This guide details everything you need to know to hike the epic Reed Lakes trail in Alaska’s Hatcher Pass.
During our summer in Alaska we hiked many day hikes around the Southcentral portion of the state. And hands down one of our top three favorite hikes was the Reed Lakes trail in Hatcher Pass.
With gatorade blue lakes, glacial mountains, crystal clear creeks, and a fun route, it’s hard to not instantly fall in love with the Reed Lakes trail. The scenery you can experience in just under 4.5 miles (one way), is unmatched!
Watch us hike the Reed Lakes trail in Alaska, plus explore other fun hikes and sights in the Hatcher Pass area!
If you’re heading to Alaska in the future, you must add this hike to your Alaska bucket list. And in this guide we break down everything you need to know to hike the Reed Lakes trail in Alaska’s Hatcher Pass including what to expect on the trail, what to bring, and more!
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About the Reed Lakes trail
Miles (roundtrip): 8.7 miles
Elevation (gain): 2,247 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Reed Lakes trail is home to two stunning glacial blue lakes. And to get to both, you can expect to hike just under 9 miles round trip. However, if you’re short on time or energy, we still recommend hiking to the first lake to experience some of this hike’s beauty.
The first two miles are fairly flat and easy, but then you begin to gain elevation. And the views get better and better! You’ll hike past waterfalls and a refreshing creek, plus see beaver dams, glacial lakes, and jagged mountains.
There are also boulder fields you will have to navigate, which may be difficult for some people. We found it to be pretty fun, although slightly confusing! Since this is an out and back hike, you will have to conquer this section twice.
AllTrails ranks this hike as hard, but overall, we found it to be moderate. Keep in mind that we do have quite a bit of hiking experience, so what is moderate for us may be hard for others. But at the same time, we did this hike a day after finishing the Gold Mint Trail to the Mint Hut, which was an exhausting experience.
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.
Where is the Reed Lakes trail?
The Reed Lakes 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 Reed Lakes trail is the best day hike in the area!
The Reed Lakes trailhead is located down an unpaved Archangel Road, just past the Gold Mint trailhead. It is about 1.5 hours from Anchorage and about 45 minutes from the smaller towns of Palmer and Wasilla. These towns both offer grocery stores and restaurants for pre or post-hiking fuel. And if you’re van lifing it like we were, Wasilla has a Planet Fitness for post-hike showers. 😉
When to hike the Reed Lakes trail
The best time to hike the Reed Lakes Trail 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 hiked the Reed Lakes trail on July 29, 2022 and it was perfect. Despite it being a very rainy summer in Alaska, we lucked out with a sunny day and temperatures in the 60s. But be prepared for any type of weather when tackling this trail, including rain or snow!
Things to know before hiking the Reed Lakes Trail
Parking & restrooms
There is a very small gravel lot at the actual trailhead, but most people park along the road to the trailhead. Make sure to not block the road or other vehicles! We do not recall seeing a restroom at the trailhead, so plan ahead and follow leave no trace principles if going to the bathroom while on the hike.
There is limited cell service in the Hatcher Pass area, so be sure to download offline Google Maps and AllTrails maps ahead of time. While most of the hike is easy to follow, there are some turn offs, as well as a confusing boulder section, and having an offline AllTrails map came in handy!
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.
Dogs are allowed
Your furry friend can join you on this hike. But since this is bear country and a popular hike for both humans and dogs, make sure to keep your pets under control. Not all humans or dogs (like our pup Kona) appreciate strange dogs running up to them. Also, please pick up after your dog (and pack it out)!
Camping at Reed Lakes
You can camp by both lower and upper Reed Lakes! There are no designated campsites, so make sure to find a spot that has been used before (matted down), to avoid harming more terrain. While we did not camp here, it’s on the list for next time!
What to expect on the Reed Lakes Trail
Beautiful scenery begins before you even start the Reed Lakes trail. Both the drive and trailhead have amazing views of the area, but it’s just a teaser of what’s to come!
The trail starts by taking you through a brushier area that goes through a valley. But unlike the brush along the Gold Mint Trail, there is a nice path that prevents you from having to bushwhack. Despite there being more vegetation here, you can still see views of the mountains around and hear the creek rushing.
About 1.5 miles in, you’ll start to come across the creek you have been hearing, which you’ll cross over via a bridge. There is also a turnoff around here to go see a pond that has a beaver dam. We didn’t make this detour, but it was cool to see from afar…we even saw some beavers swimming!
Although you will have been climbing from the beginning, at mile 2 is when you’ll start to really notice it. You’ll follow some switchbacks up the mountain, passing a waterfall along the way, before things get rocky.
From here, the trail transforms from a nice, dirt path to a boulder field that lines a crystal clear creek, with mountain views all around. This boulder field has some huge rocks and may be a bit difficult for some dogs. We had to help Kona a few times!
It is also a bit tricky to follow. The first part of the boulder field wasn’t too confusing, but once we got to the creek, we weren’t 100% sure where to go. We zig zagged across the creek a few times as we tried to find the best way.
Ultimately, we stuck to the left side because we felt that it was easier to cross the creek early on. But we did see some groups who crossed later, so we think either way you choose will be okay.
Once you get through this section, the trail will be on the left of the creek and is easier to follow. The scenery continues to be incredible, with even more rugged peaks emerging. We cannot count how many times we gasped at the views out here. It’s unreal!
After about 0.5 additional miles of climbing from the boulder area, you’ll finally reach lower Reed Lake. And wow, what a beauty! This lake has a milky blue color, which contrasts so nicely with the gray, rocky mountains and the bright green terrain. It’s picture perfect!
Make sure to spend some time soaking up this lake, but don’t turn around quite yet. There is still another to see!
To get to Upper Reed Lake, you’ll continue following the trail, which will take you right by a couple smaller waterfalls. Don’t forget to turn around as you climb up to see an amazing vantage point of Lower Reed Lake!
The rest of the hike to Upper Reed Lake isn’t that steep, but is a bit rocky, and you’ll likely pass some smaller pools of water before reaching the lake. Similar to Lower Reed Lake, the upper lake has milky, blue water and epic mountain views. It is absolutely breathtaking!
There are tons of rocks around the lake to sit on, so we recommend packing a snack to refuel before hiking back down the trail. We will say though, it will be hard to get yourself to leave these lakes. When we imagined hiking in Alaska, the Hatcher Pass region is exactly what we envisioned. And it lived up to all of our dreams!
What to bring to hike the Reed Lakes Trail
To see everything we take hiking, check out our hiking gear as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. But here are a few items we really want to stress bringing with you on the Reed Lakes Trail trail.
With rocky terrain at times, good shoes are a must! 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.
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 creek 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.
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 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. Many trails in Alaska require you to go through brush, which can often be wet and soak your pants.
Looking for more things to do in Hatcher Pass?
Ready to hike the Reed Lakes Trail?
Pin this hiking guide to help plan your trip!