Wrangell St. Elias Nat’l Park Points of Interest

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Points of Interest

Vol­ca­noes not only shaped the face of Alas­ka but also make for spec­tac­u­lar sights. Here are the top vol­ca­noes to look for and pho­to­graph dur­ing your Alas­ka vacation.

Walk in pub­lic fish­ing access to Sil­ver Lake and Van Lake; you’ll find won­der­ful scenery and good rain­bow trout fish­ing in both lakes.

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

You’re now look­ing at the Chiti­na Riv­er just before it merges with the Cop­per Riv­er and dis­ap­pears out of view. The braid­ed Chiti­na below actu­al­ly car­ries more water than the Cop­per Riv­er, despite los­ing the name bat­tle. (It’s actu­al­ly more of a name tie, though, as Chiti­na is the native word for cop­per.) Heavy rains, floods, and out­bursts from glacial­ly-dammed lakes can fill the riverbed, in com­par­i­son to the chan­nels you’re like­ly seeing…  ...more

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

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

Maybe the cliffs aren’t a full mile high, but this area in Wrangell-St. Elias offers lofty scenery and a nice spot to hike or camp. Near the Niz­ina Riv­er and Niz­ina Glac­i­er, the ver­ti­cal cliffs are about 400 – 500 feet high and com­prised of exposed lime­stone, with some beau­ti­ful water­falls flow­ing off of it. You can get dropped off by a bush plane or air taxi near­by so that you can go hik­ing along the riverbed or even on the end-moraine of the…  ...more

A 1985 land­slide cre­at­ed this vast expanse of rub­ble. You can hike it, though: you just fol­low the sandy stretch­es through the rub­ble, then whack up through the brush where the riv­er meets the hill­side. From there, you can get back onto the old riv­er chan­nel. While the after­math here may look mas­sive, it’s by no stretch the biggest land­slide in the area. Not too far from here, just off the west fork of the Niz­ina, there was a land­slide after…  ...more

This 525-foot-long bridge was built in 1911 dur­ing the dead of win­ter (with tem­per­a­tures dip­ping to –60°F) as the rail­road pushed to com­plete the line by spring. Cop­per was pil­ing up in Ken­ni­cott and the pres­sure was on.

It’s a hot and dusty day on the McCarthy Road and you’re start­ing to think of things in terms of relief. You may be imag­in­ing the end of the dri­ve, or maybe it’s the vision of a cold beer slid­ing down your throat that gives you com­fort. Long Lake pro­vides you with anoth­er, more imme­di­ate, option. As you near the end of the lake clos­est to McCarthy you may see a car or two parked on the side of the road. If not, you may see a spot where you can…  ...more

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. 

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

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.

Pull over and take in this amaz­ing view of the riv­er. Because this is a glacial riv­er, it’s waters are high­est dur­ing sum­mer hot spells that cause rapid ice melt. Raft­ing trips from McCarthy down the Chiti­na Riv­er are very pop­u­lar. If you are inter­est­ed, there are sev­er­al raft­ing com­pa­nies that oper­ate out of McCarthy. 

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.

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

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.

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.

Need some cig­a­rettes or ammu­ni­tion? Both are for sale in this grow­ing com­mu­ni­ty at the site of a his­tor­i­cal rail­road camp. Look for the build­ing with a big sign that says Cig­a­rettes and Ammu­ni­tion.” This is one of first oppor­tu­ni­ties to get a drink of moun­tain water on the McCarthy Road. You can pull over after the lit­tle bridge and try to find a spot to fill up. Don’t wan­der too far from the bridge as it’s both pri­vate prop­er­ty and a…  ...more

Over the next few miles, enjoy the splen­did views of high snow-clad vol­ca­noes of the Wrangell Moun­tains. Mt. San­ford (16,237′) is the tallest moun­tain that can be seen from the Nabesna Road. To the left of San­ford is the round­ed, icy dome of Mt. Wrangell (14,163′). It is the park’s only active vol­cano and occa­sion­al­ly steam can be seen ris­ing from the sum­mit. Wrangel­l’s broad slop­ing pro­file is an excel­lent exam­ple of a shield vol­cano. The…  ...more

4‑Mile” Road leads into the Slana Set­tle­ment, cre­at­ed in 1983 when the BLM opened over 10,000 acres north of the road to home­steading. It was one of the last oppor­tu­ni­ties for home­steading fed­er­al land. Eight hun­dred claims were filed, but most were soon aban­doned. Alaskan win­ters took their toll. Many tried to live in hasti­ly-built cab­ins and tents, with tem­per­a­tures down to ‑60 degrees F. Jobs were scarce and the cli­mate was not suit­ed to…  ...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

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.

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

Built in the 1920s, this bridge helped prospec­tors cross the Niz­ina Riv­er and reach the gold camps at Chi­ti­tu Creek and Dan Creek. The glac­i­er-dammed lake near here caused flood­ing with some reg­u­lar­i­ty — and as result, would wash out the bridge with some regularity.

This remote canyon in Wrangell-St. Elias Nation­al Park makes for dra­mat­ic flight­see­ing: You’ll see moun­tains and glac­i­ers, as well as an actu­al shift in ter­rains from Wrangell lime­stone to vol­canic rock. Some of the moun­tains might even remind you of the buttes that you’d see in the South­west. This is also a great spot to get dropped off by a bush plane so that you can hike above the tree­line. The basic, wildlife-trav­eled trails are sim­i­lar to…  ...more

The north side of the road is Nation­al Pre­serve” where­as the south side is Nation­al Park.” Sport hunt­ing is allowed in the Nation­al Pre­serve but not in the Nation­al Park. How­ev­er, sub­sis­tence hunt­ing is allowed in both the Nation­al Park and Preserve.

For many, cross­ing the Kusku­lana Bridge is the most nerve-rack­ing part of their dri­ve down McCarthy Road. Men­tal­ly pre­pare your­self to dri­ve across this old sin­gle-lane rail­road bridge 238 feet above the rag­ing Kusku­lana Riv­er! The Kusku­lana bridge was built dur­ing the win­ter of 1910. You will see for your­self what a remark­able achieve­ment this was. 

You have reached the high­est point on the Nabesna Road, and crossed a major water­shed divide. All waters flow­ing west and south from the divide are car­ried byt the Cop­per Riv­er to the Guld of Alas­ka. All waters flow­ing to the east ener the Nabesna Riv­er, the Tanana, the Yukon, and ulti­mate­ly the Bering Sea.

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

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