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Backdoor Gap, Alaska, Hatcher Pass, Bomber Traverse, Talkeetnas, Talkeetna Mountains

Hiking the Mint-Bomber Traverse in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountians

Updated July 2020Hiking the Mint-Bomber Traverse was originally written in July 2018

This 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. 

Start here: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide

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.

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On the ascent up to Mint Hut

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 Trek
How To Get There
Camping & Mountain Huts
Packing List
Practical Information
Safety

Bomber Traverse Map
Click the map above to view in Google Maps

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

2-3 days

1-2 nights

18 miles

Goldmint Trailhead To Mint Hut

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Hiking along Goldmint Trail next to the Little Susitna River

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.

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Mint (Rainy) Hut

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.

Trying to see Alaska without spending to much $$$? Check out my Alaska Budget Travel Guide

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Looking up the Backdoor Gap. We took the chute to the right of where I’m standing

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.

Don’t worry, it looks way worse than it actually was

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.

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On top of the Backdoor Gap

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.

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Looking back up at Penny Royal 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.

Love to hike? Read the 16 best day hikes in & around Anchorage

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The TB-29 Superfortress wreckage on Bomber Glacier

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.

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Upper Reed Lake viewed from the top of Bomber Pass
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Lower Reed Lake

Snowbird Hut

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.

Important Waypoints

  • 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

Bomber Traverse Driving Instructions Map
Click the map above to view in Google Maps

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.

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Good morning from Hatcher Pass

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.

Spending time in Anchorage before or after? Check out the Anchorage Travel Guide for ideas and the best hostels in Anchorage to make your $$$ go further

Alaska, Hatcher Pass, Bomber Traverse, Talkeetnas, Talkeetna Mountains, Backdoor Gap, off beaten path 2019

Packing List For Hiking The Bomber Traverse

Recommended Gear

Toiletries

Clothing

Electronics

Food

  • Dehydrated meals such as Mountain House
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Spice packets
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Fresh veggies, noodles, bread, etc

Practical Information

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 or purchase a topographic map of the Bomber Traverse area

Safety

  • 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.
Alaska, Hatcher Pass, Bomber Traverse, Talkeetnas, Talkeetna Mountains. Backdoor Gap, Mountainsmith

Have Questions About Hiking The Bomber Traverse?

Ask your Bomber Traverse questions in the comments section below.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

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6 thoughts on “Hiking The Mint-Bomber Traverse”

  1. Thanks for sharing this info on the traverse. I’ve just started researching it and have found very little info on this particular hike. Coming back for my 3rd trip to AK!

  2. Hi Nicole,
    Great post! Which month did you do this hike in and which DSLR & lens did you use (for memory recollection, see the bloody pic)?

    1. Thanks Kan! I did the trek in late July 2018 which is a good time to do it. I had my Canon 5DSR and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on this trek.

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