A magical trek through the wilderness!
Traversing some of the most stunning landscapes in Wrangell St. Elias National Park, this trek gives backpackers a healthy helping of wild Alaska! The route covers a variety of terrain, splitting time between carpets of thick tundra, alpine valleys covered in wildflowers, brushy willows, rocky high passes, and two huge glaciers dissected by moraine.
This route is definitely for those looking to cover a lot of ground and work hard to do it. Ever-changing and breathtaking views keep you moving ever onward down the anything-but-yellow-brick road!
Total Elevation Gain/Loss
Private 2 Participant
Private 3-6 Participants
Group Trip Dates
July 21-28, 2024
Private Trips with custom dates are available. Schedule a call with our Expedition Coordinator to plan your Private Trip today!
The “Alaska Factor”
There is a reason Alaska has such a rugged allure for the lower 48 and beyond: it is still wild! This raw and untamed landscape offers our clients the opportunity to authentically pioneer new territory and have real adventures. Part of embracing the “Alaska Factor” is understanding that things may not always go as planned and expecting the unexpected. Water levels might rise, snow might fall, glaciers may shift and move – the landscape is dynamic and unpredictable is what makes Alaska, Alaska!
All of our trips are customized as they unfold and your guide will fluidly make decisions based on weather, logistics, and group dynamics to maximize each day’s experience. There can be quite a bit of variation, but on each trip we promise a big slice of the real Alaska and authentic adventure!
A scenic bush flight bring you to an old hunting cabin in the middle of the backcountry. A stream crossing right off the bat sets the tone for the rest of the trip! Move up the valley until the Lakina Glacier appears amongst pointy Wrangells peaks. A big uphill is reward with views of the emerald-green valley we call “Oz”.
Waking up to a stillness you’ve never felt before, you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the perfect mirror lake in the middle of the Oz basin, reflecting the jagged range beyond. Try not to step on a ptarmigan as you ascend past beautifully striated peaks and up and over a rocky pass. Tonight’s camp, an easy match to the last, will have you reeling with views!
A morning hike to check out some Dall sheep or to climb a local high-point will still allow you to cover the ground you need. Some steep side-hilling across flower-dotted slopes will take you down the valley, following the river toward a perfect camp near the river and under the limestone cliffs above.
Today will be unique. After crossing the creak, you’ll emerge at the mouth of the valley at Hidden Creek Lake, which butts up against the Kennicott Glacier. Depending on when you visit, the lake may be full of turquoise water with huge, white icebergs floating in it, or it may be drained and you’ll be able to walk along the bottom, exploring the “iceberg graveyard” left behind! Make your way up a narrow and exposed goat trail and through some heavy brush to get to your next camp.
For the second half of the trip, you’ll be entering a whole new world. Approaching the glacier’s edge, you’ll strap on your crampons and cross the mighty Kennicott. Navigating tough medial moraines and thundering glacial rivers, you’ll get a chance to explore blue pools and enormous moulins with snowy Mt. Blackburn providing an unbeatable backdrop for your trek.
Today you’ll cross into Donoho Basin, a lush, green environment covered in tundra, wildflowers, willows and spruce. A stark contrast to the landscape of the last several days, you’ll be reminded of what trees look like! Listen to the glacier rumble through the night as you camp at a private lake.
Moving through the Basin, a light bushwack will be rewarded with an epic lunch spot at one of the serene lakes in the basin. Look out for blueberries as you make your way through this enchanted landscape of mushrooms and moss, colorful lichens, and flowers. When you start to feel a cool breeze, you’ll know you’re close to the next big river of ice – the Root Glacier.
Seeing the red buildings of Kennecott closer now, you’ll aim to cross the Root, but not without seeing one last glacier showstopper – the Stairway Icefall, nearly a mile high, rising up out of the near distance. The Root Glacier Trail will feel easy under your feet as you make your way to the historic town.
GET IN TOUCH
Backpacking + Basecamp Hiking Trips + Courses:
Please keep in mind that there is no truly “easy” hiking terrain in the Wrangells and often the coolest places require a little extra effort to get to. On our Moderate Trips, you will be off-trail trail for the majority of the trip, traversing some combination of rocky slopes, squishy and spongey tundra, and/or slick glacial ice in crampons - all of it uneven, most of it hilly and some of it brushy. On these trips, you will cover 5-8mi/day with up to 1500’ of elevation gain/loss while carrying your own gear along with a portion of the group gear. You will be camping in the rugged wilderness with no manmade shelters, toilets, or really any type of development. We recommend physical training in preparation for Moderate trips. These trips are great options for experienced car campers and beginner backpackers, although we always recommend as much prior experience as possible.
