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Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska

Snowbird-Bomber Hike In Hatcher Pass, Alaska

Updated July 2020, The Snowbird-Bomber Hike In Hatcher Pass, Alaska was originally written in July 2019

On a Friday night, we hiked to Snowbird Hut with the plan that we might continue the hike through to Bomber. Waking up to sunshine and not a cloud in the sky we decided to continue on and do the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse, so here in this post, I’m sharing with you the info you need to know to do Snowbird-Bomber Hike. Be warned though this hike does come with some dangers including a steep pass, a creek crossing, two glacier crossings, route finding, a little bushwhacking and heaps of boulders.

If you’re looking to complete the Mint-Bomber Traverse, I’ve completed that route in summer 2018 and you can read about that hike here.

Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Sunset on Snowbird Glacier

How Much Time Do I Need?

We did the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse in 2.5 days. If you’re determined it can be done in 2 long days as long as your fit. Others will stretch it into 3-4 days. Ideally, I’d say 4 days and 3 nights (the first and last days being half days) would be ideal allowing you to sleep at Snowbird Hut, Bomber Hut, and camp at Reed Lakes.

Which Direction To Take?

You can do this hike in either direction. We chose to start from Snowbird and end via Reed Lakes. The nice part about the Snowbird-Bomber traverse is that the hike begins and ends from the same trailhead, so unlike Mint-Bomber you don’t need two cars or to get a ride.

Snowbird-Bomber Hike

Reed Lakes Trailhead ➤ Snowbird Mine Ruins ➤ Glacier Pass ➤ Snowbird Glacier ➤ Snowbird Hut ➤ Snowbird Lake ➤ Bomber Hut ➤ Bomber Pass ➤ Upper & Lower Reed Lakes ➤ Reed Lakes Trailhead

2-4 days

1-3 nights

15 miles

Reed Lakes Trailhead To Snowbird Mine Ruins

Starting from the Reed Lakes Trailhead up Archangel Road in Hatcher Pass you’ll meander down a well beaten path through a lush green meadow for about 1.5 miles.

You’ll eventually come to the old Snowbird Mine ruins and a sign pointing those headed for Snowbird Hut toward the left (if you keep moving forward you’ll head for Reed Lakes, for those taking on the hike backward).

Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Hiking toward the Snowbird mining ruins

Snowbird Mine Ruins To Snowbird Hut

From the ruins, the trail will meander alongside some old rusted cables (remnants of a pulley for the mine) and up into a lush and green hanging valley.

Once into the valley, you’ll follow a creek up a rolling hill, the trail will disappear but as long as you follow the creek you’ll figure it out.

You’ll walk past a small lake (the shore is a great place to camp if you’re looking to break up the hike a bit more). After, you’ll continue to climb upward over patches of boulders before the hike levels off a little again before the final push up and over Glacier Pass. We did this hike the last weekend in June and this section did have some pretty big snow patches.

Once you get to Glacier Pass you’ll be looking down on Snowbird Glacier. Just head straight down and you’ll level off on the glacier. There was a pretty beaten trail across it when we did the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse in June. Eventually, on your right side you’ll see a big boulder with an arrow on it. Follow that arrow and it will take you to Snowbird Hut.

Snowbird Hut can be quite popular so if you arrive later on Friday or Saturday night, don’t plan for there to be room in the hut, so bring a tent. If it’s a hot day out the inside of the huts can be stifling hot so you may want to sleep outside anyways.

There are few good places to pitch a tent around the hut but if you search long enough you should be able to find a big enough pitch for your tent. There are a lot of boulders around here.

Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Looking back after beginning the ascent up Glacier Pass

Snowbird Hut To Bomber Hut

This next section is long, though you could opt to split it into two and camp overnight in between. If you walk out the door of the hut and walk to the edge you’ll be able to see Snowbird Lake and the valley you’ll be descending into today.

There’s somewhat of a trail down to Snowbird Lake, but there are some areas where it is somewhat loose gravel and there are some boulder crossings involved.

From Snowbird Lake down you’ll somewhat follow Bartholf Creek into the valley. Near the confluence of Bartholf with another creek, you’ll want to cross the creek. It was running extremely high and strong when we did the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse in June. You’ll need to look for a spot that you can easily jump from boulder to boulder to get over.

Once over the creek slightly turn into another valley. This section will involve some bushwhacking and bouldering to get to Bomber Hut (or near to it if you plan to camp).

Snowbird Hut, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
The view from inside Snowbird Hut

Bomber Hut To Reed Lakes

This stretch of the trek starts easy as you begin to ascend up to Bomber Glacier from the hut. You’ll pass a small lake before getting up onto Bomber Glacier.

