Got an unanswered question or two?
You’re probably not the only one – we get the following questions A LOT! If you don’t find what you’re looking for, please don’t hesitate to call or email us. We would love to hear from you!
St. Elias Alpine Guides was started in McCarthy in 1978 by legendary climber Bob Jacobs who wanted to explore even more remote wilds and was feeling like Denali was getting too crowded even back in the 70s! The current owners worked as guides for the company for many years before taking over the business and are only the third generation of owners in 40 years! We’ve been around longer than the Park itself and are the longest continually operating business in the area. We are proud of our long and consistent legacy in the most magnificent wilderness on earth! To learn more about us, click here.
What can we say, we love the wilderness! The founder of Sr. Elias Alpine Guides, legendary climber Bob Jacobs, thought that Denali was too crowded even back in the 70s! The lifestyle that comes with living in a teeny, remote and completely off-the-grid community in the middle of the world’s largest protected wilderness requires hard work and a sense of adventure, both passions of ours. We like the type of people who come here as well – you have to want it! We invite you to study up on Wrangell-St. Elias and McCarthy-Kennecott and come see what’s at the end of the 60mi dirt road!
There are several options for getting to McCarthy-Kennecott. They range from driving a personal or rental vehicle to riding in a van shuttle or scheduled and chartered flights. Please visit our transportation page for more details
Even though we are a remote and completely off-the-grid community, we’ve got some great lodging options in our area ranging from historic wilderness lodges, small cabins, and BnBs to personable campgrounds. Please visit our lodging recommendations page for details.
McCarthy-Kennecott is located right in the middle of the largest protected wilderness area on the planet and is the off-the-beaten path adventure capital of south-central Alaska. If you’re looking for hiking, climbing, backpacking, rafting or mountaineering without the crowds of Denali or the Kenai Penninsula, you’ve come to the right place!
The massive Root and Kennicott Glaciers that almost spill into town are towered over by the Stairway Icefall (largest in Alaska) and the enormous Mt. Blackburn (16,391 ft)! In fact, 8 out of the 10 tallest peaks in America find their home amongst the 3 major mountain ranges in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and down on the coast, Mount St. Elias itself rises from the ocean to the mighty height of 18,008ft, claiming its name as the 2nd tallest peak in the States! The abandoned townsite of Kennecott and well-preserved remnants of a thriving prospecting backcountry community provide fascinating historical context to this unique convergence of topographical wonders.
There is something for everyone to explore here! Visit our Trips page for details on all the adventures that we offer!
There is certainly enough here to keep most people engaged for at least 2-3 days, but 1 full day is enough to get a taste! You’ll probably want to come back! We recommend that you stay long enough to fit in a hike on the Root Glacier (or an ice climb!) and a history tour of Kennecott. You can do these both in one day or split them between two days. And if you have time, get up in a plane somehow – that could be on your raft and flightsee or on a separate flightseeing trip with Wrangell Mountain Air. Check out our activity combination ideas here!
Because we are a long-established company with a great reputation in a stunning and remote location, we attract the best guides in the business! We hire competent men and women with extensive outdoor experience, first aid training, and great personalities and then put them through a thorough training program unique to our area and our programs. Because our schedule is as dynamic as the environment we live in, we usually assign guides the night before for our Day Trips. We love and trust every one of them and we know you will too! You can read more about these fabulous individuals here.
Tipping is customary in the guiding industry and always appreciated. Our guides are paid professionals but tips make up a significant portion of their income and can go a long way toward making guiding a feasible long-term career choice. For our day trips, a good estimate is between 10% and 20% of the trip cost. So if you go on a day hike or climb with us, that would come to between $10 and $35 per person, depending on the trip and the percentage. As in any industry, your tip should be based on the service you feel you received. If you had the time of your life, the sky’s the limit! You can tip your guides in cash, via Venmo or you can leave a gratuity on your card. Thank you for considering this ahead of time!
