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The 10 Best Hatcher Pass Hikes

For fantastic outdoor adventures in Alaska, explore our top picks for Hatcher Pass hikes. The area of Hatcher Pass boasts some of the most picturesque hiking trails in Alaska. The level of difficulty ranges from easy to extremely challenging, allowing individuals to pick a hike suited to their preferences. Check out our tips on which trail to choose and how to prepare for Hatcher Pass hikes.

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Hatcher Pass Hikes

Hatcher Pass Hikes – Our Experience

During our recent road trip to Alaska, we enjoyed hiking the trails in Hatcher Pass. This region boasts miles of trails with breathtaking views of the Matanuska Valley. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, trails are suited for all skill levels, ranging from short hikes to multi-day treks. Hatcher Pass, which is just 20 miles drive from Palmer and Wasilla, is an ideal destination for a day hiking. Additionally, it is only 60 miles away from Anchorage, making it a perfect day trip option from Anchorage.

Despite our experience in exploring Alaska national parks like Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, and the Gates of the Arctic, were enchanted by the trails in Hatcher Pass Management Area. So in this article, we provide you with a list of the best Hatcher Pass hikes and some details about each. We list the length and difficulty level for each of them so that you can choose the best Hatcher Pass trail.

If you plan to drive on Hatcher Pass Road, please read our previous article on how to prepare for Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive. In addition, we have also prepared a separate article about one of the most exciting gold mines in Alaska, located in the Hatcher Pass area. Check out our Independence Mine photos and tips, and add this place to your Alaska itinerary.

Agnes and Chris hiking Hatcher Pass

How to Get from Anchorage to Hatcher Pass

The fastest way from Anchorage to Hatcher Pass is via AK-1 N. It’s only 60 miles. Follow AK-1 N for 36 miles to Trunk Rd in Matanuska-Susitna. Take the Trunk Rd exit from AK-3 N. Then continue on Trunk Rd for 22 miles. Take N Palmer-Fishhook Rd to Fishhook-Willow Rd/Hatcher Pass Rd in Fishhook.

The exciting idea is to visit Palmer because this town has its charm and is beautifully situated. If you’re visiting Palmer, it’s worth taking an hour to see the Musk Ox Farm, where you can admire the muskoxen-glacial mammals.

Our Tip: Before embarking on a trip to Hatcher Pass with a rental car, verifying with your rental company if they permit driving on the gravel portion of the scenic route is essential. Not all rental companies allow this, so confirming beforehand is crucial.

Hatcher Pass Hiking Tips

If you plan to hike the Hatcher Pass trails, you must be prepared for the unpredictable weather. To help you out, we’ve gathered some tips based on our experiences that you might find helpful.

Check the Weather

It’s essential to check the weather for Independence Mine, Gold Cord Mine, and Marmot Ridge before embarking on a Hatcher Pass hike. But it’s also crucial to be prepared for sudden changes in conditions. In the Alaskan mountains, changing weather is typical. Our top priority is always safety, both for ourselves and others. Therefore, we believe giving up hiking or returning from the trail is better than taking unnecessary risks.

Agnes and Chris hiking on Hatcher Pass
Agnes hiking on Hatcher Pass

Check Hatcher Pass Trail Conditions

Some trails may be closed or under renovation, depending on the season and weather. That is why it is always worth checking the current trail condition before setting off on a hike. Check the Alaska State Parks website or call (907) 745-8950 for current conditions.

Pack Properly

Regardless of the weather, pack well for a trip to the mountains. Pack a raincoat and dress in layers even if you have a warm sunny day. Winds can be pretty intense on Hatcher Pass, so a hat and a windbreaker will be handy. We were in August, and at the top, we put on anti-wind jackets. Be sure to take hiking shoes with good soles. Grab a supply of water and snacks. Look at our detailed list of what to pack for Alaskan hiking trails. We developed it based on many years of experience in hiking.

