Reed Lakes Trail

Reed Lakes sit high in the Talkeetna Mountains well above treeline.  The hike up to Lower Reed Lake covers 3.3 miles.  Add another mile reach to Upper Reed Lake.  Round trip, plan on about six to eight hours to complete.  Claimjumper and I took Emily with us backpacking and we camped at Lower Reed Lake one rainy weekend.  We camped in a spot overlooking the beautiful lake (pictures cannot do it justice) with a view of the spectacular waterfalls.  This adventure is one we will do again, but next time hopefully in better weather.  This is one that I definitely recommend backpacking.  There is so much beauty to explore and enjoy that I would hate to get up there just to have to turn around and go back.

Head north on the Glenn Highway through Palmer.  As you leave the town of Palmer, watch for the sign indicating “Fishhook Road.”  Turn Left on Fishook.  This road was recently paved all the way up to Independence Mine.  As the road winds along side the Little Susitna River, watch for the Motherlode Lodge on the left side.  Mark your odometer at this point and continue another eight tenths (.8) of a mile looking for a hidden right turn onto Archangel Road.  Even with the sign it is easy to miss the turn onto Archangel.  Archangel is not maintained.  Once we drove it with a Dodge Intrepid, but the going was quite tedious.  A car or truck with a little ground clearance is recommended.  Archangel is covered by water at mile 1.5.  Don’t worry, the water is not deep and the soil is generally pretty firm underneath.  You may want to hop out of your vehicle to take a look before you cross.  Part of the old culver sticks out of the ground at the sharp metal present a hazard for tires.  At mile 2.5 there is a parking lot at the Reed Lakes trailhead on the right side of the road. 

There is no cost to park or use the trail.  There are no facilities.  There are plenty of places to refill water bottles out of the streams so be sure to pack your water filter.  Restrooms are self-dug, so bring your trowel, too.

I rate this hike as easy to moderate.  The first mile of the trail can be hiked, biked and, in the winter, skied.  It is a very gradual elevation gain and any level of hiker can easily make it to the old mining camp.  Bridges allow crossing of the streams through the camp and the hike continues at the back of the mine.  Check out the old sluice shoot and the wooden pipes in the water below the bridges.  The miners would use the water flow to separate the dirt from the heavier gold.  Another trail climbs to the left from the mine, but we have not explored that one. 

Beyond the mine the elevation increases more rapidly.  This area has some incredible blueberry patches.  Eventually the trail comes to a boulder field covering the streams.  Cross to the far side of the boulder field, as this will lead to the easiest trail and will get you across the stream.  Nevertheless, the boulders make for a challenging course for the next mile.  At the top of the boulder field the trail continues along the stream leading up to Lower Reed Lake and it is an easy and gradual gain. 

If you want to make this a two day trip you can plan to camp at Lower Reed Lake or at the waterfalls just above it.  The ground is open and soft, perfect for pitching a tent.  It was pouring down rain by the time we reached the lower lake, but we still managed to cook our meals using our camp stove and made camp for the night.  Oh yes, bring a camp stove if you plan to cook.  There is no wood up at the lakes, and no place to have an open fire.  I had chosen a level area for out campsite, but the women told me I was crazy and insisted we camp on a slope above.  As usual, they were right.  The next morning that flat area was covered with about two inches of water!  

The only wildlife we saw on the hike was a really big marmot that came out to watch us just above the boulder field.  In the animal kingdom, human hiking is a spectator sport.  To see a video of the Lower Reed Lake and waterfalls, click here.

Last visited: August 2003


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