Photo Credit: St. Elias Alpine Guides

McCarthy-Kennicott Glacier Tours

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Glacier Tours

Season: May 26 – September 10 $110+ per person 3 hrs - Full-day

A third of Wrangell — St. Elias Nation­al Park is cov­ered in glacial ice, mak­ing it one of the eas­i­est places to access a glac­i­er in Alas­ka. Strap on the pro­vid­ed cram­pons and explore the stun­ning fea­tures of the glac­i­er with expert guid­ance — rivers and water­falls, crevass­es and blue pools wait to be dis­cov­ered. Or, take on the chal­lenge of scal­ing the dra­mat­ic icy walls of a glac­i­er on an ice climb­ing trip.

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.

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

Owned and oper­at­ed by the Nation­al Park Ser­vice, this hall often hosts speak­ers, movies, potlucks, yoga, music, wed­dings, and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty events. You’ll like­ly see fly­ers around town about these events, which are usu­al­ly held for no charge (though they may request dona­tions). If there is some­thing going on dur­ing your vis­it to town, don’t be shy; it’s worth your while to find out what’s hap­pen­ing. And check in at the NPS vis­i­tor cen­ter to see  ...more

This clas­sic swim­ming hole is a local favorite — it’s the per­fect spot to relax on a hot sum­mer day. You’ll find it at the sec­ond foot­bridge, a 5‑minute walk from the Ken­ni­cott Riv­er, where you can park your car. Lounge on the beach or even go swim­ming — the water’s rel­a­tive­ly warm when the sun is shin­ing. While here, you can also explore near the toe of Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er and find all sorts of inter­est­ing glacial fea­tures, includ­ing a terminal…  ...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

You can’t escape the town’s his­tor­i­cal dynam­ic, and this muse­um is the best place to get the inside scoop on its past, includ­ing the cop­per rush that hap­pened between 1900 and 1938. The muse­um build­ing itself is a piece of his­to­ry, hav­ing once been the railw¬ay depot. Check out the pic­tures of rail­way con­struc­tion — 196 miles of track from Cor­do­va — which are alone worth the vis­it. You’ll also find pho­tos and arti­facts that give you an idea what…  ...more

Walk­ing down the main street of Ken­necott, you can’t miss the Nation­al Park Ser­vice vis­i­tor cen­ter on the left, housed in the his­toric gen­er­al store and post office.Stop in and learn about the his­to­ry: The sto­ry goes that when the last train left Ken­ni­cott in 1938, peo­ple had to sud­den­ly aban­don their lives with only a few hours of warn­ing. Until the 1970’s you could still come and stock up on beans, flour, and oth­er sta­ples left behind.You’ll…  ...more

A lit­tle less than half of the 127 mile trip from Glen­nallen to McCarthy involves paved road­ways, and the grav­el sur­face of the McCarthy Road makes the trip slow going. How­ev­er, if you’re pre­pared for any con­di­tions (stop by the Chiti­na Ranger Sta­tions, and be sure to bring a spare tire and jack!), the dri­ve from Glen­nallen to McCarthy is well worth the effort. The dri­ve is one of two access points to Wrangell-St.Elias Nation­al Park, and takes  ...more

Today, only ruins remain of Ken­necot­t’s sawmill and car­pen­try shop. This build­ing was con­struct­ed with local spruce in 1908, before the arrival of the rail­road. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

The log cab­in sec­tion of Gen­er­al Man­agers Office was the first per­ma­nent build­ing in Ken­necott. Addi­tions were added to pro­vide more space for the office, safe, pay­roll, and draft­ing. There use to be a staff house next door that was used to house female employ­ees and unmar­ried man­age­ment. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

Even though the Ken­necott Cor­po­ra­tion was built on the edge of a glac­i­er, they used the most advanced refrig­er­a­tion tech­nol­o­gy avail­able. Ammo­nia cool­ing and a mechan­i­cal­ly cooled meat lock­er were used to keep meat and oth­er per­ish­ables fresh for the min­ing town. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

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

Across the street from the muse­um is a short path lead­ing to the old rail­road turntable used to flip the engine around so it could push the train the 4.5 remain­ing miles up to Ken­ni­cott. Look for a wood­en sign across the street point­ing the way. Two or three peo­ple can get it mov­ing again. It’s a great activ­i­ty for kids look­ing for a short but unique ride.

