A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
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Hatcher Pass is the perfect combination of outdoor fun and authentic Alaska history.
The area, which can be reached from Palmer, Wasilla or Willow in the Mat-Su, is one of the places Alaskans flock to when the summer sun shines. It has a bit of everything Alaska has to offer: mountain peaks, a glacier-fed river, alpine tundra, Gold Rush history, great hiking trails and seclusion.
"Hatcher Pass is really popular, especially for visitors," said Dennis Heikes, Mat-Su area superintendent for the Alaska State Parks. "You can drive on a paved road all the way up to alpine areas and experience the beauty of alpine without the effort of having to climb up a mountainside."
The road to Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine State Historical Park goes by a couple names: Hatcher Pass Road or Fishhook-Willow Road. From the Palmer side of Hatcher Pass, it parallels the Little Susitna River before climbing toward the alpine tundra. There are several pullouts along the road so visitors can stop to enjoy the scenery.
Many visitors are headed to the historical park, which takes visitors back to the area's Gold Rush era. Independence Mine was one of 38 mines that operated in Hatcher Pass from around 1900 to the 1950s. The park includes about 20 buildings that were part of Independence Mine. Some of the buildings have been restored and can be toured. Park officials offer special tours of some of the buildings, and a couple are open to everyone.
"First-time visitors love the scenery, but they also like to stop in at the mine," Heikes said. "It's the place to get the history of hard-rock mining in the Talkeetna Mountains."
And if you're ready to lace up your hiking boots, there is no better place than Hatcher Pass. Here are a couple of popular hikes:
- Gold Mint Trail: It begins across the road from the Motherlode Lodge. The trail is about eight miles and parallels the Little Susitna River, which is fed by the Mint Glacier.
- Reed Lakes Trail: It is a good day hike or overnight destination if you want to do some camping. It is a seven-mile round-trip hike to Lower Reed Lake, and Upper Reed Lake is just a mile farther up the trail. For the super adventurous, Bomber Glacier is just over the peaks surrounding the upper lake.
Special sections editor Steve Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Alaska travel blog at www.alaska.com/alaskology.