Agnes hiking on Hatcher Pass

Take a Hatcher Pass Hiking Map

Some trails are well-marked, but there are more challenging hikes, so we always pack a map. You will not have telephone or internet coverage in the mountains, so check offline maps for selected trails beforehand. The AllTrails app can help. From the printed trail guides in this area, we recommend one of the best books a local expert wrote: Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska: Anchorage Area, Kenai Peninsula, Mat-Su Valley. If you are looking to experience the beauty of Alaska fully, we highly recommend this book that covers 100 hikes, including those in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Hatcher Pass areas, and much more.

The 10 Best Hatcher Pass Hikes

Below we describe the selected 10 best hikes in Hatcher Pass with the length of the trail, difficulty level, trailhead locations, and some tips.

1. Independence Mine Trail

  • Total Distance: 2 miles
  • Time Required: 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 173 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: easy
  • Trailhead Location: Independence Mine State Historical Park (Independence Mine Area Parking)

It is the easiest and the shortest Hatcher Pass hiking trail, yet it offers breathtaking scenic views that we find genuinely captivating. Our detailed article on the golden mine at Hatcher Pass describes this trail in depth. It’s an ideal hike for families with children or older adults, as there are also ADA-accessible paved paths. During the walk, you can marvel at the relics and artifacts from the historic gold mining era.

Independence Mine Trail

2. April Bowl Trail via Hatch Peak

  • Total Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Time Required: about 1.5 hours – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Mile 19 of the Hatcher Pass Road

The April Bowl Trail at Hatcher Pass offers breathtaking scenery. The trail starts with switchbacks, leading you through a picturesque valley with a cirque lake and a few small ponds. The views are truly spectacular. As the track progresses, it turns into a ridge trail that is narrow and rough, eventually concluding at Hatch Peak. Although the final stretch may be a bit strenuous, it is not particularly challenging from a technical standpoint.

Hatcher Pass Hikes - April Bowl Trail

3. Summit Lake Hike

  • Total Distance: 0.5 mile
  • Time Required: 20 minutes
  • Elevation Gain: 75 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: easy
  • Trailhead Location: Hatcher Pass Summit

The Summit Lake trail is often mistaken for April Bowl, as some individuals refer to one of the lakes within April Bowl as “Summit Lake.” However, these are distinct locations near each other. When you reach the Hatcher Pass Summit and descend the opposite side, a beautiful deep-blue lake will appear on the left side of the road. The walk around the lake is more of a stroll than a hike, but it offers stunning viewpoints. It is an ideal choice for families with children as it is an easy walk.

Summit Lake Hike

4. Gold Cord Lake Trail

  • Total Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Time Required: 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Independence Mine Area Parking

The Gold Cord Lake Trail is a great option for families with children or older individuals who want a scenic and relatively easy hike. The trail’s final portion involves some moderate elevation gain, but overall it is a manageable hike.

Agnes on Hatcher Pass hiking trails

5. Gold Mint Trail in Hatcher Pass

  • Total Distance: 16 miles
  • Time Required: at least 8 – 10 hours (it’s possible to camp in Gold Mint Hut)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000-foot
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Mile 14 on the Palmer-Fishhook Road

The Gold Mint Trail starts from a spacious parking lot before the switch back up the pass. You can take advantage of the available picnic tables and fire pits. This trail is one of the lengthiest hiking trails in the Hatcher Pass area. The hike is mostly level and unchallenging until the end, where it ascends a steep glacier-rimmed valley leading to the Gold Mint Hut, which Alaska Mountaineering Club runs. This hut is ideal for camping, and staying for a night here is possible. It’s a great idea to bring a tent. Huts are first-come, first-serve. After the initial four miles, the trail can become muddy. The trail stretches for 16 miles and runs alongside the Little Susitna River for a large portion of the way.

Hatcher Pass wildlife

6. Reed Lakes Trail in Hatcher Pass

  • Total Distance: 9 miles
  • Time Required: at least 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate to strenuous
  • Trailhead Location: Archangel Road. Fishhook-Willow/Hatcher Pass Road for approximately 14 miles. Then, make a sharp right onto Archangel Road and follow it for a few miles until you reach the small parking lot at the trailhead.

