Hiking the Mint-Bomber Traverse in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains
Updated December 2020, Hiking the Mint-Bomber Traverse was originally written in July 2018
The Mint-Bomber Traverse trek is an Alaskan stunner and has all the trimmings of an epic hike, but be warned it comes with its dangers including steep, loose boulder & scree slopes, and glacier crossings. It isn’t for the faint of heart or those not confident in bouldering, glacier crossings, and route finding.
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How Much Time Do I Need?
There are several variations and treks that can be added onto the Bomber Traverse. I’m going to be covering the trek from Goldmint Trailhead to Mint Hut, over the Backdoor Gap, down Penny Royal Glacier, back up Bomber Glacier and over Bomber Pass to Reed Lakes to end at Reed Lakes Trailhead.
We (two reasonable fit individuals in their early 30’s- one of which who hates hiking who is not me) completed the hike in 2 long days. Most people complete the hike in 3 days, while some will really take their time and spend 4-5 days on the hike.
Which Direction To Take?
It’s recommended to start the Bomber Traverse from Reed Lakes Trailhead and end at Goldmint Trailhead because of the way the huts are set up. You can of course do it in the opposite direction, which is how we did it.
Bomber Traverse Table of Contents
Bomber Traverse Hike
Goldmint Trailhead ➤ Mint Hut ➤ Backdoor Gap ➤ Penny Royal Glacier ➤ Bomber Hut ➤ Bomber Glacier ➤ Bomber Pass ➤ Upper & Lower Reed Lakes ➤ Snowbird Mine ➤ Reed Lakes Trailhead
Goldmint Trailhead To Mint Hut
Start from the Goldmint Trailhead parking lot. The Goldmint Trail is pretty mellow going past mirror like ponds along the river until the last bit as you hike upward quickly to Mint Hut. The trail narrows quite a bit as you begin to head uphill toward the Hut. This section of the hike is about 8 miles.
Some will opt to spend the night at Mint Hut. Note that these huts (Mint & Bomber) are maintained by the MCA (Mountaineering Club of Alaska), and there is a $20 a year fee to use them. There are no reservations and they are first-come, first serve to MCA members.
The huts can be quite popular especially on the weekends, so it’s a good idea to bring a tent to pitch outside just in case.
Mint Hut To Bomber Hut Via The Backdoor Gap
So to be honest with you guys, this was the hardest part, yet my favorite and what initially made me want to do the Bomber Traverse. I’d seen photos of the view from the top of Backdoor Gap and trust me, it was nothing short of amazing.
From Mint Hut follow the trail leading toward the steep scree-boulder slope you’ll be headed up. At the time of our crossing the area near the base of the Backdoor Gap was snow covered, so do be careful.
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Note that there are two chutes one steeper and to the left and one a little less menacing looking to the right. We opted to take the chute to the right.
Do take caution on the climb up the Backdoor Gap whether you take the left or right chute as it is comprised of loose scree and boulders as you ascend and they can be unstable. Climbing up the Backdoor Gap does require scrambling to make it to the top as there is no trail. Also, note that I have been told that the left chute has a rope.
Once to the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Goldmint Glacier, Jewel Lake and Moonstone Lake down one side and views of Penny Royal Glacier down the other.
Next, descend down to Penny Royal Glacier. The climb down is steep and in late July was still covered in snow. I put on rainpants and Grant pulled out his air mattress and we slid down near the edge of the glacier.
Once to Penny Royal Glacier carefully traverse it. There likely will not be a trail so try to exit the glacier to the left side as you come around the ridge (this ridge separates Penny Royal and Bomber Glaciers).
Eventually, you will continue onto soft tundra terrain and on to Bomber Hut. We opted not to sleep in the Hut, but rather a nice spot overlooking the river.
Bomber Hut To Reed Lakes Trailhead Via Bomber Pass
The final leg. This will take you to Bomber Glacier, named because of the TB-29 Superfortress plane wreckage from 1957, then up and over Bomber Pass to descend down onto Reed Lakes and finally the Reed Lakes trailhead parking lot.
