Hatcher Pass is 18-miles north of Palmer, in the high mountain summits. Cabins left from the Gold Rush still rest on the summit of the highest peaks to the lowest areas of the valley. Summer activities include hiking, biking, camping & wildlife viewing.
This road is called the Hatcher Pass Road or The Willow Fishhook Road. It is a scenic loop road that connects Willow and Palmer. It is approximately 49 miles long, about 14 miles of which are gravel. The road is gravel from mile 17.5 to 32.5 and is steep and winding and the gravel portion can be rough. It is not recommended for RV’s or towed vehicles to travel between Willow and Hatcher Pass.
You can reach Hatcher Pass on the Palmer Fishhook Road, at Mile 49 of the Glenn Highway. The road is paved from Palmer to Hatcher Pass and accesses the very interesting Independence Mine State Historical Park.
To reach Hatcher Pass from Willow, Alaska, turn east on the Willow Fishhook road at Mile 71 Parks Highway. The Willow Fishhook Road is only paved for the first 10 miles and gravel the rest of the way to Hatcher Pass. If you are driving this direction, be sure to stop at Alaskan Husky Adventures and take a ride with a real dog sled team.
The pass is named for Robert Hatcher, a miner and a prospector. This was a route utilized by the gold miners of Alaska as far back in the late 1930s. However, it has become a destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Is Hatcher Pass Open During Winter?
The Willow Fishhook Road and Palmer Fishhook Road are open year round, however the summit of Hatcher Pass is only open during the summer (July 1 – Sept 15), so it’s not possible to drive from Willow to Palmer via the pass in the off-season.
Besides taking a scenic drive on Hatcher Pass, the number one reason people come here is to visit the Independence mine state historical park, a big abandoned gold mine in an alpine valley.
Hatcher Pass Alaska Activities
Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass was among the top gold-producing mines in Alaska. The mine was in operation until mining activities came to a halt amidst the second world war. However, in 1984 the government turned the old mine buildings into a park for visitors.
Interestingly, some of the buildings built in the 1940s or 30s are still standing. So if you want to visit some historic gold rush era structures, make sure to visit.
Hatcher Pass Hiking Trails
If you are into hiking, you can find several hiking trails at Hatcher Pass.
The Gold Cord Lake Trail takes you from Independence Mine area towards a breathtaking alpine lake. This trail is around 1.7 miles. The trail is mostly easy but there is a boulder field with some switchbacks. The trail is usually in good condition and easy to follow. You will find an old cabin along the trail. The only wildlife you are likely to encounter are birds and marmots.
Other trails include the Gold Mint and Reed Lakes Trails where you will enjoy the beautiful blue lakes and Talkeetna Mountain views. Gold Mint trail is a challenging 18 mile hike that will take up to 10 hours to complete. It is very popular for backpackers and camping. Reed Lake Trail is also a challenging 8 miles trail with amazing views.