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Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

Ithaca, New York
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Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

Since one of my lifetime goals is to see every national park in the country, I wanted to check off as many as possible while visiting my sister, who lives in Anchorage. We decided to rent an RV for a week and have planned to start with Kenai Fjords NP, then Denali NP, Valdez, and finally Wrangell-St.Elias NP.

More family has since joined the trip, and now one/some of them would like to cut out Wrangell-St. Elias in order to go to Homer. Of course, I have somewhat of a mission to go to the NPs, but I was also thinking that Homer would be included in one of my future trips to Katmai and Lake Clark.

So, my question is: if the group decides to go to Homer, and we only have a limited amount of time - if any - at Wrangell-St. Elias, what are some things we should/could do in a short period of time? Obviously, we wouldn't be going to McCarthy/Kennicott. And if seeing McCarthy & Kennicott is what Wrangell-St. Elias is all about, please tell me, so I don't waste the trip. I also want to make sure that if I'm going to insist on going to W St.-E, I better make it worth my family's while.

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

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1. Re: Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

Unfortunately for you (but good for the park), Wrangell St. Elias is probably the hardest park to do in a brief visit. It really needs a multi-day visit. If you can't get to Kenicott, the only thing I can think of is to look for someone who'll fly you over the park. It would probably cost quite a bit, but the flying would be fabulous, and I think flying over a park counts as visiting.

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2. Re: Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

Welcome to the forum.

What is your goal in visiting Wrangell/St. Elias? If it is just to say you have been there, you can drive a few miles east of Chitina to say that (but you really won't have "seen" Wrangell/St. Elias NP if that is your goal). If it is to experience the park, you need to either spend time hiking somewhere in the park or go to one of the two more accessible areas of the park - McCarthy/Kennicott or Nabesna.

I think it will be hard to convince someone not interesting in hiking or history that a trip to Wrangell/St. Elias NP is "worth their while." It is a very remote park. Most people visit either McCarthy and Kennicott or fly in for a backcountry camping experience.

I have not been there yet myself but I am spending 3 days/2 nights at McCarthy/Kennicott later this month and plan on hiking a lot, including a Root Glacier hike and also taking the Kennecott mine tour.

Note that most RV companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven on the McCarthy Road which is gravel.

I do believe there is a company that will fly you from Anchorage to McCarthy though I am sure it costs $400-$500/person round trip or more. Probably the only way to do it in a day though, or just a flightseeing tour over the park with no landing at all.


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3. Re: Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

This is the national park's suggestion for 1 day. Of course you can just go to the visitor's center at Copper Center (on the trip from Fairbanks to Valdez) and say you've been there.

I have spent time in the park and love it because of it's remoteness.


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4. Re: Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

Thank you all for the great ideas and for your honesty. Since my last post, we've decided to keep Wrangell-St. Elias on the itinerary but still might only have two days there. I've told my family about the one-day suggestions from nps.gov, and they're happy to take follow that itinerary. I might try to fly into McCarthy by myself (or maybe with one other person) for a day but most likely wouldn't stay overnight. One of the pilots says he or his other pilot would be happy to be a tourist along with me/us instead of charging $200/hour for standby time while I/we walk around. Then he'd fly me/us back in the same day. Would my time best be spent, then, glacier hiking or going for a tour of the mine (keeping in mind I will have a chance to go glacier hiking/kayaking in Valdez anadyradventures.com/day_trips/glacier_hikin… a day or two before this)?

5. Re: Whirlwind Visit to Wrangell-St. Elias

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