It's been about ten years since we first offered this extended classic Alaskan hiking tour and it has quickly become our most popular. This is a longer route and at times quite challenging but it will leave you well satisfied and feeling that you have experienced that very best that Alaska and Wrangell-St. Elias have to offer.
We start off our hiking trek by flying into Iceberg Lake near the massive Bagley Ice Field. This is a glacially dammed lake and the floating chunks of ice give the lake its locally known moniker. We will certainly want to spend some time taking pictures here. Bears frequent this valley so maybe we'll get lucky and spot one. Wolverine have also been seen on occasion.
The second day we put on crampons for a fun day of crossing a glacier! Our camp is at the edge of another lake in a spot that is known to produce some stunning sunset photo opportunities.
From here we continue on with high ridge traverses, another exciting glacier crossing and more. Every day brings new and different terrain as we move from glaciers to lush green valleys to alpine ridges to wind swept passes. Last summer we explored a new route variation that includes a third glacier crossing. This one is smaller but interesting as it's at a higher elevation than the other valley glaciers. This tour just gets better every summer.
The scenery we will encounter is second to none with dramatic, snow capped peaks both near and far. We take a fairly moderate pace but it involves 8 days of hiking and a few longer days. This is an excellent choice for someone with a sense of adventure and the desire for a very special alaskan backpacking trip.
Duration: 8 days Trekking
Season: Early July - September
The Adventure at a Glance
8 days/7 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Trek begins in McCarthy Alaska
The adventure begins with an amazing flight from McCarthy to Iceberg Lake, which is situated at the head of a valley near the Bagley Icefield. Iceberg is not a true lake but is created each summer when melting snow is prevented from draining away by an ice dam. At some point during the summer the dam bursts and the water drains. So depending on when we visit the area we may find a lake full of icebergs or a bunch of icebergs stranded on the sand. Either way it's a great scene. We will want to do a little exploring and take some pictures before we shoulder our packs. We head down the lush valley carved out by glaciers long ago. But part of that glacier remains and blocks the valley floor so we don crampons and head up onto the ice! This is a very flat glacier with few crevasses of any size so the going will actually be pretty easy. This will be a great introduction to the world of glacier hiking. It’s actually a lot easier hiking across the ice than over rocky ground. Once over the glacier we drop down to another lake and make camp. This spot offers wonderful photo opportunities, especially late in the day when the sun is low in the sky.
We continue hiking west towards the end of the valley. Our route follows along near the stream until we head up the side of the valley to a saddle at the end of the ridge. It's a bit of a hump to get up there but we are soon on top enjoying a well deserved lunch by a bubbling brook. the view is fantastic of the entire valley as well as part of the bremner glacier. A lovely little lake about an hour and a half farther just begs to be camped at and we are happy to oblige.
About a mile out of camp we veer off a bit to a high point that gives us a breathtaking view of the next valley, and glacier, that we will cross. The sweeping vista is a favorite photo spot on this trip and we'll want to linger a bit. The hike down from our perch to the ice involves a bit of scrambling. At the glaciers edge is a great spot for a lunch break before we put the crampons on once again. We get up onto the Bremner Glacier and head due north. This is a much different and larger glacier than the smaller one of a few days ago. We'll have the chance to see some larger crevasses on this day. When we arrive at the edge of the glacier we stop and set up camp on the most convenient spot – right on the ice! This location positions us perfectly for our next day’s journey.
A short hike takes us off the ice and over the glacial moraine. The next hour or so involves a bit of a steep grunt but this high traverse route takes us up and over what would otherwise be a very nasty bushwhack. We also get a nice reward for our uphill efforts - a stunning view looking back over our route of the last two days including the full sweep of the Bremner glacier. Life gets easier as we head down into the valley, stopping for a well-earned lunch just before our stream crossing. After lunch we continue on up this verdant valley and part way up a low pass near its end.
After four days of sometimes challenging travel everyone will be ready to take it a bit easier. We can sleep in today as this will be a rest day. If we hit the season right we can have blueberries in our granola this morning. Our hike today will only be a few hours long in less than an hour we top the pass. This is a very different sort of pass than our last one and has an almost otherworldly and monochromatic look to it due to all the rock that fills the pass. We camp near two lovely alpine lakes on an oasis of tundra amidst the rock. Those with a little extra energy can take a side trip up to a small, nearby glacier.
Another easier day. We will do a little backpacking but only for about a half day and it’s all downhill! After making our way over a challenging boulder field the going gets easier and we have a fairly easy and very pleasant day of hiking through some "Sound of Music" type terrain and down to a stream junction at Monahan Creek. The terrain is easy, lush and green - making for a delightful hike. After setting up our camp near the stream junction, we spend the afternoon exploring some interesting canyons and rock outcroppings in the area.
Well rested from two easier days, we’re ready to tackle our last challenging hike. After a gently rising valley traverse we turn up the last pass of our trek. This is our biggest elevation gain on the route and the last bit will have us huffing and puffing. But the view from the top of the pass makes it all worthwhile. We’ll stop for lunch here to enjoy the expansive views both near and far of snow capped peaks. You will want to linger at this amazing spot. From the pass it’s a fairly easy hike down to our final lakeside camp - and it’s a beauty. The lake is surrounded by soft tundra that makes a very comfy sleeping surface. Nearby are huge cliffs towering a thousand feet high. I call this Golden Pond due to the golden glow that the lichen covered tundra takes on in the late summer and fall. It would be hard to find a better site for our final camp.
We don’t have far to go today but we do have a plane to catch! After a quick breakfast we saddle up one last time. Our last hike is a pleasant walk over tundra and it’s all downhill as we make our way to Golcanda Creek and the airstrip. A wonderful flight takes us back to McCarthy and hot showers.
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)|