One of our favorite Alaska adventures was backpacking the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut in Hatcher Pass. In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before tackling this beast of a hike for yourself!
We had many incredible experiences in Alaska, but hands down one of the most memorable was our backpacking trip on the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut.
With a unique little red hut, jaw dropping peaks, glaciers, and bright blue lakes, this hike feels like something straight out of the Alps. But oh boy, does it come with some challenges! Thick mud, overgrown brush, confusing trails, and wasp stings were just some of the struggles we faced along the way.
But as we woke up to the most epic mountain peaks surrounding our tent one thing was 1000% clear, every single hurdle was worth it.
Watch our EPIC backpacking adventure to the Mint Hut on the Gold Mint Trail!
In this guide we’re breaking down the hike, sharing important things to know before you go, and so much more! This is definitely one hike that you want to be physically and mentally prepared for. While it may not be for everyone, if you’re up for an adventure, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in Southcentral Alaska. But not without a little bit of misery along the way. 😉
Looking for more things to do in Alaska?
- 5+ EPIC things to do in Hatcher Pass in Alaska
- Hiking the Reed Lakes Trail in Alaska’s Hatcher Pass
- The 24 BEST hikes in Alaska
- The ULTIMATE Summer Alaska Packing List
- 12+ FUN things to do in Valdez, Alaska
- How to hike the Portage Pass Trail in Whittier, Alaska
- Hiking the Harding Icefield Trail at Kenai Fjords National Park
- 8 EPIC things to do in Kenai Fjords National Park
- The ULTIMATE guide to visiting Denali National Park (Mile 0-43)
- The ULTIMATE guide to driving the Alaska Highway
- How to spend 7 days in Alaska (4 itinerary options!)
- All of our Alaska vlogs
- All of our Alaska guides
- About the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut
- How to get to the Gold Mint trailhead
- When to backpack the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut
- Things to know before backpacking the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut
- What to expect on the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut
- Looking for even more things to do in Hatcher Pass?
- What to bring to backpack the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut
About the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut
The Gold Mint trail is located in Hatcher Pass, a section of the Talkeetna Mountains a little over an hour northeast of Anchorage. Hatcher Pass is a mountain lover’s paradise, with 300,000 acres of mountainous terrain, more than 30 summits, and numerous glaciers.
While you can experience some of its beauty from the car, the most rewarding views take a bit of effort. And the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut is one of the best adventures you can have!
This hike takes you along the Little Susitna River, through a valley surrounded by rugged peaks, before climbing up a rocky section to get to the red Mint Hut. This hut is managed by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska and is such a unique feature of this hike. But what is even more exciting than the hut is the view around it. You’ll see endless mountain peaks and glaciers, with the valley you just climbed up below.
It’s truly one of the most beautiful hikes we have been on!
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut trail stats
Miles (roundtrip): 16.6 miles
Elevation gain: 3,543 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut is an out and back hike, which means you will hike the same trail in both directions. And as you can see from the stats above, this trail is no walk in the park! With almost 17 miles and over 3,500 feet of elevation gain, it is pretty difficult overall.
The first 7.7 miles of the trail is a more gradual climb. But towards the end of this section is where you’ll encounter the many muddy and brushy obstacles we alluded to earlier. So while this part isn’t as hard from a fitness perspective, it does get a bit annoying at times.
In the last 0.7 miles you’ll gain 1,000 feet of elevation and it is a doozy! The trail is extremely rugged and rocky at this point, with very steep inclines as you reach the end. What makes it even harder is carrying ~25 pounds on your back!
This hiking experience definitely falls into the category of Type 2 fun. If you’re not familiar, Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that when you’re in the middle of it, you really question why you’re putting yourself through this. It can be a difficult and frustrating experience. But at the end, when you look back at what you just went through, you feel extremely proud and happy you did it!
Can you hike the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut as a day hike?
Technically, yes! You could hike to the Mint Hut along the Gold Mint trail as one very long day hike, but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Even though Alaskan summers have lots of daylight, you may still feel a bit rushed trying to do this hike. Plus, it may be a bit taxing on your body. And for us, spending the night up by the hut was one of the best parts!
However, if you only have a day to spend, you could just hike a portion of the Gold Mint trail. Here are some trail stats for that option!
Miles (roundtrip): 6.2 miles
Elevation gain: 754 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
This version of the hike only takes you about 3 miles in, which is the part that follows the river. You will still have amazing views of the river, valley, and mountains, but you will miss out on the best views, in our opinion.
If you have many days to spend in Hatcher Pass and want an easier hike, this is a good choice. But if you only have one day to spend, we suggest hiking the Reed Lakes Trail instead. It was our favorite day hike in the area!
