As the largest national park in the U.S., Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a wild, vast, untamed land — and perfect for outdoor adventures. It might take a little bit of work to get there, but Wrangell St. Elias backpacking trips don’t have to be unusually hard or complicated.
Want to hit the trail in the “Mountain Kingdom of North America?'” Here’s what you need to know.
Traveling to Wrangell St. Elias backpacking trails
We’re going to assume for the sake of this article that you plan to backpack in the summer, between June and late August. If not, please know that many of the roads we talk about are summer-access only. You can travel to Alaska in the summer by car, plane, ferry, bicycle or by foot. We’ll talk about the most common methods.
If you already live here — awesome. That really cuts down on your travel time. Otherwise, flying into Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska and renting a car is your easiest option.
It’s important to remember while traveling in Alaska that road conditions are constantly changing. You could encounter road closures and delays that add significant time to your trip, or find that you must drive much slower than expected because of “ice heave” road damage.
If coming from Anchorage, plan to drive into Wrangell St.-Elias through Glennallen, Alaska from where you’ll either drive northeast on the Tok Cutoff to Slana in the park’s Nabesna District, or southeast towards Chitina in the Kennecott District.
It will take you about 3.5 hours to drive from the airport in Anchorage to the park’s main visitor center south of Glennallen, which is on the far west border of the park and adjacent the national preserve. If you’re coming from Anchoarge, getting to a great backpacking trail will take a little longer. If you plan to access Wrangell St. Elias backpacking off the south portion of the park, you’re looking at a five hour trip. Getting to the north side will run you more like six hours.