Wrangell - St Elias National Park, Alaska

Wrangell – St Elias National Park, Alaska

According to topmbadirectory, the largest national park in the USA is six times larger than the famous Yellowstone Park and measures 53,320 km². But the park does not only set a record in terms of its size. The gigantic mountain world with raging torrents and an almost endless variety of flora and fauna offers superlatives: There is no national park that has a higher concentration of glaciers. And – here are some of the largest ice fields in the world. Within the park boundaries are nine of the 16 highest mountains in North America, including 4,317 m Mount Wrangell, the highest volcano in Alaska, and 5,489 m Mount St. Elias, the second highest mountain in the United States.

Another highlight is the Kennecott Mine ruins, which have been designated a National Historic Landmark. Copper deposits were discovered here in 1899 and mining reached its heyday with the laying of railway tracks in 1911. After 1938 the copper prices fell into the abyss, the Kennicott and McCarthy settlements turned into ‘ghost towns’ almost overnight. Today, these picturesque places, where only a few people live year-round, attract many visitors. Accommodation can be found in local lodges. Other activities in the region include mountaineering, hiking, rafting and flightseeing.

Wrangell – St Elias information

Location and size
With its 53,320 km², the park is more than 10,000 km² larger than Switzerland. The Wrangell St. Elias National Park extends from the second highest peak in North America, Mount St. Elias (5,488 m) to the Pacific Ocean.

by car
The park is relatively easy to reach by car. From Anchorage you can take the Glenn Highway to the park administration, which is located between the towns of Glennallen and Copper Center and which can also be reached from Fairbanks or from Valdez via the Richardson Highway. Access to the National Park itself is possible via two gravel roads. The 67-kilometer Nabesna Road leads to the northern area, while the 96-kilometer McCarthy Road leads straight to the center. It ends at the Kennicott River, from where a footbridge leads to the other bank.

by air
Flights to McCarthy are available via local air taxis from Glennallen and Chitina. Spectacular flightseeing tours are possible from McCarthy itself.

of Operation The best time to visit Wrangell-St. Elias is early June to mid-September. The national park has no entry stations or gates and thus never actually closes. However, winter comes very early in interior Alaska, so by mid-September there are very few service facilities.

Admission Fees
Admission to the park is free.

Centers The Park Headquarters Administration Building in Copper Center is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm year round. The Wrangell St. Elias National Park Visitor Center is located at Mile 106.8 off the Richardson Highway, Copper Center, 10 miles south of Glennallen. In summer it is open from May 25th to September 16th every day from 09:00 to 18:00. The Kennecott Visitor Center in Kennecott Mill Town is 3 hours from Park Headquarters at the end of McCarthy Road. In summer it is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Although the park is relatively close to the coast, high mountains and ice fields act as a barrier to the moderating influence of the ocean. The result is that with the exception of the coasts in the Yakutat area, Wrangell St. Elias has an interior continental climate (long, extremely cold winters and short, warm and relatively dry summers). It should be noted that the weather can change rapidly at any time of the year. It is therefore strongly advisable to plan multi-layered clothing for all weather situations.

Wildflowers and mosquitoes peak in June and July. Bringing a head net is recommended. June and July are also the warmest months – temperature peaks can reach 27°C on some days. Snowfall is possible all year round in the highlands. From mid-June to mid-August there is snow at higher elevations. Rain is possible throughout the summer. In general, rainfall increases in August and September, especially along the coast.

Average temperatures in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park in °C
Month Jan Feb March Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max -16 -9 -1 6 13 19 21 19 13 2 -9 -14
Min -26 -22 -17 -8 -1 4 6 4 -1 -24

The general rule for optimal clothing in Alaska is “onion principle”. That means you wear a first layer directly on your body (avoid cotton if possible), a second warming layer (e.g. a fleece jacket or similar) and a jacket as a third layer that protects against wind and rain. When the temperature changes, you can easily put on or take off a layer.


Wrangell – St. Elias National Park – suggested excursions

A Day in the Park
Start your park adventure by visiting the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Headquarters and Visitor Center. It is located off the Richardson Highway at mile 106.8 (24 km south of Glennallen). View the educational films and exhibits, stroll the short nature trail with spectacular views of the Wrangell Mountains, and use the large 3-D interactive map to get your bearings. Park rangers are on hand with help and advice.

For spectacular views, drive along the Edgerton Highway to the historic town of Chitina (90 km). Walk the Liberty Falls Trail and enjoy panoramic views of soaring mountain peaks. After exploring Chitina, drive to the bridge over the mighty Copper River, where in summer you can see locals harvesting salmon using traditional fishing wheels and nets.

Three days in the park
If you have more time, you can explore the most important roads in more detail and also have time for some hikes. A drive along Nabesna Road takes you to the most remote corners of the park for great camping, hiking and wildlife viewing. Driving along the McCarthy Road is a leisurely way to explore a rural Alaskan town and the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark. An easy hike along the Root Glacier Trail brings you up close to history and the mighty river of ice. More strenuous hikes take you to the Bonanza mountainside and the Jumbo Mines. With local guides you can also go on glacier hikes, raft trips and scenic flights.

Wrangell - St Elias National Park, Alaska

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