Independence Mine in Hatcher Pass opens to the public on Friday, June 18, kicking off a summer of activity in one of the Mat-Su Valley's most iconic locations.

Salmon Berry Travel and Tours, a leading Alaska-owned tour operator based in Anchorage, is operating the recreation area this summer for a second year in a row, and they are planning to offer several tours and amenities that enhance the overall visitor experience. Independence Mine State Historical Park features historic mine buildings, interpretative sites and trails. This summer, Salmon Berry Tours will offer guided tours, a snack shop, family-friendly activities and gold pan rentals.

“One of the things I've said a million times is to pack a picnic lunch and bring the family because there's so much to do in Hatcher Pass. We want to see you at the mine and the historical park, but there are also so many trails and things to do that you want to spend a lot of time there," Mandy Garcia, co-owner of Salmon Berry Tours, said this week.

The gate to the upper lot will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, with the last car going up at 6 p.m. The lower lot will remain open and people visiting after 6 p.m. can park there and walk to the mine. The snack shop, tours and visitor information center are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The Manager's House and Visitor Center will be open for people to visit the exhibits as in the past. Bunkhouse #2 serves as the main information center, which is where tours will check in and guests can grab a snack or drinks for their day in Hatcher Pass, whether that includes visiting the mine or hitting some of the amazing hiking trails nearly. There's also an exhibit featuring the hand tools the miners used in their daily work.

Admission to the historical park is free (the Alaska State Parks parking fee still applies however), and there are three buildings open to explore on your own. For a more in-depth experience, consider taking one of Salmon Berry's inexpensive and immersive field lecture tours. Local tour guides will provide daily interpretation on a variety of subjects including the history of the park and its renovation project. The 45-minute tour is $15 per person ($12 military/senior/Alaskans and $5 children) and is being offered at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. daily.

"The field lectures are great because you learn so much about the history of the mine and what it was like to live and work there," Garcia said. 

Once again this year, fully customized private tours are available on request for school and family groups - advance reservations are required (907-278-3572). On private tours, topics can be arranged to the group's interest, and include hiking, gold panning and admission to buildings closed to the public.

Garcia said people should plan on visiting more than once this summer, however.

"We're going to have a few surprises throughout the summer with extra buildings opening temporarily to give people new experiences every time they visit," Garcia said.

Garcia said to keep up to date with new attractions being added, people can follow Salmon Berry's Instagram account, where frequent updates will be posted.