Get Lost: Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, Alaska

Travel to these destinations for tons of open space—and it's all yours

Apr 4, 2013
Outside Magazine
Chokosna River valley wrangle-st. elias national park camping vacation hiking solitude

Chokosna River valley, Wrangle-St. Elias.    Photo: Ethan Welty

At 13.2 million acres, Wrangell–St. Elias is bigger than Switzerland. The Kennicott and Copper Rivers carve through giant valleys, glaciers stretch the length of Rhode Island, and the 14,000-foot peaks look even bigger when they jut out 9,000 feet from the ground. Which is to say, this place is daunting. Here’s how to do it right: Take the McCarthy Road—one of only two roads in the park—until it dead-ends near the Kennicott River, then cross a 440-foot-long footbridge and hike 1,000 feet up an old mining road to the Kennicott Lodge ($185), which overlooks the 25-mile-long Kennicott Glacier. From there you can day hike on the glacier, climb above the tree line to views of the Chugach and Wrangell ranges, or sign on for three- or four-day rafting trips on the rollicking Class II Chitina (from $990).

Or join Wrangell Outfitters’ 12-day expedition through the wide-open Nutzotin and Wrangell ranges—towering chains of 14,000-foot peaks, open tundra, and lush wildflowers in the park’s northeastern corner. The horseback trip covers a 100-mile loop to the ghost town of Chisana past ruined mines, hundreds of white Dall sheep, and abundant grizzlies—most of which have never seen a human (from $5,280).