Wrangell St. Elias Nat’l Park Parks & Trails

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Parks & Trails

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 12 miles

This is a trail with access to Cop­per Lake. Cop­per Lake has oppor­tu­ni­ties for Lake Trout, Grayling, and Bur­bot fish­ing. The first 2.5 miles are suit­able for hik­ing, then the trail crosss­es Tana­da Creek, which can be high and fast, and trail con­di­tions deteriorate. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

The main street in Ken­ni­cott turns into a well-main­tained, 4‑mile-long hik­ing trail just out­side of town. This trail winds along­side the Ken­ni­cott and Root Glac­i­ers, and hik­ing it is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence the grandeur of the Wrangell Moun­tains and see more of the val­ley. It’s a great start­ing point, whether you have only a few hours or are plan­ning a mul­ti-day glac­i­er and moun­tain adven­ture. You will be reward­ed through­out the…  ...more

The dis­cov­ery of gold at Jacksi­na Creek in 1899 was an excit­ing find for prospec­tor K.J. Fjeld, but it proved too remote to devel­op suc­cess­ful­ly. Oth­er prospec­tors were per­sis­tent though, and in 1925 Carl Whitham found a rich lode on White Moun­tain. That find, and his sub­se­quent devel­op­ment of the mine, led to the con­struc­tion of Nabesna Road. At its height, between 40 and 70 men were employed at the mine. It also pro­vid­ed trading…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Camp right at the toe of the Root Glac­i­er, in a Nation­al Park Ser­vice camp­ing area. This is a great way to expe­ri­ence the glac­i­er with­out the traf­fic of hik­ers and tourists that pass through dur­ing the day. The area has a few camp­ing spots carved out of the hill­side, as well as bear box­es (and there’s anoth­er just past Jum­bo Creek). Jum­bo Creek is the bound­ary for camp­ing – with no per­mis­sion to camp before you cross it. Be wary of bears: In…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 4 miles

This his­tor­i­cal trail through the woods between McCarthy and Ken­ni­cott was the walking/​wagon road when the rail­road was still run­ning. It’s a nice alter­na­tive to walk­ing or bik­ing up the 4.5‑mile-long road between McCarthy and Ken­ni­cott, where you’ll find more vehi­cles and dusty conditions.

Difficulty: Moderate

If you’ve spent the day in Ken­ni­cott, on the glac­i­er trail, or in the moun­tains and still can’t get enough of the out­doors, skip the shut­tle ride down the hill to McCarthy and take this nice 1.5‑hour walk. The Wag­on Trail cuts off the main road just to the right of the St. Elias Guides office.

Difficulty: Easy

Com­ing around the cor­ner after mile­post 28, you can’t help but notice the Gilahi­na Tres­tle. There are 85+ miles of bridges and tres­tles with­in the 196 miles of rail between Cor­do­va and Ken­ni­cott. Build­ing them was a big job. The Gilahi­na Tres­tle is visu­al con­fir­ma­tion of the size of job it was, stand­ing 80 – 90 feet high and 880 feet across. The crew used a half-mil­lion board-feet of lum­ber and com­plet­ed the job in eight days.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 5 miles

From the trail­head, the trail leads up an allu­vial fan, through white spruce for­est and alder for approx­i­mate­ly 0.8 mile. The trail sur­face is gravel/​cobble and dry.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 9 miles Elevation Gain: 3750 feet

The Dix­ie Pass trail gains over 5,000 feet as it leads you into the alpine. The views are world-class, and there’s always a good shot at spot­ting wildlife on this hike. It’s best to give your­self 3 or 4 days to ful­ly explore this area, but an overnight is def­i­nite­ly bet­ter than not going at all. There are no sup­port facil­i­ties here, so bring your own tent, sleep­ing bag, and sup­plies because there are plen­ty of great camp­ing spots near water…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

Jum­bo Mine is locat­ed 3,000 feet above Ken­necott — get there via a gor­geous and stren­u­ous hike that will leave most peo­ple very hap­py, and very tired. The mine build­ing ruins pale in com­par­i­son to the dra­mat­ic moun­tain scenery that sur­rounds you. The build­ings were ini­tial­ly built on a rock glac­i­er, in which loose rock accu­mu­lates and is lubri­cat­ed by frozen water, then moved by grav­i­ty. Need­less to say, after 80 years, not many build­ings are…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

