Transport + Lodging
TRIP PLANNING SERVICES
We understand that this can be a difficult place to plan for, so we’re here to help!
If you’re booking a Multi-day Trip 2 or more months in advance, consider upgrading to our Trip Package Services and we’ll coordinate all of your lodging and transportation logistics for you! Trip planning made easy!
If you’re doing your own planning, we still recommend that you contact us before finalizing your plans to make sure everything lines up! Let us know if you have questions regarding your logistics!
You can drive your own car or rental vehicle on the highway to the town of Chitina where the final 60 miles of gravel road begins, known as the McCarthy Road. There are also several van shuttle companies that provide service to McCarthy. Driving or riding in a van shuttle in Alaska is usually incredibly picturesque so plan some extra time for scenic stops along the way!
How far is it to…?
Anchorage – 307mi – 8-9hrs
Fairbanks – 371mi – 8hrs
Valdez – 180mi – 5hrs
Glennallen – 127mi – 3.5hrs
Chitina – 62mi – 2-3hrs
Driving is recommended if:
- You are road-tripping across the State
- You live in Alaska and have your own vehicle
- You are traveling spontaneously, without an itinerary
- You want maximum independence
THE MCCARTHY ROAD
The last 62mi of the drive is the infamous McCarthy Road! Put down right overtop of the old CRNW Railroad, this twisty road cuts through the Wrangells and into the center of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. Most vehicles have no problem on this road, however, 4-wheel drive and/or higher clearance can help you go faster over potholes and frost heaves, and through mud and loose gravel. The McCarthy Road gets graded a couple of times a summer, making for a smoother ride. Very occasionally delays may be caused by flooding or mudslides and it’s not uncommon to pop a tire! If you drive the McCarthy Road you do so at your own risk and you should be prepared to change your own tire with both the skills and equipment to do so. Check out the National Parks Services’ Road Guide and consider downloading it or printing it out to have with you for the drive.
Be aware that most rental car companies will not cover their vehicles on the McCarthy Road! Try contacting GoNorth Rentals, Midnight Sun Rentals, or Alaska 4×4 – these local companies allow their vehicles to be driven on gravel roads without restriction. Budget and Enterprise may also have some vehicles they will allow to drive the McCarthy Road – check with them for details. Turo has also become a popular option for those wanting to drive here!
All rentals should be allowed to the town of Chitina. There are daily transport options available, van shuttle and bush plane, to McCarthy from here and a place to leave your vehicle.
LEAVE VEHICLE AT THE FOOTBRIDGE
The McCarthy Road ends when it hits the Kennicott River – you made it! You’ll see a narrow steel bridge across the river – this is “the Footbridge” that everyone refers to. You’ll need to park your vehicle on the West side of the river and leave it there for the duration of your stay – no outside vehicles are permitted in McCarthy-Kennecott. Most people park at Base Camp Kennicott, the large campground/parking lot at the end of the road. Your lodging accommodations may give you special instructions on where to park, but let us know if you need any more help. Stop by the Visitor Center at the end of the road to talk to our staff, get a map, and ask any questions about the area!
The East, or McCarthy side of the Footbridge is one of the pick-up spots for many of our activities that have transportation included.
The Kennicott Shuttle offers daily van service from Glennallen to McCarthy in the morning and back in the late afternoon with stops along the way in both directions. Their site also has good information about connecting services to and from Anchorage and other destinations.
Copper Spike Transport offers prompt and reliable service between Anchorage, McCarthy, and Valdez during the summer. This is a great option especially if you’re spending more than a few days in the area and don’t want to leave a rental vehicle sitting.
Overflow Transit offers a scheduled service between Anchorage and McCarthy during the summer. Checkout their website for their up-to-date schedule and pricing. This is a great option for solo travelers, since there is no minimum passenger requirement to book!
There are a few different options for lodging in McCarthy/Kennecott, on the Western side of the Footbridge and along the McCarthy Road. They range from a nice lodge or guest house to rustic cabins and campgrounds. Note that because the entire town is so remote and completely off the grid, utilities like electricity, wifi, and indoor plumbing are considered luxuries in our neck of the woods, and prices reflect this. Most accommodations require a two-night minimum stay.
Here are our favorite local lodging options…
The McCarthy Guesthouse is the most comfortable place to stay in McCarthy. Just a 5-minute walk to the 3 restaurants in town, the bar, the coffee shop, the mercantile and our headquarters, you’ll be able to walk to any event in town – live music, open mic night, or community softball! Both units feature en-suite bathrooms, electricity, heat, and wifi and sleep 5-6. The upstairs, Spruce Moose unit also features a full kitchen.
Ma Johnson’s Hotel & Lancaster’s Backpacker Hotel
Ma Johnson’s Hotel is a historic hotel in downtown McCarthy with small rooms, bathroom/showers down the hall, outlets in the lobby, wifi and a hot breakfast included across the street at the Bistro. Ma Johnson’s is centrally located within a few minutes walk of local eateries, the museum, the mercantile, our headquarters, and the local shuttle bus stop.
Lancaster’s Hotel is under the same management and is located just down the street from Ma Johnson’s – these rooms are less expensive, are a bit smaller and very simple and they have shared bathrooms as well.