In the Talkeetna Mountains between the towns of Willow and Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a local favorite for recreation or a scenic drive. Hike in alpine tundra dotted with wildflowers and ptarmigan, ski fresh, deep powder, or visit Independence Mine Historical State Park.
From Anchorage, it's a 3-hour road trip (roundtrip). You can also hit Hatcher Pass on the way up to Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks--this scenic detour adds about two hours to the total. You'll probably want to spend more time along the way.
You can get here via Hatcher Pass Road (aka Fishhook Road), which winds through the mountains for roughly 60 miles between Palmer and Willow. In winter, the state maintains the road to Independence Bowl, giving recreationalists easy access to snowy mountains. The pass gets some of the earliest snow in the state, and used to be the training grounds for the Junior Olympic ski team.
In summer months, usually around July 4th, the road opens over the pass, so travelers with high-clearance vehicles can travel all the way to Willow. The road is gravel for 22 miles and can be rough with ruts—especially after big rains.
If you don’t want to brave the dirt, travel to the top of the pass and Independence Mine. Learn about gold mining, hike trails, or enjoy a scenic picnic lunch at 4,000 feet. Look for paragliders launching off of steep hillsides, and keep an eye out for whistling marmots, pikas, falcons, and golden eagles. In late summer, there’s terrific blueberry picking up here. And in good weather, you’ll see the Chugach Range, Alaska Range, and Palmer’s Pioneer Peak.