Hatcher Pass Road - Alaska
Willow - Palmer
Distance/Driving time: 48 miles/1h, 53m
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- Hatcher Pass Road includes 3 roads which have been included in the road tour 'Hatcher Pass'.
The road is scenic, with some paved sweeping turns, some twisty roads and some rough (really rough potholed dirt) sections.
The path is usually in good repair late in the summer, although winter maintenance is unavailable.
The road is closed all winter, and in Alaska that could last 8 months.
Hatcher Pass itself is 19 miles from the Glenn Highway and 30 miles from the Parks Highway.
The pass was named after Robert Lee Hatcher, who staked the first hard-rock gold claim in the Willow Creek Mining District in 1906.
Prior to that, placer mining was used to extract gold from the Talkeetna Mountains.
There is still active mining in the area, although not on a large scale.
What draws many people into these mountains today is the site of a former large-scale mining operation: Independence Mine.
The eastern approach to the pass is short and steep.
The western approach is a long, slow climb to the summit followed by a steep, winding descent that can be tough on brakes.
From the Palmer side, Hatcher Pass Road is paved to Milepost 17.2 at Independence Mine.
From the Willow side, the first 11 miles of road are paved.
The 20-mile middle section of Hatcher Pass Road, the stretch that actually traverses Hatcher Pass, is dirt and gravel and not maintained in the winter.
Although passable for a regular passenger car in summer (taking care to avoid the larger rocks and potholes), this section of road is not recommended for large RVs and trailers because of several narrow, hairpin turns and rough road conditions.
On the west side of Hatcher Pass, the road follows the Willow Creek drainage down to the Parks Highway near Willow.
Much of Willow Creek is terraced by beaver dams and beaver, brown and black bears, moose, Dall sheep, marmot and pika are frequently visible in the area.
The Little Susitna River runs alongside the improved east leg of Hatcher Pass Road out of Palmer.
Picnic spots, pullouts with interpretive signs, and campsites have been developed along this beautiful mountain stream.
The Little Susitna is also popular with gold panners.
Turnouts dot the road to the summit, providing viewpoints and trailhead parking.
The best view along the road is from Summit Lake, with its great vista to the west.
Summit Lake is also a great spot to see marmot and watch paragliders jumping from nearby Nixon's Nose.
Turner s Corner is the only gas stop on Hatcher Pass Road; it s located on the Palmer side at Milepost 6.5, but there are gas stations on both the Glenn and Parks highways.
There are two places to eat near Independence Mine Hatcher Pass Lodge and Motherlode Lodge.
Accommodations can be found at Hatcher Pass Lodge, Hatcher Pass Bed & Breakfast, and at the Motherlode Lodge.
This is a fantastic motorcycle route and great day tour.
But be sure to allow enough time for the many drivers going very slowly.
The road is known for rough conditions and most are surprised by the roads actual conditions.
Yet thousands drive through every year.
I could be found on this road once a month all summer and sno-go (snowmobile) riding there most winters.
- Rider from Big Lake, AK (1/1/09)