Photo Credit: Vonnie Jones

Guide to Hatcher Pass, Alaska & Scenic Drive

A flyover of Hatcher Pass Road in late May

Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive  (1:30)

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. Join Salmon Berry Tours on a fascinating 45-minute walking tour that explores the historic mine buildings.

If you do not have a vehicle, AK Tripping offers private transportation with an experienced local driver for groups of up to 4 in a comfortable Toyota Highlander.

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.

Hatcher Pass ATV Tours

See the beautiful scenery of Hatcher Pass on an ATV! Tours depart from Willow.

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.

Getting There

Latitude: 61.729574
Longitude: -149.233875
Driving Directions

Show Map

Scenic Drive Points

Season: Year Round $134+ 2+ nights

Enjoy your own pri­vate log cab­in in the wilder­ness, with all the mod­ern con­ve­niences, just an hour north of Anchor­age and min­utes from Wasil­la and Palmer. Nes­tled at the entrance to Hatch­er Pass in the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains, your cozy log cab­in makes an ide­al base camp for all your Alaskan adventures!

At the Gov­ern­ment Peak Recre­ation area you will find an exten­sive trail sys­tem for nordic ski­ing, walk­ing, hik­ing, fat tire bik­ing, and moun­tain bik­ing. The newest addi­tion is a Chalet that is avail­able to warm win­ter vis­i­tors. It’s also avail­able for rent.

After fol­low­ing along the Lit­tle Susit­na Riv­er on the Palmer Fish­hook Road, you will see a pull­out on the side of the road.

Locat­ed at Mile 11 of Hatch­er Pass Road, you’ll find Gov­ern­ment Peak Pic­nic Area. There is a small camp­ground with 8 sites for tents or small­er RVs, and a pic­nic area.

Ski or snow­board in this com­mu­ni­ty ski area set in the Tal­keet­na moun­tains, 90 min­utes north of Anchor­age and 25 min­utes from down­town Palmer. Hatch­er Pass has always been a place back­coun­try skiers flocked to, but Skeetawk makes the great ter­rain avail­able to even more snows­ports lovers.

Season: Year Round $95+ per person .25 hr+

Expe­ri­ence the thrill of heli-flight­see­ing year-round by fly­ing with the expe­ri­enced pilots from Heli Alas­ka, out of Wasil­la. Just 40-min­utes north of Anchor­age, you’ll take off from a dock and be on your way to see Alas­ka from the air, look­ing down on glac­i­ers, tun­dra, and wildlife. Many tours even include a glac­i­er land­ing to explore these ancient rivers of ice on foot.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 16 miles Elevation Gain: 2900 feet

A straight­for­ward trip with big scenery pay­offs, like the pic­turesque Mint Hut and a val­ley dot­ted with hang­ing glac­i­ers. This trip is a great first back­pack­ing trip in Alas­ka with sim­ple logis­tics. It’s 16 miles with options for addi­tion­al miles and side trips.

Difficulty: Moderate Elevation Gain: 2200 feet

This is a pop­u­lar, 4.3‑mile-long (8.6 round-trip) trail locat­ed 2 hours north of Anchor­age in the Hatch­er Pass area. It’s also gor­geous. At one point it climbs direct­ly along­side a sheet of water­falls falling from a wide gran­ite ledge. As the trail winds its way to these falls, it pass­es the lake into which the falls drain. And after the falls, the trail ends at the tarn from which the falls drain. In oth­er words, hike this trail and you’ll see a  ...more

The Fish­hook Trail­head park­ing lot is locat­ed at mile 16.5 of Hatch­er Pass Road. This area is active­ly used year round. In the sum­mer it’s a great area to hike and in late sum­mer the slopes are abun­dant with blue­ber­ries. This trail­head also leads to Mar­mot Moun­tain, were paraglid­ers launch from the top and land in the park­ing lot. In the win­ter, the area draws indi­vid­u­als to sled, ski and snow­ma­chine. This trail­head inter­sects with The Hatcher  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Just past Archangel Road, you will see a pull­out on the left. In the win­ter months, this is an extreme­ly pop­u­lar spot among back­coun­try skiers and snow­board­ers. How­ev­er, this steep, unmain­tained freestyle is not rec­om­mend­ed for novices. Dur­ing the sum­mer months the trails are used for moun­tain biking.

Distance: 2 miles

This 2 mile round trip hike begins right at the Sum­mit Lake Recre­ation Area park­ing lot at the crest of Hatch­er Pass.

Season: Year Round $175+ per night

Icon­ic and remote Alaskan adven­ture lodge in the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains, acces­si­ble by road just 60 miles north of Anchor­age. Open year-round, you’ll stay in rus­tic, com­fort­able cab­ins with access to some of the best hik­ing and ski­ing in the world, just out­side your door. The lodge and cab­ins sit dra­mat­i­cal­ly above tree­line, offer­ing breath­tak­ing moun­tain views and end­less adven­ture opportunities.

Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Sum­mit Lake, locat­ed some 60 miles north of Anchor­age at the crest of Hatch­er Pass, offers a short, mem­o­rable lake­side ram­ble. Here you can explore the sur­round­ing gul­lies and slopes or just sit and watch hang glid­ers drift out over the long Wil­low Creek Val­ley, which extends for miles from the west side of the pass.

Difficulty: Easy

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. There are 1.5 miles of paved walk­ways through­out the site, with infor­ma­tion­al plac­ards for a self-guid­ed tour. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

As you approach the Inde­pen­dence Mine Park­ing Lot, the trail can be seen to the far right end. It cross­es over a small bridge, and winds up past an old aban­doned min­ing cab­in, and then up a debris field and final­ly to the lake. Round trip, the hike is almost 2 miles, and the ele­va­tion gain is approx­i­mate­ly 600 feet. The trail can be mud­dy and wet for the first .25 miles, but it’s worth the hike to see Gold Cord Lake, and a great view of the Mine  ...more