You’ll begin by heading uphill toward Bomber Glacier on the left side of a stream. Once Bomber Glacier comes into sight you should be able to see where the Bomber Wreckage is on the glacier. Make your way up to the wreckage to check it out.
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From the wreckage, you’ll veer toward the right and make your way to Bomber Pass. It can be tricky and slick up there so do take care, trekking poles and even crampons can be helpful here.
There is a rope at the last bit of the pass to help you get up top. Once at the top you’ll have panoramic views over Upper Reed Lake and Bomber Glacier.
You can trek to Snowbird Hut and Glacier from the Bomber Traverse as well. See the above marking in blue on the map above for routing.
Snowbird Hut was built and is maintained by the American Alpine Club. You cannot reserve it, it’s not available for commercial usage, and it is free to use as well as first come first serve (although donations are welcomed). If you want to read up on and plan for the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse, click here.
- Goldmint Trailhead: N 61.778476º W -149.196784º
- Mint Hut: N 61.856993º W -149.079821º
- Top Of Backdoor Gap: N 61.863639º W -149.094879º
- Bomber Hut: N 61.879223º W -149.135204º
- Bomber Wreckage: N 61.858423º W -149.120714º
- Top Of Bomber Pass: N 61.854883º W -149.133533º
- Reed Lakes Trailhead: N 61.803902º W -149.20073º
Want to do a variation of this hike? Check out the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse
How To Get To The Bomber Traverse Hike Starting Points
The Bomber Traverse is located in Hatcher Pass, a 55 mile drive north of Anchorage. I recommend taking two vehicles, one of which can be left at the trailhead you’ll end your trek from. Otherwise it’s a few mile walk between Goldmint and Reed Lakes Trailheads.
To get to the Goldmint & Reed Lakes Trailheads from Anchorage follow the directions on the map above.
Camping & Mountain Huts
You can hike hut to hut while taking on the Bomber Traverse. Huts are first come, first serve and you cannot reserve them. This is a popular hike on weekends especially, so it is recommended to bring a lightweight tent just in case there is no more space in the huts.
You can easily camp in many places along the trek, but take care to camp responsibly and not leave anything behind.
For those staying at Mint and Bomber Hut, you’ll need to join the Mountaineering Club of Alaska by paying a yearly $20 membership fee. Snowbird Hut is free to use, but the American Alpine Club who cares after it welcomes donations.
Packing List For Hiking The Bomber Traverse
- Inreach Explorer+
- Bear spray
- Backpack (I personally recommend Osprey Ariel 65 for women)
- Hiking boots
- Waterproof sandals
- Katadyn water purifier
- Sleeping mat
- 3-season tent
- Hydration Pack
- Sleeping bag
- Campstove and Cooking set
- Bear canister– keep bears and other animals from getting into your food and other scented items
- Silicone squeeze tubes (for cooking with sauces, olive oil, etc.)
- Propane/butane canister
- Trekking poles
- Crampons– Helpful on glacier crossings
- Mosquito Repellant Let’s be real, Alaska’s state bird is the mosquito, not the ptarmigan
- Warm outer shell jacket x1
- Fleece x1
- Merino wool long sleeve base layer top x1
- Trekking pants x1
- Merino wool leggings x2
- Trekking socks x2
- Sports bra x2
- Mittons x1
- Warm hat x1
- Sunglasses x1
- Microfiber towel x1
- Dehydrated meals such as Mountain House
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Peanut butter
- Spice packets
- Olive oil for cooking
- Fresh veggies, noodles, bread, etc
The best time of year to do the Bomber Traverse is between July 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
Click here to download a topographic map of the Bomber Traverse area
- Bears, moose, and more can be found along the Bomber Traverse Hike 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.
- This trek can get downright dangerous with loose scree and boulders, steep areas, animal encounters, cold temperatures, and glacier crossings.
- Bring proper gear to keep yourself dry and warm.
- This trek does involve glacier crossings. Having knowledge of glacier crossing skills is recommended.
Have Questions About Hiking The Bomber Traverse?
Ask your Bomber Traverse questions in the comments section below.