The Niz­ina Riv­er is a clas­sic Alaskan mon­ster — almost 1.5 miles wide. Once step­ping out of the for­est you may need to walk 20 min­utes to reach the riv­er chan­nel cur­rent­ly being used. Walk around and you’ll find here lots of cool rocks, as well as reward­ing views of the dra­mat­ic Chugach Moun­tains that you won’t get from McCarthy or Ken­ni­cott. You’ll also catch a glimpse of the his­toric steel bridge once used as part of the route to the gold…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

Lib­er­ty creek is acces­si­ble via Lib­er­ty Creek Camp­ground. The camp­ground sur­rounds a clear­wa­ter creek at the bot­tom of a beau­ti­ful water­fall. Camp­grounds are on either side of the creek in a sur­re­al setting.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 550 feet

This hike is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­long the Crys­talline Hills expe­ri­ence. It’s rel­a­tive­ly easy trav­el­ing and gets you some nice views of the moun­tains loom­ing above, as well as look­ing south towards the Chugach Moun­tains. About 15 – 20 min­utes of hik­ing will get you to a view­point worth leav­ing your car for. This area has long been used by sheep hunters, so if you have binoc­u­lars you may want to spend some time scan­ning these hills. If it’s…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 1 mile Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Access: Trail­head is locat­ed at the end of the main­tained por­tion of the Nabesna Road, Mile 42. As you near the end of the main­tained por­tion of the Nabesna Road, you will reach pri­vate prop­er­ty owned by the Ellis fam­i­ly, who oper­ate Devil’s Moun­tain Lodge, estab­lished here in the 1950s. Please respect their pri­va­cy and take care not to park on their prop­er­ty or pri­vate air strip. Con­tin­ue dri­ving on the road through the Ellis property.…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

An easy trail, about 0.6 miles long, that will take about 1 hour to hike and leads you to excel­lent views of Child’s Glac­i­er. Impor­tant note: While the For­est Ser­vice still main­tains it, you can’t get here by car, as the Cop­per Riv­er high­way is washed out at Mile 36. You can only access the trail by hir­ing a boat or a plane from town.

Difficulty: Easy

Get­ting out to the Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er is the first chal­lenge. You need to hike onto the Root Glac­i­er, cross over the mon­ster rock moraine to your left, cross anoth­er tongue of ice on the Root Glac­i­er, then cross yet anoth­er mon­ster rock moraine between the Root and the Ken­ni­cott glac­i­ers. It’s tricky ter­rain and not to be tak­en light­ly. When fac­ing down the sec­ond moraine, you’ll want to hit the low point that’s close to where the black mud…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

The trail begins at the Skookum Vol­cano trail­head (Mile 36.8 Nabesna Road) and fol­lows until the pass (see SkookumVol­cano trail descrip­tion­for more infor­ma­tion). From the pass on, there is no trail, and one must pick one of two routes.

Difficulty: Easy

Look­ing for a mel­low 3- to 4‑hour walk and a nice spot to relax with a book or a jour­nal? Check out McCarthy Creek. To get here, just walk straight through McCarthy’s Main Street, past Ma John­son’s Hotel (on the left), down the hill, and past the Wrangell Moun­tain Center.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 22 miles Elevation Gain: 2860 feet

This spec­tac­u­lar back­coun­try route con­nects the Lost and Trail Creek drainages via a 6000’ pass. Explore these trails as day hikes from Nabesna Road or as one big loop in either direc­tion over 3 to 4 days. Trail Creek and Lost Creek were used by gen­er­a­tions of Aht­na peo­ple, who hunt­ed moose and trapped gophers and por­cu­pine. In the 1930s a few cab­ins were built at Lost Creek and the Aht­na res­i­dents made a liv­ing hunt­ing, fish­ing and selling…  ...more

Cop­per brought peo­ple to Kennicott/​McCarthy, and gold kept them com­ing, usu­al­ly via Dan Creek Road. The Cor­do­va Cham­ber of Com­merce built this road back in 1914 to pro­mote access into the gold-rich inte­ri­or of Alas­ka. Today you can use this road to get to the old airstrip, a min­er’s cab­in at the top of the bluff above McCarthy Creek (a 25-minute walk from McCarthy), and the Niz­ina Riv­er, some 9 miles away. Watch for the bridge over McCarthy…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles Elevation Gain: 800 feet

