A Classic Alaskan Backpacking Trip.
Who says you have to spend an hour bouncing around in a cramped bush plane to get into the Alaskan wilderness? We shoulder our packs and simply start walking out of town from historic Kennicott.
We start by hiking across the Root Glacier, being sure to take the scenic route and explore the fascinating world of glacier ice including moraines, crevasses and meltstream canyons. Your guide will teach you some interesting bits of glacial geology along the way.
Our first camp is set up on the far side of the Root Glacier on the moraine edge near a thundering waterfall. Bears are often spotted here as well as a family of foxes that has a den not far from our camp. The next day is a moderate day of hiking as we make our way (on dry land today) to our next camp by a lake just passed the foot of Donoho Peak. A short hike from camp and up a hill gives us a fantastic view of the glaciers and peaks that surround us.
On day three it's back on the ice and down the Kennicott glacier. This day included some of the most interesting glacial features of our trek. We conclude our day near the junction of the Kennicott and Root glaciers. Be sure to bring a full length sleeping pad for this trip becuase on our last night we set up camp right on the glacier!
Our fourth and final day takes us back over the Root Glacier (but by a different route) and finally back into Kennicott.
We'll sit on the porch of the lodge and have a cold root beer before heading back down to McCarthy.
Because there is no costly bush flight, this is one of our most econimical trips but rest assured, there is no economizing on adventure with plenty of interesting hiking, wildlife opportunities, great views and glacial exploration.
The Adventure at a Glance
5 days/4 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Adventure begins in McCarthy Alaska
Duration: 5 days Trekking
Group Trips: See the calendar for dates
Custom Trips: Custom trips can be scheduled late May to mid Sept. Call to discuss
After breakfast in McCarthy we take a short van ride to the former mining town of Kennicott. We get a bit of the interesting history of the place as we pass through town.
After passing through Kennicott, we just head out of town on a path that was once a road to some of the mines in the area. Fifty years ago we would have been able to get up on the glacier right at Kennicott, but like most glaciers in the world, the Root Glacier is receding. But after about an hour or less of easy hiking we arrive at the toe of the glacier.
Today’s journey takes us across the Root Glacier by the scenic route. We take our time in the crossing to explore the fascinating glacier features such as melt water streams and canyons as well as deep holes called moulins that are created by water drilling a hole down into the ice. Your guide will teach you about how glaciers are formed from the gradual transformation of fluffy snow into super dense glacial ice hundreds of feet thick.
Our first camp is set up on the far side of the Root Glacier on the moraine edge near a thundering waterfall. Bears are often spotted here as well as a family of foxes that has a den not far from our camp.
We start by hiking along the edge of the lateral moraine of the Root Glacier. Then we turn to the west and cross the Donoho Lakes land mass. We pass right under the base of Donoho Peak which rises 3000 feet above us. There is a trail for part of the way, though it does tend to be a bit brushy in a few spots. We pass the two lakes that make great break and lunch spots.
At one point today we’ll have to get our feet wet as we negotiate a stream crossing. But it’s not a difficult crossing and we are soon on our way. Our camp is beyond the second lake near a spring and close to the junction of the Kennicott and Gates Glaciers. A short hike from camp and up a hill gives us a commanding view of the glaciers and peaks that surround us.
We leave our camp set up today and head out for some exploring with just our daypacks. It's time for more fun on the ice, this time on the Gates and Kennicott glaciers. This area has some of the most interesting glacial features of the trip including some dramatic fins, moulins and pools. This will be one of the most rewarding days on the trek.
We pack up camp and head onto the Kennicott Glacier and head back towards Kennicott. But it's a long way back so we stop for the night near the end of the white ice and set up our camp… right on the glacier! Don't worry, we'll take an extra sleeping pad to ensure that we stay warm.
After breakfast we cut across a band of moraine and are back on the Root Glacier. We get a great view of the Donoho falls before turning east. We take a different route back across the Root on our way back to Kennicott for the conclusion of our trek. A van takes us back down to McCarthy and hot showers.
Later we meet up at the Golden Saloon for dinner and a few well deserved brews as we share our experiences of the trek.
What's Not Included
Meals: What To Expect
All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.
For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables. In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
Gear We Provide
What Clothes To Bring
Please refer to the gear list for recommended clothing (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (a few reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon ), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required.
NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour.
How do We Get to McCarthy;
There are several options.
If you have more than 2 in your group then renting a car out of Anchorage can be a good option.
A shuttle service provides van transportation between Anchorage to McCarthy, Alaska. The shuttle departs Anchorage at 8:00 am arriving around 5:00 pm in McCarthy. This is the most economical way for one or two people to get to McCarthy and back.
If you are driving or taking the shuttle it takes about 8 hours to drive Anchorage to McCarthy.
Round Trip: US $390.00
The van service is operated by Wrangell-St. Elias Tours. Once you have a hotel reservation in Anchorage you will need to let them, as well as me, know where you will be staying. Also give them your cell phone number if you will have one with you.
Wrangell-St. Elias Tours
Contact: Jennifer Titus
Ride n Fly
The last 60 miles from Chitian to McCarthy is on the McCarthy road. 40 miles of the road are unpaved. It's usualy in good shape and any vehicle can easily drive it. But some folks prefer not to.
An alternative is to drive to Chitina and from there take the Wrangell Mountain Air shuttle that flies three times daily to McCarthy.
Wrangell Mt. Air - http://www.wrangellmountainair.com/getting_to_alaska.htm
Wrangell Mt. Air can also arrange a charter flight just for your group. Contact them about current rates.
There is a mail plane that flies between Anchorage and McCarthy twice a week - on Mondays and Thursdays. This is a good way for one or two people to get to and from McCarthy. Beautiful flight and no long drive in the car. With only two flights weekly you would likely need to arrive a few days early in McCarthy.
Where Do We Meet?
You'll meet your hiking guide and group in McCarthy for an orientation meeting around 6:00 p.m. the evening before the trip begins. You will be in contacted approximately 2-3 weeks before your trip and we will specify the exact location of the orientation meeting at that point. The morning of departure it's a short walk across the street to Wrangell Mt. Air where we catch a shuttle van to the airstrip for our departure into the backcountry.
We like to get an early start on the first day as it might take two flights to get everyone into the backcountry. Departure times of 8:30 a.m. are common. Our pickups on the last day are usualy around mid-day to allow us time to get back to McCarthy and get cleaned up and relax before dinner.
Your safety is our top priority. Our treks are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are certified wilderness first responders or EMT's, each with years of wilderness experience. On most treks the guide carries a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 9074.554.1088 for more information.
Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.
We prefer to run small groups and our clients like it that way too. The standard group size on backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 907.554.1088 and we'll answer all your questions. If you have a larger group than ten give us a call as there are ways we can work with bigger groups such as scout groups.
Weather in the Wrangells
Alaska is pretty far north and like any mountain evirronment we are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures in Wrangell-St. Elias. July is especialy variable and we have had temps hit the low 80s some summers. Mid August is when things start to cool down a bit but still great hikng weather.
|Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)|