Works Begins Today on Clearing Hatcher Pass, AK

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Work to clear Hatcher Pass starts today. Credit:

The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities has announced that work to clear Hatcher Pass begins today, Monday 18th. The Pass will be closed at MP 11, just past Skeetawk, for clearing avalanche debris. They will not be allowing traffic beyond that point up to Gold Mint Parking Lot. Gold Mint will be the staging area for the road clearing crew and no private vehicles will be able to park at Gold Mint while the work is in progress. Expect about a week to get opened to about MP 17.5 (Mine Parking lot).

Generally, the road over the Hatcher Pass summit is open only from about July 1 through September 15, depending on snow conditions. In the summer, the road is open to highway vehicles but expect slow passage. RVs or large vehicles are not recommended due to the steep grades, rough roads, and tight hairpin corners. Last summer the pass opened on June 17th, the earliest in years.

This road is open year-round except for the last mile to Independence Mine in the winter months. Four-wheel-drive is recommended during the winter, which is basically October 1 through May 31. The Hatcher Pass Road from Mile 17.5 to Mile 32.5 is a rough, gravel, narrow, and steep road that is not maintained nor open in the winter.

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.

Hatcher Pass, Alaska, closed,
Credit: Ranger Hobbes Barber (DNR)

You can get there via Hatcher Pass Road (aka Fishhook Road), which winds through the mountains for roughly sixty miles between Palmer and Willow. However, 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.

hatcher pass, Alaska
Hatcher Pass, AK

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