Set in the Talkeetna Mountains, between the towns of Willow and Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a favorite local hot spot 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. And it’s all just a 90-minute drive from Anchorage. Follow the guide below for the best stops along this scenic road.
You can get here via Hatcher Pass Road (aka Fishhook Road), which winds through the mountains for roughly 60 miles between Palmer and Willow. Most visitors don’t drive the road all the way through. Instead, travel to the top of the pass and Independence Mine, where you can learn about gold mining in the area between 1938 and 1950. Salmon Berry Tours offers a fascinating, 45-minute walking tour that explores the historic mine buildings.
The area also provides access to fantastic hiking trails, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a scenic picnic lunch at 4,000 feet. Look for paragliders launching off steep hillsides, and keep an eye out for whistling marmots, pikas, falcons, and golden eagles. In late summer, you’ll find terrific blueberry picking up here as well. And in good weather, you can see the Chugach Range, Alaska Range, and Palmer’s Pioneer Peak.
In winter, the state maintains the road to Independence Bowl, offering easy access to snowy mountains. The pass gets some of the earliest snow in the state, and the skiing is so good that it used to be the training grounds for the Junior Olympic ski team.
Over the Pass
In summer months, usually around July 4th, the road opens over the pass, so travelers with high-clearance vehicles can travel all the way through to Willow. The road is gravel for 22 miles and can be rough with ruts—especially after big rains.