The orig­i­nal Staff Five-plex build­ing that was con­struct­ed in 1916 burn­down in 1983. As the name sug­gests, it was a five town­house com­plex used to house man­age­ment fam­i­lies and cou­ples. In 1987 it was rebuilt as Ken­necott Glac­i­er Lodge. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum

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.

Along with some oth­er build­ings, the Nation­al Park Ser­vice has fin­ished ren­o­vat­ing the Pow­er Plant, and has opened it up for pub­lic view­ing. It makes for an inter­est­ing tour. It was built in 1924 after a fire destroyed the orig­i­nal pow­er house. The plant once pro­duced enough steam-gen­er­at­ed elec­tric­i­ty to run the mines up in the moun­tains as well as the entire town, includ­ing heat­ing the build­ings and even melt­ing snow off the sidewalks.…  ...more

Although McCarthy Road comes to an end at mile­post 60, your adven­ture does not. The town of McCarthy lies .5 miles away, and the Ken­necott Mines Nation­al His­toric Land­mark is 5 miles away. McCarthy Road Infor­ma­tion Sta­tion Make this your first stop. Here you will find up-to-date infor­ma­tion on park­ing, shut­tles, Ken­necott, McCarthy, park access, and activ­i­ties. Day-use park­ing and restrooms are avail­able here. 

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

Con­struc­tion of this 14-sto­ry state-of-the-art mill began in 1908 and took 10 years to com­plete. Tramways con­nect­ed the 5 Ken­necott mines to this mill, trans­port­ing up to 1,200 tons of ore every day. At the mill, the ore was processed using advanced tech­nol­o­gy to extract the cop­per. Most of the machi­nary is still intact today. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

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.

This glac­i­er dom­i­nates all views west of the his­toric mill town site of Ken­necott (basi­cal­ly locat­ed across the street” from the Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er Lodge) in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias Nation­al Park. Although Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er has been reced­ing from its ter­mi­nus for years, its immen­si­ty and rugged­ness remains a mag­nif­i­cent sight, fill­ing the four-mile-wide val­ley like a mighty river.

The dri­ve to McCarthy and Ken­ni­cott isn’t your run-of-the-mill road trip. It’s 7 – 8 hours from Anchor­age, with the last 61 miles-between Chiti­na and the Ken­ni­cott Riv­er-on an his­toric, grav­el road. Not all rental vehi­cles are allowed on the McCarthy road, so check with your rental agency before you travel.

Along the road get good views of Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er, Mount Black­burn and Fire­weed Moun­tain. McCarthy served as the sup­ply and recre­ation stop for the Ken­ni­cott Min­ing Dis­trict. Today, the town looks much like it did when it was first estab­lished in 1906 thanks to the local who have restored and pre­served the orig­i­nal buildings. 

As you cross this bridge, you will notice that the Cop­per Riv­er below you is quite dirty. Mil­lions of tons of rock dust are scoured off of dis­tant moun­tains by glac­i­ers and car­ried down­riv­er each year. These silty waters are the per­fect camoflague for samon swim­ming up the riv­er to spawn.

Ken­necot­t’s com­pa­ny store car­ried every­thing res­i­dence would need, from dyna­mite to christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and every­thing inbe­tween. The Ken­necott Post Office was locat­ed in a cor­ner of the store. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

The NPS pro­vides a wide range of free pub­lic tours that typ­i­cal­ly last 30 – 60 min­utes and don’t require too much walk­ing. These include walks down Main Street, where you’ll learn about each build­ing and hear what life was like dur­ing the town’s hey­day. You also might find your­self with a nat­u­ral­ist, who will take you a lit­tle ways out­side of town to iden­ti­fy local native plants, trees, and flow­ers. Call the NPS for a cur­rent sched­ule of free…  ...more

If you’re hik­ing up to Ken­ni­cott from McCarthy and would like a 1- to 2‑hour diver­sion, the toe of the glac­i­er is it. There are some amaz­ing moun­tain views, and a good chance you’ll see a unique move­ment of nature involv­ing rock, ice, and glacial silt. When you’re here, imag­ine your­self back in the ear­ly 1900s: McCarthy was a boom­town, and this land was com­plete­ly cov­ered by ice. That’s obvi­ous­ly changed, and the cur­rent lake will like­ly be 10…  ...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.

