There are dozens of places to pull over and explore the scenery. In the sub-alpine zone, there are very few trees but plenty of wildflowers: fireweed, Shasta daisies, wild geraniums, bluebells and plenty of others.
You might also see a few marmots curiously watching visitors to the most popular destination along the road: Independence Mine.
At its peak in 1941, the mine employed about 200 men who blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels and produced what today would be worth more than $17 million dollars of gold. Families lived in nearby Boomtown where there was a school and mess hall.
The mine closed in 1951 and now it's a state park. Though the state has closed the park's visitor center recently, the area is open to explore.
"I would have imagined that the buildings would have been restored. I was a bit surprised that it's actually a bit – how to say – devastated," said Maarten Peetrs, who was visiting the park from Belgium.
At the base of the road leading to the mine, the pavement runs out on Hatcher Pass road. The last few miles to the top are the steepest, but you don't need four-wheel drive. There were plenty of sedans and even motorcycles.
As they reach the official Hatcher Pass -- nearly 4,000 feet up – they find the prize they've all been searching for.
A glacier carved out the area generations ago and left behind Summit Lake. Trails branch out leading hikers even higher, but for the less ambitious, there's a nice path around the shoreline.
Summit Lake would be a great place to stop for lunch -- it's about halfway through the drive and the highest point along the road. From there, it's all downhill
The road down can take an hour or three -- you decide. The whole drive is easily done in a day.
A tank of gas and a few dollars in parking fees are all it takes to strike Alaska's wealth in Hatcher Pass.
Contact Ted Land at email@example.com
How to get there:
Head North on the Glenn Highway through Palmer and turn left on Fishhook Rd. The road will eventually turn into Hatcher Pass Rd. Follow it for several miles to Independence Mine. From the mine, head back down the road a few miles and turn right to rejoin Hatcher Pass Rd. The road continues even higher to the Summit Lake recreation area. Stay on Hatcher Pass Rd. and it will eventually take you to the Parks Highway in Willow.