Official State of Alaska Vacation and Travel Information
If you’re looking to get away from it all, Alaska’s a great place to visit. Home to more than 20 national parks, preserves, and monuments, Alaska’s national parks provide a wide variety of outdoor and cultural experiences in both urban and remote settings.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, in Southcentral Alaska, meets all the expectations of what a national park should be. At 13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias is the nation’s largest national park; it is as large as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and country of Switzerland combined! It has 9 of the country’s 16 highest mountains, yet it is easily accessible for both the casual and adventure traveler.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park was established in 1980 in part for its natural beauty, but also for its historic value. Copper was discovered at Kennicott in 1900. The Kennecott Copper Corporation established processing mills and a company town near the mine site. While the mine closed in 1938, many of these iconic structures remain today as a National Historic Landmark. Walking through Kennicott is like taking a step back in time to the days of the Old Sourdoughs who sought precious ores in some of Alaska’s most remote areas. Be sure to take one of the many hiking trails, including the Root Glacier trail, for amazing views of the Wrangell mountain range, and stay overnight in the authentically Alaska town of McCarthy.
Take a regularly scheduled flight from Chitina or drive to Kennicott and McCarthy via the Edgerton Highway and McCarthy Road. Accessible from the Richardson Highway, the 90-mile journey through towering landscapes takes you along parts of the former Copper River and Northwestern Railway route and over the world-famous Copper River. Stay overnight in one of the area’s small lodges before stopping by the Kennecott Visitor Center. Take a scenic flightseeing tour of this World Heritage Site, which includes the 18,008-foot Mt St. Elias (the country’s second highest, after Denali) and the Nabesna Glacier (the largest non-polar valley glacier), float one of the park’s many rivers, or try a hand at glacier hiking. Close out your day with a tasty meal while looking at an amazing view of four different mountain ranges.
In the know: Is it I or E? Kennicott and Kennecott are both correct! According to the State of Alaska, an early misspelling named the mine and mining company Kennecott, while the town, river, and glacier are spelled Kennicott.
Keep Reading for a just a few of the ways you can enjoy a trip to Alaska’s national parks.
After your trip to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, drive 100 miles south along the Richardson Highway to the town of Valdez. This small town (population 3,937) located on Prince William Sound boasts amazing scenery. Often called “Little Switzerland”, the Chugach Mountains rise over the town more than 5,000 feet from sea level. Valdez started as a gold rush town, but today is known for its sport fishing and as the end of the 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline. Spend the day touring local museums and learning about the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed Valdez’s original townsite, take a fishing charter for salmon and halibut, or cruise among Prince William Sound’s many glaciers in a kayak or a larger tour vessel. Stay overnight at a local campground or hotel before driving back to Anchorage or, depending on the day and boat schedule, taking the Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Whittier.
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