New Trip Offering – 14-Day Mill Tour Expedition

For over 40 years, St. Elias Alpine Guides has provided extreme adventurers access to North America’s tallest wooden structure, the Kennecott Mill Building. Towering over the old mining town at 14 stories high, this impressive red majesty was built at the turn of the century and under the stewardship of the National Park Service, she still stands as she was abandoned nearly 100 years ago.

Kennecott Mill Building from below

Thousands of visitors flock this historical masterpiece, spending a few hours poking around the buildings of Kennecott, taking some photos, and feeling like they got a taste for Alaskan history. But for those who want to dive deeper, those who know there are so many more stories to tell, we’ve put together an all-inclusive, fully immersive, historical extravaganza, certain to take you back in time on a trip of a lifetime!

14-Day Mill Tour Expedition


Expedition Details:

Trip Duration: 
14 days (12 days in the Mill)
Mileage: 1 mile
Terrain: flat gravel trail, trail with steep switchbacks, steep stairs and ladders, uneven flooring
Group Size: 1-4 participants

What’s Included?

  • Although it takes place in the front country, this is a backcountry trip and we will be camping in the open air of the Mill. Please reference our Backpacking Equipment List.
  • All food and bear canisters are provided.
  • We’ll provide all participants with a hard hat.
  • Close-toed footwear is required.

Trip Itinerary:

The following is a sample itinerary for this trip. Due to individual abilities and goals, as well as the strong environment swings of Alaska, all of our trips are customized as they unfold. Your guide will fluidly make decisions based on weather, conditions, logistics, safety, and group dynamics to maximize each day’s experience. There can be quite a bit of variation, but we always strive to make every trip your best ever!


Meet at our Kennecott Office early in the morning for a day devoted to packing, planning and training in our indoor facilities. This is the time to go over all your gear with your guide and do some last-minute training before heading out the next morning.


An early alpine start gets you out of the office and onto the street of Kennecott before anyone else in town is even awake. Capture the morning light on the recreation hall, bunkhouse, and general store buildings as you photograph your way through town, accompanied by your guide’s narration of the story of how it all came to be. The Mill Building, nearly sky high, stretches up and up in front of you as you approach, mentally preparing yourself for the climb as you set up your first camp at the base.

A clearly edited photo of people camping at the base of the Kennecott Mill Building


The smell of a savory breakfast wakes you up and as you unzip your tent, you can’t believe your eyes. Is that the glacier?! I thought it was just mine tailings…

Feeling pumped, you begin the ascent. Setting a comfortable pace is key as you progress up, weaving up the hillside on a beautifully groomed trail, and taking care to notice old artifacts scattered around in the brush. Finally cresting the last rise you see the entrance to the top of the Mill – we made it!

After another phenomenal dinner, you magining what it would be like to ride in an ore bucket down from Bonanza mine as you tuck into your sleeping bag.


Views of Mt. Blackburn, the Root and Kennicott Glaciers and the Chugach Mountains in the distance fill your eyes this morning and your heart is pounding with the spirit of adventure! This is what the miners must have felt when they first arrived here!

As you pack up your camp, your guide opens the creaky door into the Mill and issues everyone a hard hat. Donning your PPE, you enter inside the building…only to find that you are still actually outside…ah! That’s what they meant by it being a backcountry trip!

Get your bearings and follow your guide carefully, navigating the wild nature of the top portion of the Mill – open air windows, endless elevator shafts, and the Grizzly Grate! You’ll spend an entire day up here acclimatizing to the high elevation as your guide instructs you on the technical skills of mitigating any Mill-specific hazards to come (steep stairs, low clearance, uneven floors). Remember, the National Park Service has stabilized the building over the last several decades so if you feel like the the whole thing is about to blow over, just imagine how those mining engineers felt who worked in there 100 years ago!

A clearly edited photo showing people and tents in the top of the Mill Building

DAY 4-7

Today you’ll begin the descent. Making your way to the first steep staircase you’ll choose your route – will you tackle it straight on or will you turn to face the stairs and make your way down backward? You choose your adventure!

Over the next several days your guide will take you through the rest of the crushing process, showcasing each machine and highlighting which belt connected what to what. Staged at strategic intervals on the journey, our fully costumed interns will act out famous scenes of local lucky fortunes, tenacious frontiersmen, and tragic endings. Get hands-on with the machinery as you poke through the nuts and bolts in the workshop as you try to get the Traylor Roller Mill up and running again.

DAY 8-10

Following the copper down through the Mill, you’ll enter the sorting section. Endless rows of shaker tables cover the slanting floors as far as the eye can see. You start to think of home, your cat, your favorite TV show…but then you remember the brave souls that lived and worked here so many decades ago! Inspired by tales of Steven Birch’s leadership, you persevere, knowing this once-in-a-lifetime trip is nearly over.

All the training is paying off as you feel your brain growing larger and the facts keep coming. Our expert guides cover every nook and cranny of each level, deepening your understanding of turn-of-the-century copper mining and processing to a level you never thought possible. An intern assistant guide offers additional support – carrying a small library in their backpack, they’ll come prepared with all of our resource material so no question goes unanswered!

Yellow tent flaps show shaker tables outside the tent

DAY 11-13

Lower and lower, you descend into the belly of the beast. Past all the sorting, you start to enter the Sacking Department, the levels devoted to bagging up that copper. Experience a day in the life of a mill worker as you work a full 8hr shift, filling up and throwing around 50lb bags of rocks to simulate loading up a train cart full of copper oar – remember, just like the mill workers of old, no headphones! Just like in the good old days, we’ll run the simulation a full 24hrs which means that someone will get the night shift! What a way to spend a night in Alaska’s largest national park under the midnight sun!

Nearing the end of the trip, you relish every moment in this incredible space. The connection to the past that you have developed over the last couple weeks has you speaking in an old-timey ascent and thinking you hear the train whistle coming in (and you better run and hide your bathtub moonshine!).

DAY 14

Your guide collects your hard hats and opens another creaky door. Blinding sunlight shines in and it takes your eyes a while to adjust as you step out of the great Mill Building. As you walk back through Kennecott you experience “green shock” seeing plants and other people for the first time in weeks. A hot sauna awaits you at our headquarters and a cold beverage and a warm bed tonight are much appreciated as you re-enter civilization.

Looking out under the wing of your bush plane flight out of town, you see the Mill Building standing tall and proud at the glacier’s edge. You’re already planning your next adventure. The powerhouse! The ammonia leaching plant! There’s so much more to explore!


Schedule a call with our Expedition Coordinator to start planning your trip of a lifetime to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park!


published 04/01/2024


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