At its peak, the Independence hard-rock gold mine was home to 206 workers and 16 families who lived high above tree line. Digging and blasting, these workers recovered 140,000 ounces of gold before the mine shut down in the wake of World War II. Designated a state historical site in 1982, the state has worked to preserve the 22 buildings that remain, and offers guided tours of the mine site daily at 1 and 3 p.m. ($6). Learn about government gold-price policies in the 1930s, visit a room in the bunkhouse and hear about life at the mine, and see the difference between placer and hard-rock gold mining.
There are 1.5 miles of paved walkways throughout the site, with informational placards for a self-guided tour. Standing in the rugged environment near 4,000 feet, the mine is surrounded by rocky peaks and alpine tundra. It’s a spectacular setting, so bring your camera and warm clothes. (It’s only one hour from Palmer, but the temperature here can be much colder). Several hiking trails from the mine lead to alpine lakes and panoramic views. Between the scenic drive and time at the mine, it’s easy to pass an entire day, but plan at least 4 hours, including the drive from Palmer.