The Reed Lakes Trail boasts stunning vistas of the Upper and Lower Reed Lakes, which were formed by glaciers. This picturesque trail meanders alongside Reed Creek and showcases breathtaking turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and even an abandoned Snowbird Mine before culminating at Upper Reed Lake. The initial 1.5-mile stretch is a breeze as it follows an old road leading to a deserted cabin. The remaining part of the trek is more arduous, involving a boulder field well-marked by cairns.

Chris cooking after hiking on Hatcher Pass
Agnes preparing meal after Hatcher Pass hikes

7. Skyscraper Mountain

  • Total Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Time Required: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1170 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate
  • Trailhead Location: To reach the parking area, take Hatcher Pass Road and drive through the pass until you reach Mile 18.5. You will find a small section by the road where you can park your vehicle. It is important to note that the pass is not accessible during winter months.

The hike to Skyscraper Mountain is moderately difficult, with steep terrain and some scree sections along the way. However, it is a quick hike that offers breathtaking views of Summit Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Hatcher Pass Hikes
Agnes hiking on Hatcher Pass

8. Marmot Mountain Hike in Hatcher Pass

  • Total Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Time Required: 1.5- 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,955 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate
  • Trailhead Location: To reach the Marmot Mountain trailhead, you must follow the Fishhook-Willow/Hatcher Pass Road up to mile 16.5 and then make a right turn into the Fishhook Trailhead parking lot.

If it’s raining, hiking up Marmot Mountain might not be easy. The hike is moderate but has a few switchbacks that turn into a steep climb. Once you reach the summit, you need to traverse along the ridgeline. Even during the summer, some old snow might be on the way, so pack appropriately.

flowers on Hatcher Pass
flowers on Hatcher Pass

9. Bomber Traverse Trail in Hatcher Pass

  • Total Distance: 32 miles
  • Time Required: at least 2 -3 days
  • Elevation Gain: 7,372 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: strenuous
  • Trailhead Location: You may commence from either the Reed Lakes or Gold Mint Trail parking lots to embark on your Bomber Traverse hiking adventure. It is advisable to park a second vehicle at the ending parking area, depending on where you initiate the hike, or have a friend pick you up.

This hike is on our bucket list! It’s one of the longest and most challenging hikes in Hatcher Pass, so it’s essential to have experience in backcountry hiking. It’s a hut-to-hut adventure with steep, loose boulders, scree slopes, and glaciers. So, confidence in bouldering, glacier crossings, and route finding is a must. Check out this detailed trail description with a map.

Hatcher Pass Hikes

10. Government Peak

  • Total Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Time Required: 4 – 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 3,800 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Trailhead Location: To reach the trailhead, take Hatcher Pass Road and turn left onto Edgerton Parks Road. Then, make a right onto Mountain Trails Drive.

The Government Peak Recreation Area can be found at the foot of Hatcher Pass on the North Mountain Trails Drive. It offers a range of trails that are accessible in both winter and summer seasons. Ensure that you take the hiking trail rather than the one designated for runners. It is important to note the distinction between the two.

hikes in Hatcher Pass

Final Thoughts on Hatcher Pass Hiking Trails

The scenery of Hatcher Pass is fabulous, and it is worth going here at least for one day of hiking, mainly since it is located in a close and convenient location from Anchorage. If you have little time for your visit, a few hours or one day, we suggest going on three Hatcher Pass Hikes: Independence Mine Trail, April Bowl Trail via Hatch Peak, and Gold Cord Lake Trail.

Our Tip: If you need ideas for your upcoming trip to Alaska, our Alaska Travel and Photography Planner can provide you with comprehensive information based on multiple Alaskan road trips. Our list of the top 10 places to visit in Alaska and our 10-day Alaskan itinerary with tips and inspiration can also be helpful resources. If you have some free time in Anchorage, check out how to plan your time in Anchorage and what to do and see in the city.

Agnes hiking on Hatcher Pass Alaska

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