Known in town as The Toe,” this area — the toe of the glac­i­er — is a large open space at, yes, the toe of the glac­i­er. It’s also rel­a­tive­ly hid­den, so you won’t find many peo­ple here. What you will find: a lake that’s formed below the ice, the spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of rocks falling off the ice into the water, and, some­times, a par­ty or con­cert (an aban­doned flatbed truck serves as the stage). There’s also space for camp­ing — even a Park Ser­vice bear…  ...more

Talk about an authen­tic pio­neer town. Time seems to have stood still on McCarthy’s Main Street, which is unpaved, only a few hun­dred yards long, and lined with clas­sic build­ings and memorabilia.Some vis­i­tors walk through McCarthy and com­plain that there’s noth­ing to do — and that’s exact­ly why folks like liv­ing here. But while you may not find much activ­i­ty, you will find a lot of his­to­ry: In the town’s hey­day there were sev­er­al hotels,…  ...more

These cot­tages were used to house man­age­ment and a few long-term employ­ees who were allowed to bring their fam­i­lies with them to Ken­necott. The cot­tages on what is now called Silk Stock­ing Row were con­sid­ered very lux­u­ri­ous at the time because they fea­tured indoor plumb­ing. Almost all the cot­tages are now pri­vate­ly owned. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

Every­one’s wel­come to come play soft­ball — gloves, bats, and balls are all pro­vid­ed! McCarthy’s soft­ball nights typ­i­cal­ly begin some­time after 5 p.m. Fri­day from June through August. You may see signs about this fun activ­i­ty around town, or over­hear folks talk­ing about it. Don’t be shy. Head down the street just to the right of Wrangell Moun­tain Air (in down­town” McCarthy) and take the first left up the hill to the field. You’ll get a beautiful…  ...more

Thurs­day evenings are open mic night in McCarthy. It’s a great chance to rub elbows with some locals and fel­low trav­el­ers and get a taste for the neigh­bor­hood. All are wel­come! Bring your gui­tar, har­mon­i­ca, and voice – or just your eyes and ears. Occa­sion­al­ly on Fri­days and Sat­ur­days there’s a band play­ing after 8:30 p.m. Be on the look­out for spe­cial events that are free and open to the public.

Although most of Ken­necot­t’s food was import­ed, the Dairy Barn was used to keep small cows that pro­vid­ed milk for the town. There was also a small com­mu­ni­ty gar­den out­side where some fruits and veg­eta­bles were grown. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

The Ken­necott Train Depot was the ter­mi­nus for the Cop­per Riv­er & North­west­ern Rail­road. Nat­ur­al dis­as­ters and haz­ards along the train route often pre­vent­ed the rail­road from run­ning. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

Dri­ving into McCarthy you’ll see a sign for the NPS kiosk on the left. This is a great place to get ori­ent­ed to the McCarthy and Ken­ni­cott area as well as make the most of your vis­it here. The infor­ma­tion kiosk is open dai­ly dur­ing the sum­mer and has friend­ly park rangers and vol­un­teers to answer ques­tions about the McCarthy and Ken­ni­cott area as well as give you infor­ma­tion about park­ing and shut­tle ser­vice. This is a also good place to use…  ...more

Ken­necot­t’s Ammo­nia Leach­ing Plant was built in 1916 and was used to process the low­er grade cop­per from the mines. A chemist named E.T. Stan­nard invent­ed this advanced min­ing tech­nol­o­gy, and lat­er became CEO of the Ken­necott Cor­po­ra­tion. In 1923, a floata­tion plant was added to the build­ing where the fines”, ore less than 2 mm in diam­e­ter, were processed. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

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

The Ken­necott Hos­pi­tal was typ­i­cal­ly staffed by one doc­tor and three nurs­es. Peo­ple from all over the Cop­per Riv­er Val­ley, not just Ken­necott, were treat­ed here. This small hos­pi­tal was the home of Alaska’s first x‑ray machine. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

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.

