Gold Mint Trail mountain biking

Mountain bike Gold Mint Trail

Mountain biking Gold Mint Trail is another classic cross country ride in Southcentral Alaska.  The Gold Mint trail in Hatcher Pass Management Area is a super stunning valley and exploring by bike is a good excuse to hang out back there, if nothing else! The first 4 miles of trail are a bike trail, the next 1.5 miles are bikeable, and then the trail becomes suffering in the name of biking (boulders, creeks, off camber → not rideable either direction). It’s a worthy day to leave stash bikes and continue the last 2.5 miles on foot to the Mint Hut or as far up valley as you find interesting!

Access

The trail starts at the Gold Mint parking lot, just as the Hatcher Pass road makes a hairpin turn to the left uphill. There’s a $5 state recreation parking fee, unless you have a State Parks Pass. Trailforks only shows the trail as 3.4 miles each way – I think it’s worth riding at least to the 4 mile marker as it stays fun for that duration – especially on the way out! The trail is well-marked with mile markers, which is nice.  The trail follows the Little Susitna River to its headwaters, so stays in a lovely open valley for its duration – one of the most stunning places around!

Beauty abounds on this ride! mountain bike gold mint trail

Gold Mint Trail – riding in

The initial mile of trail is very wide and smooth (manicured waking path) and climbs gently. The trail progressively narrows and climbs steadily as it follows the Little Susitna River to its headwaters. At mile 2, there is a character change and the trail gets a lot rockier and narrower. It gets nicer again and stays really rideable until about mile 4. Also until this point, the trail corridor is wide (alders cleared, grass cut) and looks to be legitimately maintained this far in.

The trail starts nice and smooth and wide! mountain bike gold mint trail

 

Around mile 2, the rocks creep in! mountain bike gold mint trail

 

The valley is beautiful as you continue up and the trail stays really rideable through mile 4! mountain bike gold mint trail

 

Like most river trails, there are some up/down as you gradually ascend mountain bike gold mint trail

 

Views of the Mint Glacier and upper peaks grace the whole upper ride – so beautiful out here! mountain bike gold mint trail

The next 1.5 miles is worth continuing on by bike, though less rideable than the trail has been to this point. Some alders have been trimmed back from the trail, but this section is pretty overgrown and would be very undesirable in the peak of summer growth!

The trail corridor becomes markedly narrower . . . and the alders thicken from here! mountain bike gold mint trail

 

The views are amazing and there are still really rideable sections beyond the 4 mile marker! mountain bike gold mint trail

This is one of the wider sections of the upper trail, and you can can see how much less manicured/maintained it is mountain bike gold mint trail

mountain bike gold mint trail

Right around 5.5 miles in, you’ll start carrying your bike much more and that’s when I recommend stashing bikes and continuing on foot, or turning around. There’s a bridge at about 6 miles that’s a nice landmark and a lovely place to sit and chill by a clear stream . . . after all, why not take advantage of being in such a beautiful valley!

This style of tech gets more common as you go . . . the 6-mile bridge crosses the stream that comes out of the sunlit valley on the left in this photo. mountain bike gold mint trail

 

Walking back to the bikes after the walk to the bridge 🙂 mountain bike gold mint trail

Gold Mint Trail – riding out

The ride out from 5.5 miles took just over an hour, with a disproportionate amount of that time being the first 1.5 miles. The last 4 miles ride super fast and fun! The first bit is narrow trail, rocks, high grass edges, tight turns, and lots of paying attention. Once you hit the open river section, it mellows out a lot and starts to get more fun.

The open river section – what a relief to have space between your bike and the alders!mountain bike gold mint trail

mountain bike gold mint trail

From the 4 mile marker, the trail corridor (and actual trail) widens, and the sight lines improve. There are still plenty of rocks (that might have been a challenge on the way in), but they’re largely on the downhill sections and so fun to ride. There are punchy climbs as you go, but the trail follows the river so declines steadily. While certainly not a ‘downhill’ in the classic sense of the word, it’s a super fun descending ride out and gets faster and more fun as you go.

And the last mile is super wide and smooth and fun!mountain bike gold mint trail

mountain bike gold mint trail

I consistently finish on a high after mountain biking the Gold Mint Trail, even if I haven’t been on one all day! In fact, what I love to do after is a 16-mile downhill shuttle or pedal lap because I’ve got my descending high going on and it’s fun to keep it going just a bit longer! From The Gold Mint Trailhead, it’s super easy to shuttle to the top of the DH.

If you like this post, check out my full Alaska bike guide!

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