At this time of year, we often get asked, "Is Hatcher Pass open, even though there's no snow in Wasilla?" The answer is YES! And to be honest, it's a great time to visit one of Alaska's most scenic places.

Hatcher Pass remains open year-round, although with a few caveats. The road over the pass closed on Oct. 1, so you can't drive from the Willow side to the Palmer side during the winter. Another seasonal closure is the road leading up to the Independence Mine State Historical Park. The road is open to the lower parking lot, which means you'll have to walk just less than a mile to the mine itself, although the visitor center is closed.

Other than the road over the pass and the road leading to the upper parking lot, Hatcher Pass is open throughout the winter. Right now, the first blanket of snow has fallen on the upper region of Hatcher Pass. There is still a lot of great hiking going on, and it won't be too much longer until the snowshoeing is excellent. If you haven't explored Hatcher Pass by snowshoes, you're missing out - it's almost surreal to snowshoe around Independence Mine.

Throughout the winter, Hatcher Pass is an ideal playground for those looking to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Government Peak Recreation Area, at the base of Hatcher Pass, is one of the top places in all of Alaska for cross-country skiing. Further up the pass, skiers and snowboarders - using a personal vehicle as a shuttle - flock to the backcountry for runs. Toward the peak of the pass, there is excellent sledding opportunities for families, right from the parking lot.

Another great thing about visiting Hatcher Pass this time of year is the amazing displays in the sky. Hatcher Pass is one of the best places to see the northern lights in all of Southcentral Alaska. The aurora has been particularly active the last few weeks, and there's no better place to see them than in Hatcher Pass.

Just because the snow is creeping down the mountain, don't let it stop you from taking a drive up to Hatcher Pass. Just as the seasons change, so does this treasure of the Mat-Su Valley.

Check out some photos from people who have visited Hatcher Pass.: