A new trip added to our line-and it's a real winner. This is an ideal trip if you are looking for a shorter trip but lots of drama and incredible views.
We do this four day trek as a base camp style trip. Our pilot drops us off on a sand bar airstrip that is less than a mile from where we will set up our camp at one of the pot-hole lakes that dot the area.
The first day we spend exploring the local neighborhood near the camp including a hike down to the river. The next few days include some terrific day hiking as we leave our camp set up and take off with light day loads.
One of our destinations is, not surprisingly, the Fan Glacier. We'll be on the ice in no time and hiking up towards increasingly more amazing views of the glacier and sourounding peaks and valley. We wear crampons for the hike but not to worry, this is a very hiker friendly glacier.
Another hike that we will want to make is up the side of the ridge that rises just behind our camp. Lunch will find us at the highpoint of the hike at one of the most beautiful lunch spots in the park. Afterwards we continue along the side of the ridge which includes some very pleasant hiking and more great scenery. Then we complete the loop by dropping down the other end of the ridge and back to camp.
If you want a base camp style trek that doesn't skimp on dramatic terrain then this is the ideal choice.
2 nights in McCarthy, Alaska
4 days/3 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Duration: 4 days trekking, 6 days total Anchorage to Anchorage
Season: June - Early September
Elevation Gain: +-900 ft.
Distance: 5-10 miles
If you are looking for a remote backcountry experience but don't want to carry heavy loads and would prefer a short trip... then this is the ideal trek for you!
Day 1: Drive Anchorage to McCarthy. And what a drive it is! The beautiful Matanuska valley provides one of the most scenic drives in Alaska. As we approach Glennallen the impressive Mt. Drum, Mt. Wrangell and other peaks in the Wrangell Range come in to view. The route also crosses the mighty Copper River, famous for producing some of the finest Salmon runs in the world. You will be able to see fish wheels in operation on the Copper.
Arrive in McCarthy around 5:00 PM and get checked into Ma Johnson’s Hotel. Once everyone is squared away in their rooms we meet at Trek Alaska for a gear check and to distribute group gear and food. We also review the plan for the next day.
Day 2: Our pilot lands on a sandy airstrip near the Fan Glacier. This is a basecamp trip so we don't have far to go till we set up our basecamp on the other side of some low hills. Once we get all squared away in camp we take off to explore the area surrounding our camp including the nearby river.
Day 3: Today we leave our camp set up and enjoy a day of hiking and exploring with light day loads. There is a wonderful ridge just to the south behind the area of our base camp. We take off up one end of the ridge and stretch out our legs on the way up.
Day 4: On the third day we usually pack up and move our camp again. This time we head the other direction down the valley but on the opposite side. Down on the flats we enjoy the easy travel. But eventually we do have to earn our supper and do some uphill hiking to get to our lofty perch that will be our final campsite. The views from here are just stunning especially when the late afternoon light rakes the peaks and ice. This area makes for some great photos. The ridge has also been a good place for spotting bears in the past!
Day 5: Another base camp day! Once again we set out for some exploring with day packs. The options are many as we head higher up the ridge and discover hidden places tucked away where you would never expect them. We may head up the ridge crest or check out the large expanse of glacier, not in the valley this time but high up at the source!
Day 6: Hard to believe that it’s already our last day and time to head back. But the adventure is far from over as we make our way down into the valley for a challenging stream crossing. The stream is made of meltwater from the glacier we crossed on the first day of our trek. It can be a challenging crossing so the guide is careful in the selection of a crossing spot. We learn and practice group crossing techniques before linking up and venturing out into the silty, and very cold water.
Once across there’s a bit of hooting and stomping as we celebrate our success and try to get warmed up again. Sometime in the afternoon we hear the powerful engine of the Beaver heading our way. We enjoy a nice flight back to McCarthy with thoughts of hot showers and cold beers dancing in our heads.
Day 7: Return to Anchorage.
(click on a thumbnail to enlarge and play video)