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3.9
7 votes

Wrangell-St Elias National Park

Richardson Highway, Chitina, Alaska 99566 USA

Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Tue 12a-12a
  • Independent
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • No Wifi
Add to Trip

“America's largest National Park”

Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve is a National Park right here in America, and it's bigger than Switzerland--but almost no one knows about this massive area in the Alaskan wilderness. It's a crazy and extreme 13 million acre terrain, with glaciers and volcanoes dominating the landscape. In fact, the park's highest point, Mount St. Elias, is the second highest peak in the United States and Canada. The area was a mining hot spot, with deposits of copper and gold, from the 1890s all the way until the 1960s-- and the buildings of the Abandoned Kennecott Mine (which counted JP Morgan and the Guggenheim family among its investors) are now a remarkably well preserved ghost town-- one of the country's best. 

The main difference between the park and the preserve is that sport hunting is less restricted in the preserve, and there's lots of different kinds of animals to be found in both. Bears, moose, wolves, goats, sheep, otters, caribou, foxes, seals, coyotes and more (plus countless types of birds and fish) inhabit the preserve and park. There's plenty of room for them to stretch their legs (or flippers or wings) across the 9-million-acre wilderness-- the single largest in the US.

Summers only last for two months here, with winter starting to set in by August. It's no surprise though, given that much of the park's interior is covered in glaciers and year-round icefields. Getting to this Alaskan utopia isn't an easy feat-- there are gravel roads to the park from Anchorage, or you can charter an air taxi into the backcountry. The extreme conditions make it one of the more difficult National Parks to visit, but those who do will be treated to some of America's most rugged and beautiful untamed wilderness. -Roadtrippers 

At 13.2 million acres which is bigger than the country of Switzerland, Wrangell-St. Elias stretches from one of the tallest peaks in North America, Mount St. Elias (18,008) to the ocean. Yet within this wild landscape, people have been living off the land for centuries and still do today. The park is a rugged yet inviting place to experience your own adventure.

Mt. Wrangell, the largest active volcano in Alaska, was named by Russian explorers for Baron von Wrangell, Admiral of the Russian Navy and Governor of Russian America from 1830 to 1836.

Begin your park adventure by heading to the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center. This facility is located along the Richardson Highway at mile 106.8 (15 miles south of Glennallen). View the park movie in the theater, enjoy the exhibits, stroll the short nature trail to view of the Wrangell Mountains, check out the bookstore, and get oriented with the large 3-D interactive map display. Park rangers are on duty to help you discover the park and surrounding area.

For spectacular views, drive the Edgerton Highway to the historic town of Chitina (55 miles). Along the way, stretch your legs on the Liberty Falls Trail and enjoy the park's high peaks. After exploring Chitina, drive over the bridge to the Copper River where in summer you can watch busy Alaskans harvesting salmon with fishwheels and dipnets.

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Reviewed by
nooneelsewaslooking

  • 15 Reviews
  • 11 Helpful
April 13, 2014

Nothing short of amazing such a diverse amazing place to be breath taking views everywhere. But few places to lodge and eat available so plan accordingly!

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Tatiana Danger

  • Road Warrior
  • 1,160 Reviews
  • 609 Helpful
September 2, 2014

Larger than Switzerland, this national park is incredibly gorgeous, but also very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. There are so many places to hike and climb, especially on glaciers, but if you don't have the appropriate equipment it can be very, very, very dangerous. I'm talking ice axes, extra clothes, rope, etc. If you want to attempt a glacier hike, best to take a guide with you and bring extra food in case of delays during your hike.

You don't need a permit to explore the backcountry, but it's recommended that you fill out a "Backcountry Itinerary", this will alert park rangers of your plans and they can coordinate searches if you fail to check in after your trip.

There aren't loads of park rangers around to warn you of ice. So, you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings. Self-reliance is key, as this is an undeveloped wilderness. There are cabins you can reserve throughout the park.

I recommend hiking from Kennecott mine to Root Glacier. And seriously, consider hiring a local guide.

People definitely die at this park because they fall on the ice and into crevasses. You need to know the risks if you're going to explore this beautiful but dangerous park.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Kori and Brian Truono

  • Road Warrior
  • 78 Reviews
  • 81 Helpful
November 22, 2014

This park is so vast that even in the dead of summer there is not a lot to do if you are not prepared to seriously pack it in or fly it in. The views from the highway are gorgeous and definitely worth a detour if you are in the area, but short of this, you need weeks to really get in there.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
debevec

  • 2 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
August 15, 2016

Don't miss a chance to see America's largest national park when you are in Alaska. This is a more remote area of Alaska, & off-the-beaten-path; but if you are looking for beautiful scenery, uncrowded by the touristy glitz, this is the place to go. Lodging is available nearby, though not as plentiful as the Denali area. Copper Center has a very nice Princess lodge nearby with spectacular views & at a reasonable rate. There are numerous trails on the property, & several adventure tour companies in the area if you want to river raft or fish. Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark is in this area, accessible by a dirt road. Shuttles are also available.

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Wrangell-St Elias National Park

Richardson Highway
Chitina, Alaska
99566 USA

Hours

Open 24 hours today
  • Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 12:00 am

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  • Independent
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • No Wifi
  • Private Parking
32467