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Gold Mint Trail - Hatcher's Pass


Why I like this hike: 
This versatile all-season trail goes through a gorgeous glacial valley and offers various hiking options. You can elect an easy hike of several miles or a rigorous eight mile (plus) trek to the Mint Glacier cabin. Depending on conditions, the first five or six miles can usually be done winter or summer and is suitable for most skill levels. This trail is a popular winter trek for those who ski or snowshoe.

Driving Directions:

(1) Glenn Highway Milepost 49.5, north on Palmer-Fishhook Road to Hatcher Pass (also called Hatcher Pass Road in the Hatcher Pass Management Area) 13.7 miles on the right; or
(2) George Parks Highway Milepost 36.1, north on Trunk Road to Palmer-Fishhook Road, turn left (north) to Hatcher Pass (also called Hatcher Pass Road in the Hatcher Pass Management Area) 13.7 miles on the right.

The Nitty Gritty:
The trail follows the west bank of the Little Susitna River to its source in the Mint Glacier Valley where there is a public use cabin. The hiker will pass through a glacial valley with striking views of the Talkeetna mountains with granite pinnacles on both sides. The Little Susitna River runs parallel to the trail.

The Gold Mint Trail is relatively easy for the first four to five miles making this section suitable for all skill levels. You’ll start by climbing slowly and maintaining a gradual elevation for about 3.5 miles up an old mining road, which eventually narrows to an actual trail. After that, the trail makes a wide turn to the left and the hiker gets beautiful views of the glacier-rimmed mountains that circle the upper valley and the craggy peaks of the Talkeetnas.

Not too far into the trail sits an actively maintained beaver dam.  In about five miles the trail goes through a wetland area which can be extremely muddy (in the warmer months) so waterproof foot gear is recommended. (Prior to this area there are a few limited camping spots.) Brush lines the trail and can become overgrown in spots but continual traffic keeps the overgrowth from becoming unmanageable. 
In about six miles, the hiker will come to a boulder field.  There is an alternate trail that follows the river and bypasses the boulder field. At times the alternate trail goes through large rock/boulders covered by vegetation which a hiker can manage but poses a risk for a pack animal getting a leg caught between boulders.  We turned around at this point and some hikers reported that their dogs also had difficulty and had to turn back.

If the hiker continues, the trail eventually becomes very steep at the upper end of the valley and terminates in a glacier-rimmed valley where there is a public-use cabin operated on a first come, first serve basis by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska (MCA). The MCA access description to the Mint Hut via the Little Susitna is as follows. 

Two options exist for the final push. Recently the more popular, with the more defined trail, but more difficult and not recommended in the snow, climbs the right slopes of the rocky knoll under which the boulder field is located. The trail is clearly visible for the first few hundred yards. It follows a defined narrow bench, gaining altitude quickly; one might scramble at times, constantly following the slope, trending in counterclockwise direction. Finally, one is deposited right at the front door of the hut. The other way is slightly longer, from the top of the boulders round the rocky knoll on the left, trending clockwise, drop into a small valley and turn right, the hut is on the right. Do not access the hut from the end of the Little Susitna Drainage, the slopes are steep and avalanche danger high. 

See the MCA website links below for details on hut use requirements/fees and directions to the hut.