other Things To Do
How to get to Hatcher Pass from Anchorage
Hatcher Pass is set in the Talkeetna Mountains and can be accessed from either Palmer or Wasilla in the Mat-Su Valley.
- Drive north on the Glenn Highway towards Wasilla
- Exit on Trunk Road and stay on Trunk Road
- Turn left onto Fishhook-Willow Road/N Palmer-Fishhook Road
- Turn left to stay on Fishhook-Willow Road/Hatcher Pass Road
Things to do in Hatcher Pass in Summer
1. Hiking Trails
Most of the time, I drive to Hatcher Pass in summer with a hiking trail in mind. I love hiking in Hatcher Pass because there are so many trails to choose from and they’re suitable for all skill levels! The most popular hike in Hatcher Pass is Reed Lakes Trail. If you’re looking for an easier trail then check out Gold Cord Lake. It’s located near the Independence Mine area and leads you to a beautiful alpine lake in the Talkeetna Mountains.
2. Backcountry Huts
The Alaska Mountaineering Club runs a set of mountain huts located deep in the mountains: Bomber Hut, Snowbird Hut, Dnigi Hut, Mint Hut, and Seth Holden Hut. You can make your way through the backcountry on an epic 50-mile hut-to-hut adventure. This trail usually starts from Reed Lake Trail or Gold Mint Trail and includes steep, loose boulder and scree slopes, and glacier terrain. On the Snowbird Glacier, you can see pieces from the B29 Bomber Wreckage.
3. Independence Mine State Historical Park
Gold was discovered here back in the early 1900s. The mine closed in 1951 and became the 272-acre Independence Mine State Historical Park in 1984. Today, you can tour the mine and see the remains and the abandoned buildings that are still standing. Independence Mine usually opens for the season in mid-June, and if you want to learn more about the mine, take a self-guided interpretive tour of the mine camp or join a guided tour. There is a day use parking fee of $5 USD.
4. Hatcher Pass Road
Hatcher Pass Road goes from Palmer/Wasilla all the way to Willow. The road usually opens around the 4th of July (after the snow has melted). The road is gravel for 22 miles, so make sure you have a proper vehicle if you plan to drive the whole pass. Most people just drive to the top of the road to Hatcher Pass Summit as it’s one of the highest scenic drives in Alaska at 3,886 feet above sea level. Make sure to take a photo with the sign here!
5. Summit Lake State Recreation Site
Summit Lake State Recreation Site can be found at the top of the pass at Mile 19.3. There is a small, beautiful lake to enjoy here. You may even see some paragliders. If you enjoy hiking, I recommend April Bowl Trail, which starts on the opposite side of the road. This trail will take you to another alpine lake and if you continue along the ridge to Hatch Peak, you will get to see some breath-taking views of the valley and surrounding mountains. The road to get up here usually closes in September.
6. Hatcher Pass Lodge Cabins
You’ve probably seen photos or artwork of the Hatcher Pass Lodge cabins because they are iconic in Alaska. These private cabins are available to book overnight if you want to spend the night nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains. You can find the cabins just below Independence Mine and they have amazing views of the surrounding valley. The lodge also offers drinks and meals, which you can enjoy even if you don’t stay overnight.
Things to do in Hatcher Pass in Fall
7. Fall Foliage
You can find a lot of alpine wild flowers along the trails in the area, and during the fall the colors of the valley and mountainsides start to change to expose the beautiful fall foliage. Whether you’re interested in a scenic drive, photography, or hiking, it’s a wonderful time to explore the area. This is also a great time for berry picking so keep an eye out for blueberries, but keep in mind that not every season is abundant.
Things to do in Hatcher Pass in Winter
8. Watch the Night Sky
As winter nears, Alaska’s night sky darkens and the days get much shorter. Since Hatcher Pass is a bit remote, there’s a lot less light pollution, which makes it a great place to watch the night sky. You can wait for the solar flare activity to pop off to see the Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, or head out to watch a meteor shower.
I love heading out to Hatcher Pass after a huge snowfall with a pair of snowshoes. It’s a super fun and casual way to spend the day. I like to start near the Independence Mine area, but you can really go anywhere. Don’t forget to pack a thermos so you can warm up with some hot toddies.
10. Hit the Ski Slopes
Hatcher Pass is known for its access to winter skiing terrain. If you enjoy cross-country skiing, you’ll find groomed trails around Independence Mine. If you love backcountry skiing or snowboarding, you can check out the newest ski resort in Alaska, Skeetawk Ski Area, or find your own mountains to shred. This is also a popular area for snowmachiners and even families looking to sled! Hatcher Pass is a major Avalanche Hazard Area and accidents occur more often than we’d like to hear about. Be sure to take your beacons, shovels, and probes and know how to use them.
Other Things To Do
There are options to bike part of Gold Mint Trail, or downhill bike or ski 16-Mile Trail, or single-tracks at Government Peak Recreation Area. From Mile 7 to 15, you can watch the Little Susitna River flow beside the road. Campers can check out Government Peak Campground at Mile 11, and Gold Mint Trailhead at Mile 14.
For wildlife lovers, carefully look for moose, caribou, sheep, black and brown bears, wolf, wolverine, coyote, beaver, fox, marten, mink, hare, Arctic ground squirrels, collared pikas, hoary marmots, and lynx, ptarmigan, spruce grouse, and songbirds.
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Do you have any questions on things to do in Hatcher Pass Alaska? Let me know in the comments.