The Ken­necott School House was used to teach first through eigth grade class­es, as well as to hold church ser­vices. High school stu­dents were sent to Cor­dovia or Seat­tle and board­ed with fam­i­ly or friends. The school’s recre­ation­al facil­i­ties were con­sid­ered very pro­gres­sive at the time. There was a hand­ball court and a base­ball dia­mond that was to flood­ed in the win­ter and turned into an ice skat­ing rink. Source: McCarthy Kennicott…  ...more

The Assay Office was built in 1910 and served as the labra­to­ry where ore from the mines was test­ed to deter­mine it’s puri­ty. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

The Machine Shop at Ken­necott Mines was used to house large inven­to­ries of spare equip­ment so that any bro­ken machi­nary at the mines or mill could quick­ly be replaced. Equip­ment that need­ed to be repaired was then sent to the Machine Shop. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

Eight signs will guide you through the Cop­per Riv­er water­shed land­scape. See if you can vis­it all eight signs on your tour through this upriv­er basin formed by the ancient, glacial Lake Atna!

West Bunkhouse was built in 1917, mak­ing it Ken­necot­t’s third bunkhouse. Wash­ing and lock­ers were locat­ed on the first floor, and sleep­ing quar­ters were on the upper lev­els. All the Ken­necott bunkhous­es had cook­ing, din­ing, and recre­ation­al facil­i­ties. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

Locals say that where the road ends, the adven­ture begins,” and the McCarthy Road (an adven­ture in itself) abrupt­ly ends at the Ken­ni­cott Riv­er. This is a glacial­ly-birthed tor­rent, and the best place to watch the action is from the footbridge.

The Wrangell Moun­tain Cen­ter is a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to wilder­ness edu­ca­tion and cre­ative arts, housed in the old hard­ware store; stop by and see if any events are being held dur­ing your vis­it. There’s a kiosk out front with a sched­ule that often includes free lec­tures by vis­it­ing biol­o­gists, artists, nat­u­ral­ists, and stu­dents. Activ­i­ties include ear­ly morn­ing bird walks, gar­den­ing lessons, open-mic poet­ry jams, films on local…  ...more

Orig­i­nal­ly, Nation­al Creek Bunkhouse was used as a bunkhouse as one would assume. Lat­er on, parts of the bunkhouse were used as a place to bot­tle dairy and as a tem­po­rary den­tist’s office. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

The Elec­tri­cal Shop was used as a work­space for Ken­necot­t’s elec­tri­ans, and as stor­age space for spare elec­tri­cal parts. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

This white rib­bon of ice merges with the much larg­er Ken­ni­cott Glac­i­er only a mile or so north­west of the his­toric mill town of Ken­necott in Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park. One of the most acces­si­ble glac­i­ers in Alas­ka, it can be reached by hik­ing a few miles up a rel­a­tive­ly easy trail.

The first two things vis­i­tors notice about Ken­necott are the spec­tac­u­lar views and the town itself…in that order. The com­bi­na­tion of dra­mat­ic scenery and strange min­ing town makes for a unique expe­ri­ence. Give your­self a cou­ple hours to explore and take it in.

The road may end here but the jour­ney isn’t over yet. Ken­necott Riv­er Pedes­tri­an Bridge cross­es the main chan­nel of the riv­er, pro­vid­ing access to the road lead­ing to the town of McCarthy and the old min­ing town of Ken­necott. You can walk or bicy­cle the .6 miles to the town of McCarthy or the 5 miles to the his­toric min­ing town of Ken­necott. Look for the old hand-pulled, open plat­form cable tram next to the pedes­tri­an bridge. Before the state  ...more

The major­i­ty of the work­ers in the Ken­necott mines and mill were tem­po­rary. Most worked here for 6 months, 7 days a week. In the bunkhous­es, two to four men shared a room. Source: McCarthy Ken­ni­cott His­tor­i­cal Museum 

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