The trail pro­ceeds in a north­east direc­tion towards the hills. The trail is an ATV route, and as such there are some mud­dy areas where you may be required to walk off the trail. The begin­ning of the trail goes through the val­ley bot­tom with low tun­dra veg­e­ta­tion. Views are great. As the trail con­tin­ues, the for­est sur­rounds the trail with spruce, alder, wil­low and wildflowers. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 6 miles

This hike takes you up the his­tor­i­cal wag­on road to the top of the moun­tain, where you’ll find the ruins of mine build­ings. Start by hik­ing along the Root Glac­i­er Trail until a NPS junc­tion sign points you right up the moun­tain. You’ll ascend about 2,000 feet (1.5 – 2 hours) before ris­ing above the tree line; even if you go no fur­ther, the view is worth the effort. How­ev­er, you can also con­tin­ue up anoth­er 2,000 – 3,000 feet to the top, where the…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

By the time you reach this trail­head you’ve already had the plea­sure of gaz­ing upon the Chrys­talline Hills . The Wrangell Moun­tains con­tain a wide vari­ety of moun­tain com­po­si­tions. They were formed mil­lions of years ago by clas­sic plate-tec­ton­ic thrust­ing. If you look close­ly, you should be able to see folds in the rock. While being formed, these young moun­tains were shak­en up by seri­ous vol­canic activ­i­ty. Things heat­ed up when the terrain…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

To get a lit­tle fur­ther away from civ­i­liza­tion, you can also camp at the end of the Root Glac­i­er trail, about 4 miles from Ken­necott. This is hard­ly a tra­di­tion­al camp­ground; there are a few cre­ative spots to pitch a tent, one of which is on the trail itself. There’s also a bearproof food stor­age box, since this is def­i­nite­ly bear coun­try. But few peo­ple and amaz­ing views make the hike out here worth it. You’ll know you’re at the end of the…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

At mile 14.5 McCarthy Road, turn left on the access road and fol­low it 2.5 miles to Nugget Creek and Dix­ie Pass trail­heads. These remote trails offer vis­i­tors the chance to explore the wilder­ness and embark on an adven­ture they will nev­er forget!Ask a park ranger for more infor­ma­tion and trail descriptions.

Difficulty: Moderate

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 7 miles Elevation Gain: 1640 feet

Fol­low Root Glac­i­er Trail to its ter­mi­na­tion at Root Glac­i­er, then con­tin­ue on past the rock­slide to a camp­ing area with a bear-proof food stor­age box. From here, descend over the top of the moraine, care­ful­ly mak­ing your way down the rocky slope. At the bot­tom, you’ll head north off-trail until steep cliffs are tow­er­ing on your right. Curve around the point and con­tin­ue on to Erie Lake and the Stair­way Ice­fall, which is a 7,000 ft vertical…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 25 miles

High­lights: Wildlife, open tun­dra, spec­tac­u­lar scenery. Soda Lake was cre­at­ed by a large land­slide, most like­ly in response to an earth­quake and past move­ment along the Tot­shun­da Fault. The fas­ci­nat­ing ter­rain near the out­let of Soda Lake result­ed from the land­slide, cre­at­ing a topog­ra­phy which con­trasts from its sur­round­ings. The lake now seeps through this land­slide rubble.Hazards: Creeks, espe­cial­ly Soda Creek, may be high on hot sunny…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

This route begins at the Park Ser­vice and Infor­ma­tion Sta­tion. Fol­low the flags, and they will lead you to an unmain­tained foot­path. This trail requires a lot of bushwack­ing and the footholds are not strong, espe­cial­ly after the first four miles.

Difficulty: Moderate

Peo­ple trav­el from all over the world for a back­pack­ing trip with­in Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park & Pre­serve. One com­mon mis­con­cep­tion is that the more expen­sive the bush-plane flight, the more impres­sive the scenery and ter­rain. It would be more accu­rate to say that the more expen­sive the bush-plane flight, the far­ther away from the airstrip you’re fly­ing. Since the McCarthy airstrip and the 60-mile dirt road to the airstrip are in the…  ...more

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