A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
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If youre looking for busy, noisy touristy spots, stay away from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. But if your goal is to drink in the sheer beauty and peacefulness of an area often passed over by visitors and Alaskans alike, this park should be a high priority. This park is just amazing, said Wrangell-St. Elias Division Chief of Interpretation, Todd Stoeberl, who moved from North Dakota about five years ago to take his position there. Its so vast and Copper Center is just a neat little spot away from everything else.
Stoeberl said that because most visitors only think of Denali when theyre seeking Alaskas large mountains, they dont realize that nine of North Americas 16 tallest peaks are actually in the Wrangell-St. Elias park.
We have the greatest concentration of peaks over 12,000 feet, he boasted. And we have the longest valley glacier and the largest land-based glacier. We have huge ice fields, which are fun to walk on or climb.
Located near the Tok Cutoff via the 43-mile Nabesna Road on the northern end of the park and from the Edgerton Highway/McCarthy Road on the west side, the area offers outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, rafting, flightseeing and wildlife viewing.
Those interested in the historical aspects of the area can tour the Kennecott Mill, a national historic landmark. The Kennecott mines, which operated between 1911 and 1938, include 70 miles of subterranean tunnels behind the present-day Kennicott Glacier Lodge and were connected to the mill by aerial trams.
Besides camping, accommodations include 13 cabins available for public use within the park, two of which must be reserved in advance. Visitors can obtain information from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center complex at Milepost V 106.5 on the Richardson Highway. Stoeberl estimates the park gets at least 80,000 visitors each year, and most do not regret the trip.
The thing is, theres something here for everyone, he said. Its a great opportunity to get away from the city and experience a true wilderness park. You might not see the amount of wildlife youd see at Denali, but on a clear day its just breathtaking. Its an unbelievable gem.
WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK ATTRACTIONS
Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center
The new visitor center is a must-do stop for those seeking information on the wonders of what some believe is Alaskas best-kept secret. It features exhibits, a film on the park, a ranger program and a nature trail with views into the park. The center also has an extensive bookstore operated by the Alaska Geographic Association.
Where: Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway, Copper Center
When: Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Sept. 25 and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. as staffing permits in the winter
Kennecott Visitor Center
Information on the natural history and geology of the area and the colorful history of the Kennecott Mine Corp. are found in this visitor center operated by the National Park Service. The renovation of the mine has led to its listing as a National Historic Landmark.
Where: At the end of McCarthy Road: park and take the Park Service shuttle to Kennecott in the middle of the renovated Kennecott Mine.
When: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily, Memorial Day to Labor Day; closed in the winter
Kennicott Glacier Lodge
A replica of the historic buildings that comprised the Kennecott Mine, the lodge sits in the middle of the town and overlooks the Kennicott Glacier. Enjoy hiking, biking, rafting, flightseeing and more from this remote location.
Where: Park vehicles at the end of the McCarthy Road by the Kennicott River. A private shuttle picks up guests across the Kennicott River footbridge
When: Daily May 25-Sept. 8; closed in the winter
Cost: $175 to $325 per night, double occupancy; online specials available
Phone: 907-258-2350, 800-582-5128