Gold mining was an early mainstay of the Mat-Su Valley's economy. You can tour the long-dormant Independence Mine on the Hatcher Pass Road, a loop that in summer connects the Parks Highway just north of Willow to the Glenn Highway near Palmer. The stunningly scenic drive travels past forested streams and alpine meadows and winds high above the tree line. The road to Independence Mine from the Palmer side is paved; the section between the mine and Willow is gravel. In the 1940s the mine employed as many as 200 workers. Today it is a 271-acre state park that has good cross-country skiing in winter. Only the wooden buildings remain; one of them, the red-roof manager's house, is now used as a visitor center. During summer, one-hour guided daily tours take place at 1, 3, and 5 pm. Call ahead to reserve a tour.
Hatcher Pass Rd., 19 miles northwest of Glenn Hwy., Palmer, Alaska, 99645, United States