Wrangell-St Elias National Park is one of the best national parks in Alaska to lose yourself in, and is the biggest national park in the United States. It was one of my favourite places in all of my Alaskan travels.
It’s also not as heavily visited as other national parks, such as Denali and I found myself with more space in nature, especially up on the glacier.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park
Getting to Wrangell-St Elias National Park is epic in itself.
Driving along a quiet road that leads through forests, along a valley, and with mountain backdrops.
This road-trip in Alaska is worth it just for the drive, nevermind the park and hiking at the end.
The road follows through forests, valleys, and along a river.
Once you reach the small settlement of McCarthy at the end of the road find yourself a place to camp for the night, or one of the small hotels in the ‘town’ itself.
McCarthy is tiny! It only has a population of around 25 people and really feels like an ‘end of nowhere kind of place.
Kennicott and Root Glacier
From McCarthy, the most popular hike to do is to the abandoned copper mining town of Kennicott, around a 45-minute walk away.
It was here that copper was mined and transported out. Today it feels like an eerie place with the fading and crumbling wooden buildings and some left behind machinery.
Take an hour or so to wander around there before continuing on the hike on the Root Glacier Trail.
The hike to Root Glacier is peaceful and has some epic views onto the mountains as the glacier slowly comes into view.
The barren rock covered beginning of the glacier soon turns into the vast white of pristine nature. I didn’t see any trash along the entire hike.
Once you have scrambled down the side of the mountain you can get onto the Root Glacier and go for a walk on it. If you don’t have crampons for walking on the glacier be careful as, naturally, it is slippery with ice.
I walked only a hundred or so metres onto it to enjoy the place before coming back, for safety reasons.
Where to Stay in McCarthy Alaska
The best way to experience Wrangell-St-Elias National Park is to go camping, which is what I did. But the small settlement of McCarthy has a few unique hotels you can stay at.
The best of those I found when exploring around the area seemed to be Ma Johnsons hotel.
Ma Johnsons Hotel.
I only spent two days in the national park as time was running out for my travel in Alaska, but if I went back I would make sure to do some longer treks.
Being the largest national park in the United States there are lots of trekking you can do there but you need the time and preparation for it.
While in Alaska be sure to check out the Kenai Peninsula which is easy to get to from Anchorage being only a few hours drive away.
For the best guidebook for Alaska I recommend using Fodor’s Alaska.
For travel insurance for travel in Alaska and especially for backpackers use WorldNomads. It’s the insurance company I have used for years now.
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