One Man's Alaska

Hatcher Pass, Alaska, Part 1

July 10, 2007

I took some time off yesterday to drive on Hatcher Pass, and I'm so glad I did. It reminded me of some of the roads I drove on in the deep-woods portions of Canada to get here.

Hatcher Pass is about 45 minutes south of Talkeetna. You get to it by taking the Parks Highway south just barely past Willow Creek, then take a left. Alternatively you can get to it from Wasilla, which is how I got on it.

As you're driving to Hatcher Pass from Wasilla the drive itself is beautiful, and you think there's no real need to get on the Pass because the park itself is incredible enough. And you're right, that initial portion of the ride is beautiful.

After driving through that initial area I stopped and talked to a ranger at the entrance to Independence Mine, and she told me where Hatcher Pass was, since I didn't think I had seen it. It turns out it was right behind me -- a very bumpy, winding, dirt and gravel road that goes uphill very fast. I assumed it was some access road the rangers use, but nope, that's the entrance to Hatcher Pass.

As you enter the road there's a sign that says the road isn't meant for a lot of vehicles, and they're right. Over about 90% of the road I'd say you can't drive faster than 15 MPH, maybe 20 MPH if you want to do some damage to your vehicle. The road is full of tire-swallowing potholes that would be repaired in most cities, and large, sharp rocks also jut out from the ground, waiting to trash your tires if you don't see them.

That being said -- wow, the scenery is incredible, and I'll include a few pictures in my next post.

I'm also pretty darned lucky that this road is between Talkeetna and Wasilla. I may get tired of looking at it one day, but when I come back from the grocery next week I'll be driving on Hatcher Pass again. It normally takes 70-90 minutes to get back from the grocery, but this route takes closer to four hours ... and I'll be smiling every minute of the ride.

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