This close to home hike follows a beautiful glacial river all the way up a valley through endless meadows of wildflowers and epic mountain views. The crux is a steep and at times puckering ascent to a quintessential mountain hut perched beneath towering mountains.

Start your adventure by driving 1.5 hours north of Anchorage to the Gold Mint Trailhead about 20 mins away from the town of Palmer. Pay for parking, there is a day fee and a camping (choose either depending on your ambitions). 

This trail can be broken down in four (unequal) sections. 

  1. The easy section (up until mile 4)
  2. The bush wacky section (the part where you'll be spending most of your time making noise for bears because the thickets and grasses are dense)
  3. The slippery when wet section ( mark my words, your shoes and socks will get wet). 
  4. The climb & goat trail section (pant your way up and possibly pucker your way around a muddy, cliff side single track)

Begin your way down the really well marked and maintained portion of the trail - you'll hear the distant roaring of the Little Susitna river off to your right. The trail skirts this river all the way up valley to it's tributary streams that flow from multiple glaciers!

It starts with The Easy Part and is smooth sailing from the parking lot until mile 4 which is when things start to get interesting - meaning...Bush Wacky. Now starts the miles of blind corners, overgrown vegetation, noises in the bushes, and potential animal encounters.  Although no machete is required, a good attitude and a very loud "HEY BEAR!" for the remaining 5 miles is essential. Keep an eye out for Cows Parsnip, a broad leafed plant that has juices that can deliver some serious burns. 

The trail winds itself through meadows of wildflowers, areas of head high grass, grabby willows, wet bogs, and flooded portions of trail that are mostly from beaver dams. Since you'll encounter washed out trail, bog, streams, and rocks that are Slippery When Wet, your shoes and potentially your socks are almost guaranteed to get wet. Bring a pair of dry socks and don't break an ankle trying to jump from wet rock to wet rock. 

Keep the distant amphitheater of mountains dead ahead until you start to get close to the massive waterfall. From there the trail will start to turn into a overgrown boulder field until finally the trail starts to veer left up the side of the valley.  This is the last push to the top!

The Climb is very apparent once you start going up but you'll eventually cross a flat area with small basketball sized rocks that lead to a boulder field of refrigerator sized rocks - this is when things start to become less obvious. 

Heres the tip:  When you get to the big boulders, look up for the trail which turns back into a muddy staircase just past the boulder scramble and then it  veers right. It should be right above you, and the way to get there is sometimes marked by carins that are stacked on the boulders, but if it isn't marked, it would be difficult to miss if you're aware of it. 

Once you're past the big boulders, up the muddy steps and around shoulder of the mountain, you're within spitting distance of the hut. *This is probably the most exposed section of the hike. 

The Goat Trail to the hut will definitely get your heart racing - either from stair stepping up muddy and steep ascent ( about 700+ feet) or from snaking your way along a trail that you swear could have been engineered by fearless goats (meaning at times it's narrow, but luckily not for too long). Caution when this part is muddy, trail can be REALLY slippery, and thus, REALLY sketchy. 

Finish after one more corner and in front of you will be one of the most beautiful little red mountain huts you can imagine. It's situated at the base of an entire amphitheater of jagged mountains which means you will without a doubt, feel inspired, insignificant, and pooped. Nice Work!

Side adventure: Download a topo map app to further explore the area. There are three glacially fed lakes that a well defined trail (that turns trail less) which starts up grassy ridge (on lookers right if you keep the valley behind you) leads to. Best recommendation is to take at least a day to explore the area about and around the hut which can either make for a very relaxing or epic layover day. The possibilities are endless. 

Pro Tip: A favorite breakfast spot is next to the waterfall that you had been admiring all day to get to the hut. Start on the grassy ridge (mentioned above) and do an moderate hike with easy scrambling all the way to the other side of the valley! If you are immune to cold, take a swim in the most beautiful glacial lake you may have ever seen.  

Pack List

  • Bear Spray - don't go into the AK backcountry without it
  • Alaska Mountaineering Club Membership - small annual fee to use their hut system
  • A good attitude
  • Essential Hiking Equipment 
    • Filter -There are lots of streams to filter from and an area about 3 minutes from the hut
    • Tent- is essential incase the hut is fully occupied, it only sleeps 8 but going mid-week seems to be the key. 
    • Layers - it may be summer, but it gets cold and windy up on the pass
    • TP - there is a small outhouse near the hut
    • All other things that are Backcountry essentials
Show More
RT Distance 9 Miles
Elevation Gain 2500 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

18 Miles in 1 Day? Possible.

My Dad, my brother and I took this hike by the horns! Woo! We started at 12pm and finished at 9pm. 18 miles in 9 hours is not a walk in the park. If we were to do it again, we all agreed that we'd hike the 9 and stay at the Mint Cabin at the top rather than having to turn around and go back 9 miles. That said, it's an incredibly scenic hike. Like the description offers, the first 4-5 miles is smooth. The next 3 are at a slight incline with some pushes and mud to jump through. The last 1-1.5 is tough. I will say though, it kinda feels like water at 212 degrees. You get right there, but it's not a boil. You gotta do the last degree. 700 feet straight up to the Mint Cabin. Just like water, the last degree was worth it. Awesome view. Sweet photos. And then 9 miles back. Good luck! ;)

Best out and back near anchorage!

Best place for a quick but EPIC adventure. Really accessible and gives you the backcountry experience that you need!


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