Visit McCarthy and you’ll find an historic gem tucked away inside the largest national park in the U.S. Once the most populated town in Alaska, today’s McCarthy is half-ghost-town, half-well-kept secret. The McCarthy Lodge and Ma Johnson Hotel are authentic venues from which to explore the area, combining history, nature, and charming local flavor for a progressive-remote experience available to those seeking out the “real Alaska.” It is also the only accommodation and restaurant recommended by Michelin Guide for the McCarthy-Kennicott area.
It takes just a couple of minutes to walk the length of McCarthy – all two blocks of it. You get the same small-town feel in the Ma Johnson Hotel, a former boarding house that brings alive the sensibilities and warm hospitality of the past. A stay at this living museum reveals stories about McCarthy’s colorful history. From the lobby to each cozy room, guests discover genuine artifacts from McCarthy’s days as a bustling mining town: relics from the old dressmaker’s shop, the bedframe owned by the town’s commissioner, circa 1916, a wooden practice shell from World War I, and Kate Kennedy’s artifacts from her days as the town’s madam. Enjoy your time socializing in the living room, on the porch, or exploring the vastness that is the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
Local flavor at the Golden Saloon
When you want a bite, step across the street to the 100-year-old McCarthy Lodge, which specializes in fresh, local menu selections – including the famed (and exquisitely prepared) Wild Copper River Red salmon. Discovering fine dining this far off the beaten path is kind of a tradition. Today’s guests benefit from a commitment to serving up creative, local, in-season offerings. This award-winning restaurant is Alaska-focused, serving a style they’re calling “New Alaska cuisine.”
The Real Alaska
The McCarthy Lodge and its neighbor, the Golden Saloon, aren’t just tourist spots. Locals hang out here too, and aren’t afraid of chatting it up with visitors. Genuine Alaskan voices will give you an insider’s perspective on what it takes to live and work in this remote part of the state. Make a new friend over a buffalo burger, sing at Thursday’s open mic night, join in the weekly softball game under the midnight sun, or browse the Mountain Arts gift shop to find Alaska souvenirs featured for their connections to McCarthy and Wrangell-St. Elias. You might even run into the park’s artist in residence!
While residents live, work and play in McCarthy year-round, most visitors take advantage of amenities offered during the summer season. The McCarthy Lodge and Ma Johnson Hotel are open from May to September; that’s about 100 days of premium, summer-lit, adventure time. After a long drive to get here, most guests enjoy a two-night stay to really settle into the culture of the place. Any part of the season is a great time to visit, with various community events happening throughout the summer. If you time it right, you might even be around for McCarthy’s end-of-August tall-tale competition in the Golden Saloon. Oh, the Alaska-sized stories you’ll hear!
Your time in McCarthy could easily be spent just soaking in the ambiance of small-town life, but you should absolutely explore the area too. Peek into Alaska’s mining past with a walk around the old Kennecott copper mine. Experience breath-taking views from the air, on a glacier, or while rafting wild rivers. The folks at Ma Johnson’s can offer guidance on how to pack it all in.