All the pictures and descriptions sound amazing! How do I know what’s right for me? Here are some things to think about when selecting a trip:
–What are my goals for this adventure? Do I want to relax or push myself? Spend time with family? Learn new skills? See something new?
– What are my interests? Birding, animals, photography, geology, wildflowers, journaling, sport/athleticism, spirituality, art, family time, technical climbing, etc.
–Will this trip be part of a bigger Alaska trip? Where else am I going and what else will I see? The Wrangells offer so much variety that there will be something new for you here!
–What am I comfortable with at my current level of knowledge, experience, and physical and mental ability? Alaska is bigger and tougher than anything in the lower 48 and it’s a great place to push yourself, but you want to be realistic and make sure you have a good foundation to build upon if reaching for higher heights.
And of course, if you don’t know where to start, give us a call! We have been leading trips in this area for a long time, and are experts at helping you choose the right adventure for your goals, experience, age and ability. It may be that you are a strong hiker but don’t want to or aren’t able to carry a lot of weight, and a base-camp hiking trip would be perfect. Or you may be an aspiring climber with a lot of backpacking experience wondering whether to begin with the 5-day mountaineering course or go straight to the 8-day course or your first moderate summit climb. Or perhaps you have never been camping before and want to start with the most comfortable option, a rafting trip. We can help you figure it out! Contact us – we are happy to help!
Our wilderness trip guides are the best of the best! They have worked for us as day guides for at least one full season, have extensive experience in the backcountry, advanced wilderness medical training, a good head on their shoulders, and are also fun and personable people to spend a few days or a few weeks with. They love what they do and want to make sure you have the best experience possible. Our guides come in many shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds – you can get to know them here. We assign guides to individual trips 2-4 weeks prior to the trip and do our best to match their personalities to yours and your group’s. Your guide plans to contact you 1-2 weeks before the trip to introduce themselves and answer any last minute questions you might have. Our schedule is as dynamic as our environment and we apologize if this doesn’t happen or isn’t as timely due to busy schedules and/or last-minute scheduling additions and changes.
This is one of the most commonly asked questions! We practice Leave No Trace principles and make sure to minimize our impact on the natural landscape as much as possible. In Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the recommended practice for backpackers is to either individually dig small holes (your guide will carry a small trowel) to use as a personal latrine per use or choose a place near camp but with some privacy and dig a trench for use as a group latrine, depending on the location. Toilet paper and is burned or carried out and all other sanitary products and trash are carried out as well. On rafting trips, we carry a plastic toilet box with a seat that is set up near to camp and carry out all waste. On mountaineering trips, the latrine is commonly a crevasse or snow-pit protected from camp by a wall of snow. Your guides will instruct you on the particulars of the situation per camp to set you up for success and all possible comfort. Please don’t be shy to ask them questions on this matter. It’s a necessity that has been given lots of thought your guides are experts in ALL things outdoors!
Generally speaking, our Backpacking and Mountaineering trips require that you carry your own personal gear as well as some shared group food and equipment. On a backpacking trip this generally means your pack will weigh between 35 and 55 pounds, depending on your size, the weight and quality of your clothes and other gear, and the length of the trip. And remember, your pack is always heaviest on Day 1 and gets lighter as you eat food, use fuel, etc.
If you would really like to do a point-to-point backpacking trip but are concerned about the pack weight, we also offer Porter services. Porters cannot take your entire pack for you, but they can help alleviate your pack weight significantly and offer other assistance as an assistant guide on the trip.
We also offer fabulous Basecamp-Hiking style trips – on these trips camp is set up a short distance from the landing strip and participants enjoy day hikes with much lighter packs. We recommend these trips for those who do not want to or are not able to carry the weight of a full pack or those that want to bring extra, heavy gear (lots of photography equipment, for example). Our Rafting Trips also allow for a more comfortable wilderness experience, extra/heavy gear, and at no point do you need to carry a heavy backpack.
