Slicing through the Talkeetna Mountains, the alpine passage that houses Hatcher Pass is privy to more than sweeping views, it’s home to one of the most significant markers of Alaska’s storied gold rush: Independence Mine.
Access to Independence Mine can be achieved by way of Hatcher Pass Road, which connects the site to both Wasilla and Palmer. The 49-mile road is well maintained in the summer—only 10 miles remains in the wintertime to serve as an access to snowy recreation like sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling (the center itself is open seasonally based on weather conditions and snow pack. Call the visitor center at 907.745.2827 for details). In the summertime, the scenic drive is an adventure in itself—the road meanders through the Mat-Su Valley and delivers stunning views of glacial-sculpted craggy peaks and sweeping meadows stuffed full of wildflowers.
Miles of trail weave around the 13 abandoned buildings that comprise Independence Mine State Historical Park, all leading to different impressive vantage points while remaining relatively moderate and kid-friendly. Daily historical tours are available and are well worth the time. Heaps of fascinating history and compelling anecdotes characterize the once flourishing mine. In its heyday, it employed over 200 people and was privy to 83 mining claims. There are over 12 miles of underground tunnels left in its wake, representing the 4,416 ounces of gold harvested over the course of its lifetime. That amount, amassed between 1938 and 1951 (save for a brief halt during World War II) earned the mine over $1,204,560; today that would be valued at $17,208,000.
A sojourn around the site offers a remarkable look both into human history and the wilderness’ ability to persist in spite of it. Keep a sharp eye for moose, caribou, sheep, black and brown bears, wolf, coyote, beaver, fox, hare, squirrels, marmots and lynx.