You can go up and see the wreckage of a TB-29 Superfortress that crashed on the glacier in 1957. When I crossed Bomber Glacier at the end of July 2018 most of it was exposed and you could easily check it out. This year at the end of June the wreckage was still largely buried under snow. From the wreckage, you’ll continue southwest across Bomber Glacier gaining elevation until you reach Bomber Pass. There is a fixed rope at the top of the pass to help pull yourself up with. From the top, you’ll have a view straight down onto Upper Reed Lake.

Over this last section, you’ll need to be careful with your footing and take your time. Coming down Bomber Pass towards the lakes is really steep with lots of loose gravel, scree, and loose boulders. Eventually, the trail flattens out and you’ll arrive at the shores of Upper Reed Lake after crossing a patch of snow. Follow the trail around the right side of the lake and it will bring you down past a waterfall and to Lower Reed Lake.

Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Walking up toward Bomber Glacier

Reed Lakes To The Reed Lakes Trailhead

This last leg is super straight forward and is all on the trail. From Lower Reed Lake you’ll descend down into a green meadow and eventually, you’ll need to boulder to get back onto the main trail. There’s no clear cut easy way to meander through the boulder field among the river but at this point there will likely be a lot of other people around as the Reed Lakes Hike is pretty popular. Past the boulders, the trail will switchback down a bit to bring you to the old Snowbird Mine ruins. From here it’s a 1.5 mile hike (you’ve already done this section before) back to the trailhead.

Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Lower Reed Lake

Important Waypoints

  • Reed Lakes Trailhead: N 61.803902º W -149.20073º
  • Top Of Glacier Pass: N 61.848339º W -149.202472º
  • Snowbird Glacier: N 61.853265º W -149.209971º
  • Snowbird Hut: N 61.858541º W -149.203299º
  • 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

How To Get To The Snowbird-Bomber Traverse Hike Starting Points

The Snowbird-Bomber Traverse is located in Hatcher Pass, a 55 mile drive north of Anchorage.

To get to the Reed Lakes Trailhead from Anchorage follow the directions on the map below.

Camping & Mountain Huts

You can hike hut to hut while taking on the Snowbird-Bomber Traverse. Huts are first come, first serve and you cannot reserve them. In the summer and especially on weekends this can be popular enough that there is no more space in the huts, so it is recommended to bring a lightweight tent just in case. 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 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.

Snowbird Hut, Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Snowbird Hut

Packing List

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
Glacier Pass, Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Making our way up to Glacier Pass

Practical Information For The Snowbird-Bomber Hike

  • 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 camp fires are not allowed within Hatcher Pass Recreational Area

Click here for a detailed topographic map of this area or to purchase a weatherproof copy

Safety For The Snowbird-Bomber Hike

  • Bears, moose and more can be found along parts of the Snowbird-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.
  • Much of the route between Snowbird Lake and Bomber Hut there is no trail. You’ll need to be comfortable with route finding, map reading, and using a GPS. People do get lost out here (in fact, a party of 4 was split in half and spent a night separated out here the weekend we did the Snowbird-Bomber Hike.
  • This trek can get downright dangerous (and potentially deadly) with loose scree and boulders, steep areas, animal encounters, cold temperatures, and glacier crossings.
  • Bring proper gear to keep yourself dry and warm.
Snowbird Lake, Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Crossing boulders to get to Snowbird Lake

Have Questions About Hiking The Snowbird-Bomber Traverse?

Ask your Snowbird-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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3 thoughts on “Snowbird-Bomber Hike in Hatcher Pass”

  1. Hello! I am curious what the elevation gain is. And when it says “15 miles” is that 15 one way or round trip? Thank you!!

    Also, I think I saw somewhere that you also did the Mint-Bomber combo as well?
    If you had to only pick one. Which would you pick? Mint-Bomber or Snowbird-Bomber?
    Which one is “easier” considering length/elevation gain. I hope to hear back from you via e-mail! Thank you!

    1. Hi Tia,

      I’d say the Snowbird-Bomber and Mint-Bomber Traverse are equally difficult but for different reasons. I did write on the Mint-Bomber, you can read it here.

      Between Snowbird Glacier and Bomber Glacier the route finding can be tricky, we had to cross a river (managed to boulder hop, but was still nonetheless dicey as it was running quite high), and had to navigate through a lot of boulder fields and alders in that section.

      I’d say the Mint-Bomber Traverse’s difficulty lies in getting up (or down depending on the direction you take) the Backdoor Gap. It is very steep on the Mint side. Getting between a Penny Royal Glacier and Bomber Glacier felt like a breeze in comparison to the stretch of the Snowbird-Bomber I mentioned before.

      Another option is to combine and make the traverse from Mint to Snowbird (or vice-versa). This would remove Bomber Pass/Glacier and Reed Lakes from your route.

      Personally I enjoyed the Mint-Bomber Traverse more, but both variations have their appeal.

      Also the distances are in total. Snowbird-Bomber forms a loop since it starts and ends at the Reed Lakes Trailhead, and Mint-Bomber is a through hike.

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