The Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias mountain ranges converge here in what is often referred to as the "mountain kingdom of North America." The largest unit of the National Park System and a day's drive east of Anchorage, the park-preserve includes the continent's largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in the United States. Adjacent to Canada's Kluane National Park, the site is
characterized by remote mountains, valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife. Proclaimed as Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument Dec. 1,1978; established as a national park and preserve Dec. 2, 1980. Wilderness designated Dec. 2, 1980. Designated a World Heritage Site Oct. 24,1979.
The main way that people come and see Wrangell-St Elias is either on the main road that abuts the Park or via the gravel McCarthy Road. This is a beautiful way to see some of the backcountry Alaska. I drove this road in 2000, and it was quite an adventure. I was luckily, and ended up with no flat tires, but that is not the norm. Plan on only making 15-20 miles per hour driving on the gravel. Before you drive into Wrangell-St Elias, make sure you fill your car up with gas.
Basic Information for Wrangell-St Elias
Operating Hours, Seasons
Winter: 8:00 through 4:30, Monday through Friday.
Summer: 8:00 through 6:00, daily
How to Get to Wrangell- St Elias National Park
Nearest Airport to Wrangell-St Elias National Park - The nearest airport is in Anchorage.
How to Drive to Wrangell St Elias National Park -
Two gravel roads enter the park; the McCarthy Road and Nabesna Road. Some
car rental companies prohibit clients from accessing these roads.
Weather & Climate
The prime backcountry season is from June 20 to August 20 due to snow depths at higher elevations. Some years the snow melts early and arrives late, extending the backcountry season. Consider a trip at lower elevations or be prepared for slogging through snow in this shoulder season. Hunting season, primarily in the preserve, is from August 10 to September 20. The main mountaineering season is mid-March through early June. Wildflowers and mosquitoes peak in June and July. Consider bringing a headnet. June and July are also the warmest months, but it can snow any month of the year in the highcountry. Drizzling rains are common throughout the summer and, in general, rainfall increases in August and September, especially along the coast. The main wildfire season is May through July in drier years.
Not a whole lot.
Camping at Wrangell-St Elias National
Glacier View Campground
scenic and private campsites, mountain bike rentals, 1/2 mile west of Kennecott River bridge
Nabesna District Camping Areas
Open All Year
Camping is available at a number of roadside pullouts along Nabesna Road, some with picnic tables with vaulted toilets available at four locations. All available on a first come, first served basis. There are no formal NPS campgrounds at this time. Backcountry camping is available.
NPS Camping Area
3/4 mile west of Kennecott River, pit toilets, no water
This is a nice brand new campground built by the national park service about 3/4 mile from the bridge. There really arent any sites laid out, but there were 3 people there the couple nights i stayed here. The pit toilets are cleaner than most flush toilets, so this is a real treat, since it is free.
food, showers, bike rental
Activities and More Information on Wrangell-St
Elias National Park
The Road to McCarthy
This is one hell of a road, one that at times you will wonder what you are doing, at other times you can't imagine a more beautiful road to be driving. The first 10 to 15 miles of the road are horrendous, don't expect to drive more than 10-15 miles per hour. After that point, you can expect to go between 20 and 45 miles per hour on the dirt road, depending on your vehicle and the conditions. It had rained a couple times in the previous week before I drove the road, and there were 3 rather large stream crossings, one about 13 inches deep. A couple cars turned back, but no SUV or Pick up had any problem with it. I would suggest calling the NPS before driving it if you have just a vehicle. There are no services along the road, so make sure you get gas first. I would also make sure that you have a full size spare tire before trying to make the drive. If you have already driven the Denali highway (the dirt road one, not the road through the park) and found it rough, then DO NOT DRIVE this road, this one is 10X worse, but is still worth the side trip.
Once in the McCarthy area, I would suggest spending the little bit of money on the shuttle to Kennicott mines, since it is not a fun bike ride or walk to the mines (it is up hill on a 3% grade, with washboard dirt road). The NPS now has a ranger that spends the day at the mines to answer questions, since the NPS has acquired most of the old historic buildings.
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