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is home to both black bears and grizzly bears and we are honored to share our home with such majestic animals. We treat the bears with respect and do our best to maintain their wild environment and nature. The bears out here are truly very wild and have very little contact with humans – this means that they are naturally afraid of us! Yes, even grizzlies! Bears do not hunt humans and our most common bear sighting is of a furry butt running away from us at top speed (as fast as 35 mph!). Although bear sightings may be exciting, we do our best to avoid close encounters with preventative measures at camp and while hiking that our guides will share with you. Just in case of unusually close encounters, our guides carry flare guns (to scare a bear away) and pepper spray (in case of an uncomfortably close encounter). It is very uncommon to have to use either.
If you want to, you can bring your own bear spray too, however, know that your guide has one and has been trained on how to use it. With 40 years of guiding in the Park, we have found that being bear aware, taking preventative measures and the flare gun and a pepper spray to be sufficient mitigations. Please refrain from bringing firearms with you on our trips. Not only does this make our other guests and guides uncomfortable, but they are also completely unnecessary for bear safety. We know that other areas of Alaska may recommend firearms for bear safety, but we specifically recommend against it.
We pride ourselves on cooking healthy and delicious meals even under the most adverse conditions! Your exact menu will depend on the trip, your guide, and the dietary preferences/restrictions you list in your Trip Application. No matter what kind of cook your guide is at home, all our guides are well-trained backcountry chefs and use time-tested recipes from our proprietary cookbook for their trips. We carry a plentiful and varied stock of ingredients and most meals are prepared from scratch (allowing for easy substitutions, additions or subtractions of ingredients). We do not use pre-packed freeze-dried meals, except for “summit pushes” on our high-altitude mountaineering trips.
On our backpacking, basecamp-hiking, and mountaineering trips, you can expect 3 meals a day, plus snacks of your choice. On our raft trips, we cook full 3-4 course meals with fresh ingredients. Meals start with Lunch on the first day and end with Lunch on the last day. *
*If you are signed up for a Custom Trip Package with us, it may include more meals. Check with us if you’re not sure.
We can accommodate most dietary restrictions and even preferences, too! Please be honest and open with your guides about what you can and cannot eat, why, and what will happen if you do. Don’t worry if it’s just a preference – you don’t need to pick out the mushrooms out of every meal when they could easily just leave them out. Because our guides prepare most meals completely from scratch it’s easy for them to add, leave out or substitute ingredients and they are attuned to the importance of not cross-contaminating ingredients for allergy reasons. If you have a highly specialized diet for health reasons and we are not able to accommodate it, we will work with you to find a feasible alternative. If you are a very light or particular eater out of preference, consider making some compromises for the short time you are in the backcountry to ensure you are getting enough calories, protein and other nutrients.
Tipping is customary in our industry and provides a significant portion of a guide’s income. Tips can go a long way towards making guiding a feasible career choice in the long-term, and are always appreciated. It is hard to use a percentage scale as a guideline for tipping on our trips because the costs of trips are often hugely influenced by things like bush flights and ferries that are outside of our guides’ control. A good rule of thumb is $50-$150 per day per guide total from the entire participant group, however, tips should still reflect the quality of the service. If your guides made this the trip of a lifetime, the sky’s the limit!
Lunch is provided on our Raft and Flightsee Trip, but you should provide your own lunch on all other day trips (such as Half Day Glacier Hike, Full Day Glacier Hike, and Ice Climbing). You’re welcome to reserve a Snack Pack for $8 or purchase one at our office at the start of your hike. If you are staying at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge and have purchased a meal plan, they will provide a sack lunch for the day for your party.
Whether you are joining us for a Day Trip or a longer Multi-Day Adventure, we have created a specialized packing list for you to consult as you are preparing for your trip. Our equipment lists are thoughtfully curated and have been refined over the decades we’ve been running trips – each item has a purpose. You can find all our Equipment Lists here or on each trip’s individual page. We have a very limited supply of equipment for the sale of basic items but offer a larger selection of rental gear for our mutli-day trips specifically. Be aware that there is no gear store in McCarthy-Kennecott so please come as prepared as possible. Learn more about how to prepare for your trip and let us know if you have more specific questions on what to bring!