Depart Anchorage and drive to the historic mining towns of Kennicott and McCarthy, a drive that takes a full day, and can be broken into four legs between major communities that serve as good rest and refuel stops: Roughly 45 miles or 45 minutes to Palmer; another 140 miles, or 2.5 hours, to Glennallen; 70 miles, or a little under 1.5 hours from Glennallen to Chitina; and then two or three hours to drive the remaining 60 miles on the McCarthy Road from Chitina to McCarthy. The last 60 miles of roadway are notorious for being rough, narrow and unpaved, so many rental car companies won't let you drive it in their vehicles. If that's the case, you can also take a small plane or a shuttle bus from Chitina to McCarthy. Renting or bringing your own bicycle is recommended to get around and explore the area once you're settled. Upon arrival, check-in to your accommodations (or campsite) and grab dinner at a local restaurant.
The once-booming towns of Kennicott and McCarthy are located deep in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. At 13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest national park in the United States—about the size of six Yellowstones put together. Copper was discovered here in the early 1900s, and the towns of McCarthy and Kennicott quickly sprang up to tend to the needs of workers with the Kennecott Copper Corporation. Modern but simple lodgings, restaurants and services are available in McCarthy today, but the pace of life in this isolated town is slow and unhurried. Most of the area tours start from Kennicott, which is a five-mile shuttle bus ride from McCarthy: Book a guided trek or ice climbing adventure on the gorgeous Root Glacier, or explore the former mine and mill buildings of this former mining town. Overnight in McCarthy or Kennicott.
Head back to Anchorage. Make sure to take in any sights or stop at a pullout you might have missed on your way to the national park.
Want to spend more time exploring Wrangell St.-Elias National Park or take a detour to Valdez? Find the full itinerary here.