Gold Mint Trail

Matanuska Valley
This hike was rated 4 stars.
Difficulty
Moderate; easy until the end, where there is a steep 1/8 mile climb up the mountain to hut and camping. Exploring the glacier and ridges requires care (this part earns its moderate rating). Some bushwhacking through overgrown willow on valley trail.
Miles One Way
8
Miles from Anchorage
56; past Palmer towards Hatcher Pass
Season
All year for the valley (cross country ski or snowshoe in winter); July to September for Mint Glacier and mountain sites.

Description

This is a pretty cool trail. At first I gave it 3 hooves but then I started really remembering this hike. It had been over 2 yrs (I did it in 2000 – wrote this in 2002) and I had to remind myself of all the cool sites that I saw on this trip.

The Little Susitna River (which some people call this trail) is a beautiful glacial river and the trail pretty much follows it along a narrow glacial valley with plenty of great waterfalls, especially at the end. The vegetation is lush but the little bushwhacking you may have to do is not overly annoying.

When you get to the end of the valley, you’ll head up the mountain and that’s when the real fun begins. The hanging valley on top is a floor of incredible greenery with the river cascading down and thick patches of snow (even in August!). This floor is ringed by a circle of jagged peaks and boulders that are just begging to be explored. Set up camp and oblige them their request. Use your topo map to get to Mint Glacier and its tarn. The next time I do this hike, I plan on getting there one day, day hiking all around the next, and heading out the day after that.

There is a hut run by the Alaska Mountaineering Club that is surprisingly well equipped. The rental fee is membership in their club, an incredible bargain at $15. Membership application, etc. is on their website. They ask that you replace their cooking oil (so why don’t you just bring your own), keep the door locked from bears, and of course, don’t take anything and don’t screw with anything. When I did this hike in September 2000, it was rainy and cold and I sure was glad to be able to crash there.

2 really cool things happened when I did this hike. One was that while I was in the hut making dinner, the valley filled up with fog so fast that all I could see were the peaks when I came back outside. The other was during the next morning when I was sitting on the stoop of the hut sipping my coffee and two hoary marmots sat on a boulder close by watching me and chattering away. Go to the photos page for visuals on these.

The following was added June 6, 2009:

After 9 years, I finally re-did this hike as a day trip. Like the woman below, I was headed to Reed Lakes but the road was closed.

A lot has changed since 2000. The parking lot is much bigger with picnic tables and fire pits (not sure if it’s ok to camp). The trail has really been worked on and the first 2 miles would be very doable for someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller. There are mile markers for the first 5 miles (I can’t remember if these were always here).

And boy! The woman below is not kidding about the beavers. They have really called this place their own.

Anyway, I still believe this is a great trail. The “little Su” has to be one of the most gorgeous rivers in the world, seriously! This is one of the nicest glacial valley’s in Alaska and I need to hike this more than every 9 years. I still plan this season to overnight up at or near the hut and then explore the glacier the next day.

Important Information

About 1/2 way there you’ll have to ford a narrow but very deep tributary coming down the mountain. You can look around for a better place to cross but you might as well take your boots off (or not), and just do it. Added by the webmaster in 2009: it looks like some trail work has been done so you can boulder hop but if it’s been really raining, you’ll still probably get your feet wet.

Be prepared for rain and cold. If it’s raining you will get soaked bushwhacking through the willow if you aren’t well protected. Added by the webmaster in 2009: I wrote this when I went in September, 2000. In June of 2009, it was very clear and not a problem. I’m not sure if this was due to trail work or just that the shrubs haven’t had time to grow.

Bring a walking stick as the ridges can be slippery and sometimes icy. Needless to say, be very careful and only handle what you have the experience to handle.

There are not too many sites to set up camp; do a little planning ahead use the hut. If you go during a weekday, you’ll have a better chance of insuring a space.

There are no official trail maps of the area. You will need to buy a topo map (USGS Anchorage D). A list of stores in Anchorage that sell them can be found on the Education page.

Etc.

The parking fee is $5 (bring exact amount). The price for an annual parking pass is $40. You can purchase a pass at the Federal Building at 4th and F or the Atwood Building on 7th and E, 12th Floor.

This hike is in the Hatcher Pass area. Heading up the road to go over the Pass is worth the time after you’re finished hiking.

The best way to hike this in the winter is to buy a cheap plastic sled and carry your stuff on it. For details about how I built mine, go here.

Topo Map

Gold Mint Trail topo map

Comments on hiking Gold Mint Trail

  1. VC — September 18, 2018

    Just a couple name corrections. It’s name is Gold Mint Trail, not Golden Mint. And it’s Hatcher Pass, not Hatchers Pass. And yes, I’ve done this trail many, many times. It is incredibly beautiful and well worth doing. Just do it!

    Webmaster’s note: thanks for the corrections!

  2. Michael L. — August 21, 2017

    Would like to add that there are three beautiful lakes above the Mint Hut, two of which have only become visible because glaciers have pulled back into the mtns. Just follow the shallow ridge line above the Mint Hut to the NE, around the head of the cirque. Jewel Lake is the first you’ll come to as you head up the ridge–it will be on your left and is a beautiful jewel-like blue. As you scramble higher up onto the boulders you will come to Moonstone Lake, which is right where the terminus of Mint Glacier used to be. It is somewhat larger and is turquoise, heavy with glacial silt. At this point the trail pretty much stops, but if you continue scrambling over loose rock you will come to Ivory Lake. Both Doublemint and Triplemint Glaciers flow into Ivory Lake and it is a more subdued bluegray. Again, beyond Jewel Lake these lakes are not on the maps but they are lovely side destinations and there is a pretty good light trail/route to Moonstone Lake.

  3. Storm and Tony — June 20, 2016

    This is a beautiful Hike! My fiancé and hiked up late June 2016 a lot of mud on the trail past mile 4. Lost the trail around the beaver ponds as they had run over the trail. just stay to the left approaching and to the right of the pond when headed back. Nice bridge over the river now so that is not a problem. The last push to the Hut was really hard on the dogs due to the huge boulders they had to climb over. All in all its a pretty cool trail. (9.9 miles on our watch to the Hut)

  4. Alaskahiker — August 1, 2015

    This is a great location! I did this trip with some other guys and we had a great time. The trail is relatively level, until like the description said, the last little bit. We did this in late July, and it was a bit overgrown, but not too bad. Be sure to put in the effort to get to the hut and camp in the upper valley, and if you have time. Maybe even take a dip in the lake by the glacier 🙂 Overall, do this hike!

  5. Linda — September 25, 2006

    My adult son and I went to hike Reed Lake Trail but the gate was closed and the sign said “No Pedestrians – closed for winter season”, so we went back down the road to the Mint Valley Trail. We had limited time before dark, so we hiked to the creek crossing at about 5.7 miles on the GPS. This is a really easy trail and would be great for kids. I lost count at about 7 of the beaver dams along and in the trail. At one dam the trail is blocked by a beaver pond and the new trail is across the dam. One dam just a hop skip from the trail head is amazing. The beavers are hard at work with trails, alder branches piled high for winter in front of one of the beaver mounds. Take the kids and binoculars and see if you can spot the Mint Mine, small pile of tailing, and a structure in ruins across the creek and valley at the base of the mountains.

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