How to get to the Gold Mint trailhead
The Gold Mint trailhead is located towards the beginning of the Hatcher Pass area, about 25 minutes from Palmer and 30 minutes from Wasilla. These towns both offer all of the amenities you may need before and after your hike. The only thing they are missing is an REI, but you can find that an hour away in Anchorage.
It’s an easy and scenic drive to the trailhead and the road is completely paved, so 4×4 is not required.
When to backpack the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut
The best time to backpack the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut is in the summertime. Specifically, July through August.
The Hatcher Pass summit road does not even open until July 1 and usually closes by September 15. While this hike does not require you to drive that road, that’s a good indication of when the conditions are best.
We backpacked the trail on July 27 and 28th. Our original plan was to hike closer to July 4, but there were few trail reports and we weren’t sure if the trail would be snow free. We are glad we waited because the conditions were perfect! The weather during our summer in Alaska was very rainy, but we lucked out with two sunny days. And there was no snow on the trail!
One thing to keep in mind is that the end of August marks the beginning of fall in Alaska. While early to mid September could still be a good time to hike, you will run the risk of snow. So we’d suggest planning your trip for mid to late July through August for the best and safest conditions!
And since this is Alaska, the weather can change suddenly. So always be prepared with layers and the 10 essentials to ensure you stay safe!
Things to know before backpacking the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut
You must be a member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska to stay in the Mint hut
The Mint Hut is managed by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska (MCA) and you can only stay inside if you have a membership. These memberships cost $20 per year (as of 2022). It is also first come, first served and you’ll likely be staying in there with others.
Since we did not have a membership, we did not sleep inside the hut, but we did pop into it to check it out!
Dogs are allowed
Dogs are allowed on this hike. Our pup Kona LOVED it! But since this is bear country, make sure to keep your pets leashed in order to protect wildlife. And ALWAYS pick up after them (and pack it out). Yes, this may mean carrying multiple bags of dog poop as you backpack. It’s not fun, but just part of being a responsible dog parent!
Parking and restrooms
There is ample parking at the trailhead that will accommodate at least 40 cars and costs $5/day. You can pay with a credit card at a pay station, which is super convenient!
We ended up staying in our van in the parking lot the night before doing the hike. There are also actual campsites at the trailhead, which cost $15 per night.
The trailhead also has restrooms and picnic tables!
There is limited cell service in the Hatcher Pass area so be sure to download offline Google Maps and AllTrails maps ahead of time. Some sections of this trail can be difficult to follow and having access to the offline AllTrails map is key to ensure you do not get turned around.
Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)!
We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
What to expect on the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut
Below is a recap of our experience on the Gold Mint trail, plus what to expect, broken down by trail sections. To see even more of our experience, check out our full YouTube video from our backpacking trip!
Trailhead to Mile 5
After spending a night at the trailhead, we hit the trail bright and early, shortly after sunrise. The trailhead parking lot was fairly empty, minus a few cars that were there when we arrived.
We had a bit of anxiety hitting the trail, as we had read about the mud, wasps, and confusing areas. Plus, I (Kathryn) always have a bit of bear anxiety when hiking in bear country. We actually almost bailed on the trip because of some of these factors. But we are SO glad we didn’t!
The first part of the trail takes you through brush and trees, which don’t fully obstruct the view, but it isn’t super wide open. You can hear the water flowing through the river, but you won’t have a clear view of it for a little bit.
As you continue on, the views start to get more open. While there is still some brush, it’s mostly tall weeds and wildflower plants. You will have a much clearer view of the mountains around and they are stunning!
Mile 3 is when things started to get a bit muddy for us, but it was nothing compared to later. Be prepared to get your shoes a bit dirty though!
If you choose to only do part of this hike as a day hike, mile 5 is probably as far as we would suggest going. There is a nice view of the mountains (where the trail continues to!) and the river from here!
One other thing to note is that there are mileage markers for the first five miles, which will tell you how far you have gone. They are in one mile increments and are useful to keep track of your progress.
Mile 5 to Mile 7.7
After mile 5, the trail becomes a lot more wet, muddy, and overgrown, but the views only get better and better.
There were many sections along this part of the trail where we stepped into shin deep mud. At one point, when trying to cross a super muddy section, I slipped and fell onto my butt. Some sections were less muddy, but more rocky, so you do get a break at times.
Overgrown brush was also a big struggle. This trail is relatively popular, so you will find some sort of a path through the brush, but at times you’re pushing through sticks.
There were also a couple areas where it wasn’t 100% clear where the trail was. We pulled off to a rocky area to eat, but when getting back on the trail, we got confused. We ended up taking the rocks for longer than we should have and had to bushwhack back to the trail.
