Hiking Alaska’s Gold Mint Trail

Gold Mint Trail“Hey bear!”

We must have shouted this — at the top of our lungs — a thousand times on the Gold Mint Trail.

(This is our standard saying to alert bears to our presence in order to avoid a surprise encounter.)

The thick vegetation on both sides of the winding trail and the noise of the rushing river nearby made us a little nervous about running into an unsuspecting ursine traveler.

Sounds like a great time, right? Well, I thought it was, although my wife wasn’t so enthusiastic. Maybe it was the fact that we were the only hikers on the trail in this remote valley.

Everything turned out fine — we never even caught a glimpse of one of the big furry critters. But we had our fingers on the triggers of our pepper spray just in case.

Other than being a little spooked, this was a wonderful backpacking trip.

The Gold Mint Trail follows the Little Susitna River 8 miles to its glacial source in the beautiful Mint Glacier Valley.

Most of the trail is relatively easy walking, with a gradual elevation gain until the last 1/2 mile, where you’ll climb steeply to gain a spectacular view of the valley.

Alaska Hiking - Gold Mint TrailFields of red and purple fireweed line parts of the trail. We caught a beaver on video, cavorting in his big pond.

At about 4 miles in, you’ll see the head of the valley in the distance, its glaciers and waterfalls beckoning you on.

The daylight was fading when we reached the end of the trail, so we made camp in the first decent spot we found. When we woke in the morning, we were treated to a gorgeous view.

If you have a day or two to explore the area, there’s a lot more to see. Climbing to the top of the pass gives you a view of the Pennyroyal Glacier and more of the Talkeetna Mountains.

If you’re truly adventurous, you can pick out a route over the pass into the Reed Lakes area and follow that trail back to the main road.

I climbed a little higher up the valley, but didn’t have time to get to the glacier. We came back the way we came, enjoying the solitude and thankful for a bear-free trip.

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