Gold mines, mining cabins, grizzly bears, eagles, and a moderately challenging trail don't interest you? Of course they do! This trail has a little bit of everything on it and is a favorite of more than a few. Mining relics, mine shafts, mining buildings, tools, and machinery litter the valley in a homage to the rich gold mining of the area that continues on today. People still actively mine this area so please be respectful of their equipment and claims. This trail sits just a couple valleys over from the popular Independence Mine State Historical Park.
Do not remove any mining artifacts, leave them for everyone to enjoy.
From Palmer or Wasilla: Take Fishhook-Willow Road/Hatcher Pass Road and head towards Hatcher Pass following the road signs to Hatcher Pass. Drive the steep paved ascent into Hatcher Pass for several miles and a few hairpin turns until the road makes an abrupt left to a gated gravel road that goes over the pass (generally open around July 4 - snowfall, call DNR to be sure) staying straight will take you past the Hatcher Pass Lodge Hatcher Pass Lodge via Gold Cord Road and will end at Independence Mine State Historical Park.
Drive carefully over the pass, it might be best to engage 4WD now to help get over the pass if you don't have much weight under your drive axle as the road is steep, loose gravel, and normally potholed. Motorhomes and long trailers are not recommended. Follow the road by taking a left at the next gate to remain on Fishhook-Willow Road/Hatcher Pass Road and not go straight onto Upper Willow Road. Continue along Fishhook-Willow Road/Hatcher Pass Road until you reach Craigie Creek Road.
Hatcher Pass Road is now closed from the Palmer/Wasilla side at the main gate. Access to this trail that will soon be impassible due to snow must be from the Willow entrance to the pass road. Pictures are from the Hatcher Pass Road entrance on the Palmer/Wasilla entrance.
Excellent trail conditions leading to the cabin, the parking area at the cabin is a mud pit so don't pull too far in, if in a group just stay in line on the main trail. Leading further back to the waterfall was excellent conditions as well until the parking area at the falls which again was a mud pit with a good slope to it, if in a group stay in line on the main trail. Turning around is tight and beyond the waterfall is getting into the extreme of the rock crawling and still snow covered so a large group may end up doing part of the trail in reverse to get out or doing a snow covered rock climb to allow the rear vehicle to do a turn about then the group would follow backing down the rocks to turn about. took 3 of us 2 hours to go up to the falls and back at a slow pace.
The trail was in good shape and we even saw a brown bear on the way down. The rain made the trail a little too slick for a couple vehicles with highway tires but rigs with a rear locker or front and rear lockers had to issues going all the way to the end and hiking to the lake at Dogsled Pass.
Very slow paced trip, 4 low and being as gentle as possible dropping down off of the rocks. It can be done without being a bobblehead but it makes the trip about a 5 hour round trip. Was rather cold to be out of the vehicle for lengths of time.
This was only my second time on the trail, had a great time and the trail was in good condition. Really cool to check out the mines in the valley, I was surprised to see open mine shafts! Close to Anchorage, Alaska but even closer to Wasilla and Palmer I will have to go back and check this one out more often.
Kyle has been into off-roading since getting his license at 16 and wheeling the family SUV (possibly without informing his parents of these wheeling trips in their vehicles). He graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with an Electrical Engineering degree. He lives in south-central Alaska and is raising his two young kids. Kyle stays busy year-round by working full-time as an Electrical Engineer who spends his weekends wheeling, hunting, fishing the local lakes, and raising his family. He is eager to share his love of the outdoors with others, especially when it involves a 4WD. His goal is to create an amazing resource for locals and travelers alike to enjoy the endless beauty Alaska has to offer while respecting the trails and keeping them open for years and generations to come.