Hatcher Pass Road and Independence
Hatcher Pass Road is a scenic 49-mile rugged mountain pass in the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska.
Originally used by Alaska gold rush miners in the 1930s and 1940s, this area is now a fascinating, historic and recreational playground, perfect for a full-day outing or side trip to Denali National Park.
Accessible from either Wasilla or Palmer, Hatcher Pass Road zigzags through alpine meadows, follows the picturesque Little Susitna River and is surrounded by mountains, brilliant wildflower displays and easy hiking trails.
Summer visitors take to the slopes to hike, pick berries and recreational gold pan. In winter, about 10 miles of Hatcher Pass Road remains open from Palmer or Wasilla Fishhook Road for winter activities including
sledding, snowmobiling, snowcat skiing, cross-country skiing and alpine backcountry skiing.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Hatcher Pass Road is accessible and well-marked from both the Parks Highway in Wasilla and the Glenn Highway, just north of Palmer.
From Anchorage: Follow the Glenn Highway north from Anchorage north to mile 49.5. Turnoff on Palmer-Fishhook Road and follow the signs to Hatcher Pass Road/Independence Mine State Historical Park.
From Wasilla: Head northeast on Main Street, which becomes Wasilla-Fishhook Road, which connects with the Palmer-Fishhook Road.
From Willow: The Willow-Fishhook Road junction is at Parks Highway mile 71.4 from Anchorage, and mile 290.6 from Fairbanks.
WHAT TO DO
The gold-bearing Little Susitna River flows beside Hatcher Pass Road, from mile 7 to 15. There are several parking areas along this scenic mountain stream, which heads at Mint Glacier in the Talkeetna Mountains and flows 110 miles into Cook Inlet.
Just before the switchback is where hikers and mountain bikers can access the Gold Mint Trailhead. At Mile 14.6, park at the Fishhook Trailhead to hike the 18-mile Hatcher Pass Trail over the pass toward Willow.
Past the access road to Summit Lake State Recreation Site (elev. 3,886 feet) is the abandoned Independence Gold Mine. This mine was one of Alaska's top-producing mines before gold mining came to a halt during World War II. After which, mining activity declined until the mine was officially closed in 1951.
The abandoned buildings and the surrounding 271 acres became Independence Mine State Historical Park in 1984. Thirteen structures built in the late 1930s and early 1940s remain standing. Climb beyond the abandoned buildings on well-trodden trails and get rewarding views of the mine and entire valley.
At Mile 39, pavement begins. At mile 49, the road connects with the Parks Highway. From there, drive north to Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Fairbanks or head south to Wasilla.
Note: The road over the pass is not paved and opens typically around July 4th weekend.
There are several bed and breakfasts, rustic retreats and dining facilities in the Hatcher Pass Gold Rush Country.