Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve lies in the southeastern corner of Alaska, east of Anchorage. The park and preserve form the largest area managed by the National Park System in the United States at over 13 million acres. The park is home to 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the US and more than 60% of glacial ice in Alaska. Most visitors arrive at the park between May and September as the winters can be long and harsh. Considering the size, there are very few maintained trails in the park but the 6 best day hikes in Wrangell – St. Elias are listed below. Air taxis, float trips, and fishing are other great ways of experiencing the park. Official Website.
The way to Root Glacier crosses over Bonanza Creek and Jumbo Creek, then winds over the glacier’s lateral moraines. When you arrive at Root Glacier you can use crampons to carefully walk on the glacier. The area is gorgeous and this is probably the most popular of all the hikes in Wrangell – St. Elias. The trailhead can be found at Kennecott Mill Town.
- 4.4 miles – Out and back
- 500′ gain
Heading northeast towards the hills, the trail goes through the valley bottom with great views. Continuing through the forest, hikers will cross Caribou Creek for the first time at about 2 miles. After crossing the creek a few more times you will reach Caribou Creek Cabin. Reservations here are required. The cabin is nestled between ridges and has breathtaking views of the valley south towards Mount Sanford, Mount Wrangell, and the Tanada peaks. The trailhead is at mile 19.5 on the north side of Nabesna Road.
- 6.4 miles – Out and back
- 800′ gain
Short but steep trail to a high pass with outstanding views of the surrounding area. The trail is rocky with several creek crossings so come well prepared. A multi-day backpacking route can be taken all the way to Rambler Mine. The trailhead is located on Nabesna Road at mile 36.8.
- 5.0 miles – Out and back
- 2800′ gain
Tough day hike that will take about 6 hours to climb switchbacks up to Bonanza Mine. Above the tree-line the views really open up. The structures at the mine have long been abandoned so the park advises extreme caution. The trailhead can be located at Kennecott Mill Town.
- 9.0 miles – Out and back
- 3000′ gain
Sitting high on White Mountain, Rambler Mine once extracted gold in the early 1940s. This trail ascends through a spruce and alder forest to the mine. An unmaintained route continues further on for the bold! The trailhead can be found at a parking area past private property at the end of Nabesna Road, mile 42.
- 1.5 miles – Out and back
- 400′ gain
Fairly steep trail through a spruce forest to a rocky ridge with spectacular views of mountains and the Copper Rive. Once you get to the lake overlook there are views of the Wrangell and Chugach Mountain Ranges. The trailhead is located at mile 23.3 on Edgerton Highway, east of Kenny Lake.
- 2.3 miles – Out and back
- 500′ gain