The Reed Lakes Hike In Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Updated in October 2023, The Reed Lakes Hike In Hatcher Pass, Alaska was originally written in April 2020
I don’t know why it’s taken me an eternity to finally write this blog post. After all, the Reed Lakes Hike is one of my all-time favorite hikes in all of Alaska. I’ve spent 33 years wandering around this state (and yes, I was born here) and can say this is one of the most beautiful day hikes in Alaska.
Perched in the Talkeetna Mountains within Hatcher Pass Recreational Area, with wide-open green valleys reminiscent of a jailoo in Kyrgyzstan, craggy granite spires the flash me back to trekking adventures I’ve had in Tajikistan, Pakistan, Peru, and Chile, and two neon turquoise glacially-fed alpine lakes this, in my opinion, is one of the most photogenic treks you can take in Southcentral Alaska. In the following post, read everything you need to know to take a hike to Reed Lakes, Alaska.
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How To Get To Hatcher Pass & Reed Lakes Trailhead
The Reed Lakes Trailhead is located within Hatcher Pass Recreational Area, about a one-and-a-half-hour drive north from Anchorage. Take the Glenn Highway north out of Anchorage. You then have two options to get to the Reed Lakes Trailhead. Be warned that Archangel Road is in pretty bad condition as you near the bridge just before the Reed Lakes Trailhead- I’ve destroyed a tire on my car out here before (and that was even while trying to be careful).
At the interchange of the Glenn and Park Highways, continue along the highway as it turns into the Parks. At the next right, take Trunk Road. Continue on Trunk Road until it ends. From here head N. Palmer-Fishhook Road, and then shortly after the switchback, turn right onto Archangel Road and follow it to the Reed Lakes Trailhead.
Looking for day hike ideas? Check out the 16 best day hikes near Anchorage, Alaska
At the interchange of the Parks and Glenn Highways take the exit to continue on the Glenn Highway toward Palmer. Drive through the town of Palmer and eventually, you’ll take a left turn to head east on Palmer-Fishhook Road, and then shortly after the switchback, turn right onto Archangel Road and follow it to the Reed Lakes Trailhead.
The Reed Lakes Hike
The Reed Lakes Hike is about 8.5 miles in total (4.25 miles each direction) with an elevation gain of about 2,250 feet. Make sure to have a backpack with you and bring enough water and some snacks (and a camera too!).
The hike starts out pretty mellow and is fairly flat for about the first 2 miles. It then begins to switchback uphill shortly after you pass the mine ruins from which you can optionally head northeast toward Snowbird Hut and Mine.
Once up the hill, you have to cross a boulder section along the river. There is no clear path at this point but you’ll be able to see other routes people have taken- cut be careful, especially if it’s been raining as this part can get quite slippery.
Once beyond you’ll reach a beautiful green bowl and from here it’s just a short hike uphill to the first Reed Lake. Upper Reed Lake is just a bit further beyond.
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- 8.5 miles return
- 6-8 hours
Camping At Reed Lakes
You can easily make an overnight camping trip to Reed Lakes. In my opinion, Lower Reed Lake has much better spots to camp than Upper Reed Lake. You will need to pack in and out all your gear, supplies, and food if you wish to camp. There are bears in the Hatcher Pass area, so I would recommend carrying a bear vault to prevent food from attracting bears.
Other Hikes In Hatcher Pass That Can Be Combined With The Reed lakes Hike
After reaching Upper Reed Lake you’ll continue up and over Bomber Pass and down onto Bomber Glacier, named after the TB-29 Superfortress wreckage on the glacier that you’ll pass on the way down to Bomber Hut.
From Bomber Hut you’ll hike to Penny Royal Glacier and traverse it up to the Backdoor Gap. Below you’ll arrive at Mint Hut and from there it’s smooth sailing all the way to the Goldmint Trailhead.
In all, the hike is about 18 miles in length. This trek can be done in reverse as well. Read more about the Mint-Bomber Traverse here.
The Snowbird-Bomber Traverse can be done by continuing over Bomber Pass and Glacier to Bomber Hut, much like the Mint-Bomber Traverse. From Bomber Hut you’ll head west and follow the river valley out before meeting with another valley.
From here you’ll continue south (lots of bushwhacking and boulder hopping involved) to eventually climb upwards to Snowbird Hut and Snowbird Glacier. From there you’ll cross Snowbird Pass and descend back down to the mining ruins below the beginning of the uphill to Reed Lakes. You’ll follow the Reed Lakes Trail back to the trailhead to finish. In all this variation is about 15 miles in distance.
Read more about the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse here.
Recommended Gear For The Reed Lakes Hike
Practical Info & Saftey
- The best time of year to do the Reed Lakes Hike is between late June and September.
- While being so close to Palmer & Wasilla, areas of Hatcher Pass can feel quite remote so take precautions.
- Open campfires are not allowed within Hatcher Pass Recreational Area.
- Bears, moose, and more can be found within the Hatcher Pass and Reed Lakes area much like anywhere else in Alaska. Being loud on the trail to help prevent run-ins with wild animals is helpful. I recommend carrying a can of bear spray with you in the event you are someone in your group is charged/attacked. And use proper precautions or a bear vault if planning to camp.
- Bring proper gear to keep yourself dry and warm.
Have Any Questions About The Reed Lakes Hike?
Ask in the comments section below.