Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a true hidden gem tucked away in the untamed wilderness of Alaska. Spanning over 13 million acres, this colossal wilderness is cloaked in pristine forests, sprawling glaciers and towering mountain peaks. From the rugged slopes of Mount St. Elias, the second-highest peak in the United States, to the dynamic rivers that carve their way through the land, Wrangell-St. Elias beckons adventurers, nature lovers, and solace-seekers alike. This park is the largest in the USA and has a lifetime worth of adventures for you to explore. If you are visiting this park, allow this guide to help you make the most of you time and be sure to let us know what questions you have in the comments. Watch my full video on the park at the top of the page and we visited in July.
Also, since Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest national park in the United States, so if you want to experience it truly, consider a plane tour while you are there. If not, you will only see a tiny portion of this massive park.
How to Access Wrangell-St Elias National Park
Wrangell is one of the parks you can drive to; that being said, the drive there is very adventurous. First, it is about 5 hours drive from Anchorage to the start of the 60-mile dirt road to Mccarthy. The dirt road takes around 2 hours to drive, so you are looking at a minimum of 7 hours from Anchorage to McCarthy. You can usually drive to the end of the road in a two-wheel drive car with decent clearance, but be sure to check before you go, as the weather can make it impassable. Note that this is a bumpy road and that you must pay attention while driving it. Alternatively, you can fly from Chitina to McCarthy on a short flight, but this costs a lot more, and you are limited with what you can bring.
Once you make it to the end of McCarthy Road, you have to park your car, cross the pedestrian bridge, and either walk or take a shuttle to where you are going. Most people camp or stay in McCarthy, but if you stay at Kennicott Lodge, they will pick you up at the bridge and drive you up to the lodge. There is also a shuttle that runs between McCarthy and Kennicott, but the times for this daily are limited.
What You Can See in Wrangell-St Elias National Park
The visitor center is located near Copper Center, AK, which is about 2 hours away from McCarthy. It is actually pretty big and has a theater and a few exhibit areas to see. Be sure to stop on your way out to the park itself.
The main things to see are in the Kennicott area, so if you are staying in McCarthy, you must hike the 5 miles there or figure out the shuttle. Once you get to Kennicott, you will first want to see the ghost town. Many buildings are open daily and free to visit, but if you want to explore the mill building, you must book a tour. Learn more about the tours here. The ghost town has plenty to explore, and it is an enjoyable and historic spot that you will want to spend time in while at the park.
Root Glacier Hike
The main hike in the park is to Root Glacier. It is about 5 miles round trip, and it takes you to the toe of the glacier. If you bring hiking poles and traction devices, you can actually walk out on it yourself and explore it to your heart’s content. Alternatively, you can book a tour if you want someone else to guide you on the glacier. Either way, this is a fantastic hike and a fun place to see in the park.
You can do more challenging hikes to some of the old gold mines as well, but I didn’t do those on my trip.
Glaciers and Icefalls
If you opt to take a flight, you can see a lot of beauty in the park, including waterfalls, massive peaks, and the second-largest icefield in the world (second only to the icefield on Mt Everest). This was the most scenic flight I took in Alaska, and it ended up being a massive highlight for us. Learn more about the flight we took here.
Where to Stay
There are a couple of options for overnight stays in McCarthy and a campground there. With the extra hiking to make it to the park’s main sights, I recommend staying in Kenticott. The lodge was beautiful and had easy access to the ghost town we visited often. Also, bring your food or plan to spend a decent amount eating at the lodge or the Meatzilla food truck.
We stayed at Kennicott Glacier Lodge, you can learn more about the hotel here.
2 Day Itenerary
- Drive into the park
- Shuttle to lodge
- Take the mill tour
- Explore Kennicott Ghost Town
- Dinner at the lodge or Meatzilla food truck
- Hike to Root Glacier
- Explore more of Kennicott
- Take a scenic flight
- Stay the night again or drive out of the park
Here is the breakdown of what it cost us to visit the park. This does not include any travel to get to the park as it totally depends on where you are coming from, driving, etc.
- Hotel – $622 for two nights
- Scenic Flight – $310 per person for a 70 minute flight
- Mill Tour – $34 per person
- Total – $1,310 for two people (minus gas to get there, food we brought, etc.)
Let me know what other questions you have in the comments, and watch my Wrangell St-Elias videos in the description.