My Wild Ride in Wrangell-St Elias National Park

Did you know that Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska is the largest National Park in the United States? Over 13 million acres. But did you know it is the least visited National Park?

  Wrangell St Elias has some the highest peaks in the country. Mount St. Elias at 18,008 feet and Mt Bona at 16,421 feet just to name a couple. A gorgeous landscape of volcanoes and long glacier ranges. This is where the Wrangell Mountain Range meets with the Elias Mountain Range, the Chugach Mountain Range and several others.  The Wrangell-St Elias Wilderness is the largest designated wilderness in the United States.

The park is home to the now abandoned Kennecott Mine, a National Historic Landmark. From 1911 through 1938 the copper veins running through this area were some the richest in the country. Some of the buildings remain and can be visited. The nearby town of McCarthy came to life during that time and catered to the miners. The town is still functioning today with its own reality show (Edge of Alaska).

The park is accessible by only two roads and both are unpaved, the Nebesna Road and the McCarthy Road. The roads are pretty rough on most vehicles so during the summer months there are shuttles that will take you to the Visitor Center, Kennecott, and McCarthy.  Each road will still take a couple of hours.

 

On this trip I was invited to go on a mail run. In Alaska lingo that’s a small plane loaded with mail and supplies doing drop offs in the park (or remote areas) on some of the most narrow runways, not for the faint of heart.  I didn’t think I could top my cruise through the Kenai Fjords National Park but this was incredible!  I experienced something few tourists ever do, a sightseeing trip through the park by small plane.  It’s a little daunting trying to describe the vastness and grandeur of this beautiful unspoiled park.

Taking off from the Gulkana Airport in Glennallen we begin the work of dropping off mail & supplies. Greeted by wonderful people who either make this area their home or long-term visitors.  This alone was a blast, but finishing the task at hand, we continued my flying excursion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One minute your viewing volcanoes, then glacier ranges and long winding rivers. Mountain ranges from all sizes and lengths. The geography changed quickly with each turn of the plane.   It’s amazing how much wildlife you can see so clearly from that high up. Dall sheep, bison herds, caribou, moose, and yes…bears.  I saw it all!  I think I was speechless for a while and that’s not easy for me!  To this day I am simply amazed and in awe by this special place.

 

 

The only thing that would top this tour would be to come back and hike it!  After exploring as much as we could squeeze in we headed back to the airport.  I couldn’t thank my pilot Galen enough for a once in a lifetime trip!

 

 

There is year round activities in the park. During the summer a flurry of hikers, mountain bikers, rafting, hunting, fishing and wildlife seekers. The winter you will find cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. This is one park that planning ahead is important and of course the weather always plays a big factor.

 

If you’re planning a visit to this great state, I would encourage you to take time and explore this awe-inspiring National Park. I can’t wait to go back on foot, but that’s for a future post.

Note: ***Most pictures taken from inside the plane.

 

For more info please visit:  https://www.nps.gov/wrst/index.htm

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38 comments

  1. This is awesome, Lisa! Well done for getting to go along and see this magical scenery from above. I can’t wait to read about hiking there once you do it!

  2. I’ve always found something attractive that’s made me wanted to visit Alaska. The only issue is I’ve spent too long in Asia and Australia now so I’m not sure how I would cope with the cold. Exploring the area from the air is something I would enjoy and I bet it adds a told different perspective to the place.

  3. It’s so cool that you got to explore the national park by light plane, the landscape looks amazing. Seeing glaciers from above is something I’d love to do. I love how all the pictures are that stark contrast of white snow and dark mountainside. Yet another spot in the US I hadn’t heard of.

  4. What an incredible experience! Looks stunning and look at all the snow! Amazing that you got to see it all from the air too – you don’t get to say that all the day! I would definitely be speechless too!

  5. What a beautiful place to visit, the Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska. I have seen the reality show of the town MaCarthy and remember the peaks. How exciting to take a mail run in a small commuter plane through the peaks and valleys and meet some exciting new people. What an exciting trip and your photos are awesome. I agree visiting during the summer to do some hikes would be fun! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love your intro because no, I didn’t know any of that and it surprised me! I would go on the mail run though, why not, for those amazing views!! My word, absolutely stunning, I’m gobsmacked at that beauty but then again, I adore snow-covered landscapes in whatever shape or form 🙂 Fantastic photos, despite being taken from a plane, they are still wonderful so thank you for sharing this with us and making me want to visit Alaska even more!

    1. Thanks Melody, very few people venture into this park and there is so much to see! Definitely for the outdoor enthusiasts.

  7. I love the idea of visiting a far-off wilderiness and it doesn’t get much more remote than here! Good on you for making such a journey and thanks for sharing with the rest of us dreamers!

    1. Thanks Kevin, definitely a remote park with so much to see. I am still in awe that they asked me to go along for the ride! Put it on your bucket list!

  8. The thought of just sitting in that plane puts sheer terror in my heart! I get terribly motion sick and I can only imagine the horror….. Though it seems like it worked out for you! Those views 🙂

    1. I was so fortunate to be asked ride along. Flights are available but few people choose that route. On foot is just as breathtaking!

  9. Absolutely gorgeous. There are so many national parks in the US and Canada and I can’t believe the size of this one. I laughed at the “mail run”. We call them mail runs or milk runs in Australia for the very same reason.

    1. Oh that’s too funny Kerri (milk run), I love this park and as you can imagine there is still so much more to explore here.

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