Hiking Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias

National Park and Preserve

by Greg Fensterman

A companion site to the book published by Falcon Guides®

Alaska's Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Getting to the Park (excerpted from the book)

Wrangell St. Elias National Park can be reached by various combinations of car, bus, shuttle van, air and sea. The park headquarters and recently constructed visitor center is located in Copper Center about 14 miles south of Glennallen. The other two points of entry for the park are the Nabesna Road to the north or the McCarthy Road out of Chitina. Copper Center and McCarthy are the two most popular destinations in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

Getting to Glennallen

You can reach Glenallen by car or bus out of Anchorage via the Glenn Highway. Bus service is provided from Anchorage with daily arrivals in Glennallen. Shuttle van services are available from Glennallen as well as all the way from Anchorage to Glennallen. See the appendix for service providers and contact information. Transportation companies come and go, so be sure to verify schedules well in advance. If you are driving you should take into account the McCarthy Road which 60 miles of gravel road from Chitina to McCarthy. The condition of the road can vary greatly though it tends to worsen during periods of heavy rain. Be sure that you have a real tire for a spare and not one of the pool-toy tires that come with many cars these days. For additional information, see the section in the book on the McCarthy Road. Most major car rental agencies in Anchorage have restrictions against driving on unpaved roads including the McCarthy Road. However there are some independent agencies the will allow it.

By Air

There are a couple of ways to get to McCarthy in Wrangell St. Elias National Park by air or a combination of air and car. Those who drive but prefer not to travel the McCarthy Road can drive to Chitina and then take a 30-minute flight to McCarthy on one of Wrangell Mountain Air's three daily flights. This option has the additional bonus of a flightsee tour along the way. Ellis Air has a contract with the US Postal Service to deliver the mail to McCarthy every Wednesday and Friday. Seats on these flights can be booked with departure from Anchorage or Glennallen. Another possibility is to fly from Anchorage to Valdez then either rent a car or charter a flight into McCarthy. It's also possible to charter a direct flight from Anchorage to McCarthy though you will need deep pockets.

By Sea

You can even get to McCarthy by sea… almost. The Alaska State Ferry runs between Whittier (60 miles south of Anchorage) and Valdez, including a high-speed ferry that can make the trip in just a couple of hours. Car rentals are available in Valdez but there is no regular bus or van service between Valdez and McCarthy.

Backcountry Access

Except for the McCarthy and Nabesna roads, there are no roadways into the interior of Alaska's Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Access to the backcountry is by bush plane only. A selected list of air taxi services is included in the appendix.

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