Drive about 60 miles north of Anchorage and you wind up in Hatcher Pass, a super popular recreation site in Southcentral Alaska.
This is where the cool kids go to romp around outdoors. Hatcher Pass is 300,000 acres, according to its website. It’s not a state park, but a “management area” — a mix of state, borough, and private lands.
On a sunny winter day, people were out skiing and sledding. I watched a snowmachine streak across a hill like a motorcycle revved on its back wheel.
We stayed at Hatcher Pass Lodge. The cabins are cute and warm. Although they don’t have running water, they do have a little chemical toilet so you don’t have to
pee outside at 3 a.m. (which is all I really want). The lodge itself has bathrooms and a sauna, and a little restaurant with killer views.
But, to be fair, everywhere in Hatcher Pass has a killer view. This was my first visit, but I can basically identify the jagged mountains from all my friends’ Instagram posts.
Our group had snowshoes and skis, and we trekked up to Independence Mine, maybe a mile from the lodge. We could see where avalanches had ruffled the otherwise smooth mountain snow. Avalanche danger was “considerable” at high terrain — but we watched backcountry adventurers climb to the top of a mountain (pics below) … which was both awe inspiring and a little scary.
Independence Mine is cool. I’d like to go back in the summer when the visitor’s center is open. Most of the buildings are replicas, but you can still see the original old mine, slumped beneath snow and slowly decaying. The mine has been a national historic landmark since 1974. Gold was discovered in the area in the early 1900’s, and the mine’s peak year was 1941.
During World War II, gold mining was deemed non essential and the mine was ordered to shut down in 1943. While the ban was lifted in 1946, gold mining became unprofitable, and the mine never really got back on its feet. It closed in 1951. Now it’s a pretty place to walk around and see some Alaska history.