Our trip begins early this morning at Merrill Field for our scenic two-hour flight over the Chugach Mountains to the small town of McCarthy in Wrangell-St.Elias National Park. After introductions to our guides and a brief orientation, we walk down the road to the historic Kennecott Mill and ghost town and begin our exploration of the site. In Kennecott, we learn about the significant role that copper mining played in the park’s history and gain some insight into the hardy men and women who gravitated here to seek their fortunes. Lunch and dinner included.
Flying time to McCarthy: 1.5 hours.
After breakfast, we pick up our crampons in preparation for our day out on the incredible white ice of the Root Glacier. Our adventure begins with a two-mile walk along a dirt trail before we reach the edge of the glacier itself. Strapping on our crampons, we head out on to the ice and begin our exploration of the glacier’s crevasses, canyons, turquoise-blue pools and moulins. As we walk, our guides educate us on the basics of glaciology, giving us an even greater appreciation for the dynamic geological forces at work beneath our feet. After dinner, our guides begin briefing us on packing for the next three nights of camping in the magnificent Alaskan backcountry. We head into the wilderness tomorrow morning! All meals included.
Hiking: 7-9 miles (4 miles on dirt trail, 3-5 miles on ice) with approx. 300’ of elevation gain/loss
Comprised of over 13 million acres of pristine wilderness and containing some of the highest mountain peaks in North America, Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest national park in the U.S. Larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone and Switzerland combined, the park offers an incredible variety of backcountry destinations and landscapes to discover and explore. A 15-minute drive transports us to the McCarthy airstrip this morning where we board our aircraft for a short, exhilarating flight into the backcountry. We choose our specific destination based on accessibility of the terrain and current weather conditions. After touching down at our backcountry strip, we unload our gear, walk a short distance to a prime location of our choice and set up our basecamp for the next three nights. We take a warm-up hike this afternoon, enjoying the feeling of tranquility and solitude so hard to come by in this day and age. All meals included.
Flying time: 20 - 45 minutes; hiking: 2-4 miles over varied terrain
Waking up in a 13-million-acre wilderness playground affords us many activity options during the next two days. With our guides leading the way, we set out across the tundra and hike across this beautiful, rugged landscape, stopping along the way to search for and identify local flora & fauna and enjoy the scenery. Depending on our location, we may hike along ridgelines with views of towering snow-capped summits, ford some streams en route to a remote backcountry lake, hike alongside one of the many glaciers that flow down from the mountains, or climb small peaks for awe-inspiring panoramas of the Wrangell-St.Elias landscape. No matter the location, it’s hard not to feel humbled by the vast scale of this remarkable park. Back at camp, our guides continue to enlighten us on the ecology and natural history of this unique habitat and prepare delicious meals to keep us fueled throughout our explorations. All meals included.
Hiking: 4-6 miles daily (approx. 6-8 hours) over varied terrain with elevation gains/losses of up to 1,500’
We break camp this morning before setting out on a final hike. By now we’ve become accustomed to hiking on tundra and navigating through the Alaskan bush but still relish the feeling of discovery, as though we’re the first hikers to ever walk across this land. Our flight back to McCarthy is scheduled for the early to mid-afternoon (depending on daily schedules and weather conditions) and we carry our gear back to the airstrip in time to greet the arriving aircraft. After landing back in town, we head to our cozy cabins, just a short drive from the airstrip, where we can freshen up and relax before dinner. Dinner tonight is on our own, providing an opportunity to try one of the small local eateries in McCarthy (we have the option to take a 30-minute stroll into town or take advantage of a shuttle provided by our guides). Overnight in private cabins for the next two nights. Breakfast and lunch included.
Flying time: approx. 45 minutes; hiking: 2-4 miles (approx. 2-4 hours) over varied terrain
Today’s amphibious adventure is good fun for novice and experienced paddlers alike. With our one-person boats and paddling gear loaded in our packs, we hike for 1 - 2 hours to our put-in spot on the shores of a glacial lake. After inflating our rafts and pulling on our dry suits, our guides teach us the basics of paddling this small, versatile watercraft before we set out to explore more of the lake and environs. During our time on the water, our guides provide additional instruction as we paddle around icebergs, alongside glaciers and through class II rapids (optional). After a full day of hiking and paddling, we return to our cabins invigorated by the day’s activity and ready for a final celebration dinner with our band of wilderness adventurers. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 miles with minimal elevation gain/loss; packrafting: 4-5 hours
After an early breakfast, we begin the scenic eight-hour drive back to Anchorage, stopping for a picnic lunch and at numerous panoramic viewpoints along the way. On a clear day, four of the park’s giant volcanic peaks, Mount Sanford (16,237’), Mount Wrangell (14,163’), Mount Blackburn (16,390’) and Mount Drum (12,010’) rise up from the surrounding plateau. An enormous still-active shield volcano, Mount Wrangell is twice as massive as Mount Shasta and is one of the largest active volcanos by volume in the world. As the peaks of the Wrangells slowly fade from view, we continue heading west, passing through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and arriving back in Anchorage by approximately 6pm this evening. Please do not schedule departing flights from Anchorage until after 9pm. Breakfast and lunch included.
Driving time: 7-8 hours