Beware of wasps!
Another painful challenge during this part of the hike were wasps. We had read on AllTrails before the hike that there were some aggressive wasps around mile 6.7. On our hike to the Mint Hut we were very nervous about this, but never encountered them. However, on the hike back, we did.
We were walking around the section that they were said to be in and suddenly I felt a sting on my shin. I looked at the ground and noticed at least 30 wasps swarming the trail. Adam and Kona were already through the section and I didn’t want to get stung more, so I backed up. This is when things got tricky. There was no easy way to get around them.
I ended up having to backtrack to this calm pool of water, walk through it, and walk along the edge of the river. It was a bit scary, since the river was moving fast, but I stuck to the rockier edge. Thankfully I was able to get through the river and bushwhack back onto the trail, past the wasps.
Others have reported seeing these wasps, but many haven’t. And since this blog post is coming out in 2023, almost a year after the hike, we hope they are gone forever. Just make sure to read reports beforehand!
Even though the terrain is still relatively flat in this section of the hike, it was the most brutal part for us. But we will say, it was memorable! And for us, the best adventures have highs and lows. This was the low, but we would soon be getting to the high! Literally!
Climb to the top (Mile 7.7 to 8.3)
The final stretch of the hike takes you along the river for a tiny bit, before turning left to begin the climb to the Mint Hut. As you climb up towards the hut, the terrain is very rocky, with some steep, slick dirt sections mixed in.
It is sort of a scramble at times, but we often were able to climb up these rocks without needing our hands too much.
We had read that at one point during the rockier climb it gets confusing on where to go. Reviews said to go to the right, but we personally never even noticed a left option. Our pace definitely slowed down during this part of the hike, mostly to just ensure we had good footing, as some spots are more narrow. But we all made it through just fine and right as you reach the top, BAM, there is the Mint Hut!
The Mint Hut
A big reason why we chose to do this hike is the Mint Hut. Not even to stay in it, but just because the hut itself was so cool and its backdrop was unreal!
The Mint Hut was built in 1971 by the MCA and while rustic, has quite a few amenities that definitely beat the heck out of a tent! Despite not being able to stay in it, we toured the inside and it is really neat. You enter into a room with emergency supplies and tools, before making your way into the kitchen and dining area.
This area has a dining table and benches, board games and books, and a kitchen. In the kitchen people had left coffee supplies, some backpacking meals, and propane. For the sleeping area, you’ll have to climb a ladder to a loft. Up here there were a few sleeping pads and sleeping bags left, but otherwise it’s just an open space. The hut can sleep 8, but we bet it can fit more if needed, with some sleeping downstairs.
During our visit no one stayed in the hut, but we met a group on the way up who had to share it with others. So be prepared to make new friends!
Just outside the Mint Hut is an outhouse, which is pretty newly built. There are a couple rules for using it. The first being, do not urinate in it. This will cause it to fill up quicker and they have to helicopter the barrel out, which costs a lot of money. To keep it from filling up quickly, only put solid waste in there.
You also are not supposed to put toilet paper in the outhouse. They suggest you burn it, but we just carried out any toilet paper in dog poop bags. Do not bury your toilet paper!
Where we camped
Since we could not stay in the hut, we had to camp in the area around it. Before our trip we were very unsure what the tent camping situation would be and how we would know where we could and couldn’t camp.
The terrain in this area is more like tundra, so we found a spot that looked like it had been used before (matted down) to ensure we didn’t damage any more land than needed.
There was a stream nearby to get water to filter, which made it super convenient! And since it is bear country, we ate far from our tent and had no issues finding a good rock to sit on.
This was hands down the BEST campsite view we have ever had! The mountains you can view in all directions are so jagged and majestic. It reminded us a lot of the Dolomites in Italy or the Wind River Range in Wyoming. We have been fortunate to visit so many beautiful places, but this was easily one of the best views of our entire life.
And the best part? We mostly had it to ourselves! While there was no one in the hut the night of our trip, we did have one other group tent camping. But that is it! Just four of us and one dog out there for the whole night. Absolutely magical!
Add on: Jewel and Moonstone Lake
After setting up our tent, we decided to go on a little adventure to some lakes we had heard about near the Mint Hut: Jewel and Moonstone Lake. There wasn’t a ton of information about them, but we had seen an AllTrails page for them and wanted to give it a shot.
It is just under a mile each way to the lakes and while rockier, it was probably the easiest part of the entire backpacking trip.
Despite being SO tired, we are SO glad that we added on these hikes. The lakes are a striking glacial blue color and the mountains that you get to see from Moonstone Lake blew our minds. It was quite possibly the highlight of the entire trip!
