The Iceberg Lake valley is one of the premier spots in the park, especially for base camp trips. This area offers stunning vistas and lots of room to explore. There is a lot of variety of terrain in this region.
Many people set up a base camp at some ponds near the airstrip. It's a nice spot but a bit too popular for our tastes. Instead we saddle up the packs and hike a bit down the valley where we explore a valley glacier before heading further up a ridge. There are lots of options for places to camp in this amazing valley, and we try to vary the route each time we visit the area. The ridge offers lots of great campsites so we try to find a new spot every summer.
Usually we spend two nights at our first camp and enjoy the second day hiking without the heavy packs. Options for exploring include visiting some nearby lakes, heading up a scramble summit or hiking along the ridge. What we end up doing depends on the interests of the group.
Then we pack it up and move camp to a new spot.
Last summer we discovered a lofty perch high up on a ridge with a crystal clear melt pond nearby for a water source. We were day hiking then, but next time we'll bring the gear and spend a few days at that incredible high camp.
We can customize this trip to your group's interests and abilities. The best way to get the most out of this awesome valley is to do a combination loop and base camp trip. Typically we set up camp for a few days and explore the area before moving our camp. This combines the best of backpacking and base camping allowing us to see more variety of terrain without carrying full packs every day.
Spending five days in this amazing valley is like eating just the frosting off the cake! Indulge yourself.
2 nights in McCarthy, Alaska
4 days/5 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Duration: 5 days trekking
Season: Early July - Early September
Elevation Gain: depends on the group
Distance: 10-15 miles
Did you eve want to just eat the icing off a cake? Here’s your chance. This trip features some of the best parts of the Seven Pass route. We have a lot of freedom with this one so we adjust the exact itinerary to the abilities and interest of the group. But generally we do it as a combination backpack and base camp trek. Here’s a sample itinerary.
Day 1: The van picks you up at your hotel at 8:00 AM for the drive to McCarthy and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. 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.
We 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 1: Our pilot lands the DeHaviland Beaver on a sandy mesa near Iceberg Lake. As the plane disappears over the ridge we shoulder our packs and head up the valley. It’s mostly pretty easy terrain today as we head towards the glacier. The edge of the ice is always a nice spot to stop for lunch and get some instruction from the guide on how to put on crampons and travel safely over the glacier. Most people are surprised to find that the terrain of a glacier can vary from flat ice to jagged ridges with melt holes, streams, crevasses and other features. We take our time with the crossing and explore.
Once across we clamber over a bit of rocky moraine and part way up a ridge to find a campsite with great views of the valley as well as the glacier we just crossed.
Day 2: Today we leave our camp set up and enjoy a day of hiking and exploring with light day loads. There are lots of options up on the ridge so we settle on an itinerary that suits the group. Possibilities include heading up a nearby scramble peak, exploring some nearby lakes or if we’re ambitious we could drop down over the other side of the ridge for a look at the next valley.
Day 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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.