At 3,886 feet in elevation, this glacially carved lake is a prime destination for hikers, paragliders, and backcountry skiers in the Mat-Su Valley.
Just two miles past the turnoff to Independence Mine State Historic Park along Hatcher Pass Road is one of Alaska's most beautiful state recreation sites. Summit Lake State Recreation Site is a 360-acre park that includes its namesake lake and Hatcher Pass Summit.
Things to Do
The scenic lake with its sweeping mountain and valley backdrop is bustling with visitors in summer months when road access is open, typically from July through late September. From the parking area, a trail circles the crystal-clear lake and leads to a bluff, offering panoramic vistas of the Willow Creek Valley, the Susitna Valley, and the western arc of the Alaska Range.
The area is popular for sightseeing, hiking, paragliding, and berry picking in the fall. From the bluff, hikers can see "Nixon's Nose," the summer launch site for paragliders who ride the updrafts for several hours on a good day. Berry picking is a popular activity in August, when wild blueberries are ready to harvest. Photographers also frequent the park for its easy access to high-altitude, breathtaking scenery.
To the east of Summit Lake is April Bowl, a very small valley with a tarn and several small ponds. In the summer, hikers can ascend the April Bowl Trail about one mile to a small alpine lake, and then continue on to summit Hatch Peak. The valley is one of the region’s first places to get good snow, and, consequently, is a top destination for backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the winter. The valley also serves as a gateway to the west side of the Hatcher Pass Management Area, connecting snow-revelers to additional trails. The park is also open to snowmobiles when snow depth allows. Snow can fall any month of the year at this elevation.
Most visitors to Summit Pass combine their visit with exploration of the nearby Independence Mine State Historical Park in the Hatcher Pass area, offering additional hiking and a fascinating glimpse into Alaska’s gold rush history, surrounding by the jagged Talkeetna Mountains.
Facilities and Camping
There are no campgrounds at the state recreation site. There are several miles of trails in the area. Additional trails, visitor services, and limited camping can be found at the nearby Independence Mine State Historical Park in the Hatcher Pass area.
Access to the Hatcher Pass area is via the 49-mile-long Hatcher Pass Road from either Palmer or Willow. From Palmer, take the Palmer-Fishhook Road turnoff at Mile 49.5 of the Glenn Highway. From Willow, take the Fishhook-Willow Road from Mile 71.2 of the Parks Highway. Summit Pass State Recreation Site is 2 miles past the Independence Mine State Historical Park turnoff.
Summit Pass is 70 miles from Anchorage via the Glenn Highway and Hatcher Pass Road. Road access to the park is limited to the summer months, usually from July through late September.
For more information, visit the Summit Lake State Recreation Site website.