Want a bigger challenge? Hike the Bomber Traverse
The Bomber Traverse is an intense hike that turns the Gold Mint trail and Reed Lakes trail into one big loop. Here are the quick stats!
Miles (roundtrip): 20.5 miles
Elevation gain: 5,921 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
While you can experience both of these hikes without connecting them, this loop is sought out because of what you get to see in the backcountry between them. You’ll traverse glaciers, see an old bomber wreck, and some intense scrambling.
As you stand in the bowl where the Mint Hut is you’ll notice a very tall rocky section behind the hut. It may seem impossible by looking at it, but THAT is where you hike to continue on the Bomber Traverse.
It is very important to be aware of the risks of doing the Bomber Traverse. You will have to walk on glaciers and be mindful of crevasses (crampons or spikes are a MUST) and will encounter steep, rocky slopes to scramble. All while carrying gear. It is NOT for the inexperienced hiker!
For now, we will stick to doing the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut and the Reed Lakes trail individually.
Looking for even more things to do in Hatcher Pass?
If this hike seems too challenging (or miserable) for you or you just want more options of things to do in Hatcher Pass, we’ve gotcha covered! We have a guide to Hatcher Pass with all of the best things to do, including easier hikes and non hiking options!
What to bring to backpack the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut
Since this is a backpacking trip, you’ll want to make sure you bring all appropriate camping gear, like a tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, plus the 10 essentials.
To see everything we take backpacking, check out our backpacking gear, as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. But here are a few key items we want to stress bringing with you to the Gold Mint trail to the Mint Hut!
This is a long adventure with varying terrain, so you’ll want good hiking shoes. Kathryn rocks Lowa Women’s Renegade GTX on the trails and she LOVES them! Adam wears the ALTRA Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe, which is a trail running shoe, so they are less bulky than boots, but still great for the trail and they dry really fast in the sun. Just make sure you’re okay with getting these shoes muddy!
Your feet will get soaked in water and mud. We recommend bringing at least one extra pair of socks.
We like to bring flip flops for at night while backpacking. It’s nice to give our shoes time to dry and they are easier to take on and off when getting in and out of the tent.
Don’t forget some food! We packed some sandwiches to enjoy on the trail and then backpacking meals for camp. Plus some snacks and of course, dessert. To see some of the food we like to bring when backpacking, check out this Kit below!
Water filter and storage
We like to carry our 3L Camelbak bladders while on any hike, which makes it easy to store a lot of water and drink while on the go. There are water sources along the trail, like a river and lakes, just make sure to filter it. We use the Sawyer water filtration kit!
Alaska is home to a variety of wildlife, including both black bears and grizzly bears, with grizzlies being the more aggressive of the two.
Although we didn’t see any bears in Hatcher Pass, they could be around, so carrying bear spray is highly recommended. We always have our bear spray strapped to our hip or chest when hiking on trails, plus next to us in our tent at night.
Not only is it important to have bear spray on you, but you need to have it readily available and know how to use it. We’d recommend watching this video that explains how to use bear spray, if you aren’t familiar.
The first 5 miles of the Gold Mint Trail is easy to follow and well marked. But once past this area, you’ll find it easy to lose the trail when you’re dodging mud and bushwacking. Having the AllTrails map downloaded will come in handy for staying on the trail and checking your progress.
If you haven’t heard, the common joke is that the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito. Although we didn’t have an issue with mosquitos during our adventures in Hatcher Pass, we may have just gotten lucky. In order to not have a miserable time swatting mosquitoes all day, make sure to bring bug spray with DEET!
The trail is very exposed in many sections so bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
You will be in a remote area with limited to no cell service. Having some sort of satellite communication device, like a Garmin inReach Mini, will be extremely valuable in case you need help. We take this with us everywhere and it has come in handy several times on our adventures, mostly to text family (not for SOS reasons thankfully)!
Trekking poles may be useful for this hike for the muddier and steeper sections. We have the Black Diamond Equipment Distance Z poles and highly recommend them!
Weather in Alaska can be extremely unpredictable. Carrying some layers will help you be prepared for all conditions in Alaska.
Rain jacket and rain pants
Similar to above, it can rain or snow any day of the year, so having rain gear is recommended. Kathryn wears the Patagonia Torrentshell jacket and Adam wears a Columbia rain jacket.
Rain pants or waterproof pants are another highly recommended item that we did not have, but will hopefully have for future Alaska trips. Trails in Alaska (especially this one!) require you to go through brush, which can often be wet and soak your pants.
Ready to backpack the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut?
Pin this backpacking guide to help plan your trip!