On our Advanced Trips, we will be completely off-trail trail for the entirety of the trip, traversing some combination of steep and rocky slopes, tussocky and squishy tundra, loose and dynamic moraine, thick brush and/or slick glacial ice in crampons - all of it uneven and hilly. On these trips, you will cover 6-10mi/day with up to 2500’ of elevation gain/loss while carrying your own gear along with a portion of the group gear (total pack weights usually come in at 40-50lbs). We highly recommend starting physical training in preparation for Moderate trips 2-3 months in advance. These trips are great for very fit hikers or backpackers with at least four +3-day trips under their belts, but honestly, the more experience you have, the better prepared you will be for the “Alaska factor”!
We often hear that our trips are the hardest trips our clients have ever done, and we hear this even from very experienced backpackers. Why? Because Alaska’s undeveloped wilderness is rough and rugged and provides endless natural challenges which make for slow going but also an extremely engaging and fulfilling experience! Our expert trips require a high level of fitness and conditioning and training prior to these trips is mandatory. On these trips, you can expect to cover up to 10 miles a day of steep, rugged, unstable, and inconsistent terrain with a 45-55lb pack of all your personal gear plus some group gear. You can expect to gain/lose between 1,000-3,000’ a day. You will be camping in the rugged wilderness with no manmade shelters, toilets, or really any type of development. These trips are perfect for very fit and experienced backpackers and we recommend starting training 2-3 months prior to the start of the trip.
Our Rafting Trips are scenic floats through incredible wilderness and on all of our trips you’ll hit Class II-III rapids. The glacial rivers we float run fast and cold so we take a conservative approach, allowing everyone to have a fun and splashy time while mitigating the risks the water presents to the boats and rafters. On Rafting Trips you can expect to go on a short hike or two each day, usually 1-3 mi total and up to ~200ft of elevation gain. Please keep in mind that there is no truly “easy” hiking terrain in the Wrangells and often the coolest places require a little extra effort to get to. There aren’t any trails where you’re headed, so most hikes will be up dry creek beds or along the brushy edges of the river. Longer and more challenging side hikes may be accessible, depending on the trip. You will be camping in the rugged wilderness with no manmade shelters, toilets, or really any type of development. No special physical training or camping experience is required . We recommend our rafting trips to anyone looking for a wilderness experience at a very comfortable pace, those wanting to spend quality time with their group, or those hoping to relax while still seeing a lot. Kids ages 8+ are welcome.
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 is my #1 goal for this adventure? Do I want to relax and get away from a hectic schedule? Do I want to push myself on an epic and athletically challenging journey? Create life-long memories with my family or partner? Learn skills from the experts and grow my scope as a mountain athlete? See new landscapes and experience Alaska’s unique glaciated terrain?
What are my interests? Birding, animals, photography, geology, wildflowers, journaling, athleticism, spirituality, art, technical climbing, etc.
Will this trip be part of a bigger Alaska trip? Where else am I going and what else will I see? Our glaciated terrain, history, high-altitude peaks, and vast backcountry wilderness are what set us apart from other areas in Alaska.
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.
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 onlyt use pre-packed freeze-dried meals on summit pushes on our mountaineering expeditions.
On our backpacking and basecamp trips, you can expect 3 meals a day, plus snacks of your choice. Breakfasts and dinners are usually hot meals and lunches are served cold. On mountaineering trips lunches consist of a variety of snacks as it can be hard to organize group meals while on a rope team.
We use a combination of fresh, dehydrated, and freeze-dried ingredients to make our delicious meals, however on longer backpacking and mountaineering trips your guides will use more freeze-dried foods than fresh foods to keep pack weights as low as possible. On our rafting trips, we cook full multi-course meals with fresh ingredients and enjoy hot and cold breakfasts, cold lunches and hot dinners.
Meals for most trips 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. Mountaineering trips also include meals in McCarthy before and after the backcountry expedition.