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For those hikers who dream of the true Alaskan experience, Wrangell- St. Elias National Park offers incomparable pure wilderness experiences in a remote landscape where few visitors ever set foot.

Hiking amongst the mountains and glaciers of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park awakens the senses. Be prepared to hear the crunch of the ice underfoot while trekking on the area?s glaciers, the gurgle of powerful braided glacial rivers and the encompassing silence of a remote wilderness setting; to see intense blue features carved on ancient ice, views of the craggy peaks of some of the tallest mountains in North America and brief glimpses of the wild animals that call this park home; to taste the wild blueberries, raspberries and bluebells of a late Alaskan summer; to smell fresh Copper River salmon on the grill and woodfire smoke in the air; and to feel your feet not only travel along trails created hundreds of years ago by prospectors seeking their fortunes in the mountains of Alaska, but also in areas never touched by human presence. Visiting Wrangell- St. Elias National Park is truly an experience of all the senses and offers a new, exciting vista with every passing step.

Whether on a day hike or a multi-day backpacking adventure, it is difficult to enter into the rich terrain of America?s largest national park without being awed by this spectacular region. Situated in the Southeast corner of Alaska, the park features 13.2 million acres of seemingly endless winding glaciers surrounded by sculpted white summits, wild braided rivers, a diverse range of wildlife and a young, constantly changing environment where geology comes to life before your eyes. Wrangell- St. Elias receives relatively few visitors each year, so the crowds of Denali and national parks in the lower 48 are not present and do not detract from the scenic serenity. Wrangell- St. Elias beckons those who desire an intimate encounter with Alaskan wilderness.

Located approximately 90 miles off Old Richardson Highway, in the heart of Wrangell- St. Elias National Park, the towns of McCarthy and Kennecott rest at the edge of the Kennecott glacier and are cradled by the towering majestic mountain ranges that pass through the park. These two towns are the staging area for many travelers visiting Wrangell-St. Elias and offer the park?s only accommodations, food, historical buildings and information. The town of Kennecott sprung to life in the early 1900s when large veins of copper were discovered in the valley, and under the close supervision of Stephen Birch, a large copper mill and mining town was established. Due to the sudden influx of people and materials to the area, McCarthy flourished during this time and became a stopping point for the train that carried passengers and copper to and from the area. Today, the few residents that reside in McCarthy/Kennecott year round live among the buildings and traverse the same roads that miners forged over 100 years ago.

For such a remote and untouched region, getting to this wilderness area is surprisingly easier than it may seem, and the park is full of adventures that are perfect for all skill levels, from those with no experience to those interested in fine tuning their current outdoor skills or learning new techniques. Whether you choose to navigate the 60 mile gravel road (once the train route for transporting copper) out of Chitina and arrive by car, or fly in and see the land from above within the capable hands of experienced Alaskan bush pilots, you will be awed and astounded by the beauty of this region.

Planning a hiking trip in Wrangell- St. Elias Park is easy and there is plenty of helpful advice just a phone call or email away. St. Elias Alpine Guides has been leading visitors on inspiring adventures since 1978, and the professional and personal guides are available to share with you their love and knowledge of this spectacular park. Whether it?s a two hour history tour, a day hike on the Root Glacier, an ice climbing seminar, a multi-day backpacking trip or the rafting journey of a lifetime, St. Elias Alpine Guides is available to help you plan the excursion that best suits your interests, skill level and desires. Please visit the website or contact St. Elias Alpine Guides for more information on the array of hikes and adventures offered.

When heading out to explore on foot, whether with an experienced guide, or on your own, it is good to know what to expect and be prepared for all possibilities, especially in a remote setting. Arriving prepared and carrying with you the essentials for travel in a wilderness area is important not only for safety, but also for the comfort and ease of your trip. Therefore, it is wise to check weather conditions before you venture out, be familiar with your route and pack essentials such as rain gear, a well-stocked first aid kit, layers for warmth and plenty of food and water. In addition, it is important to wear non-cotton clothing and broken-in, appropriate hiking boots. Despite possible predictions of clear or warm weather conditions, always carrying clothing and gear for rainy, cold and windy conditions ensures that you will be prepared for the often unexpected and unpredictable weather of wilderness areas such as Wrangell- St. Elias. Although it is impossible to capture the true essence of this wilderness experience in pictures, a camera is a staple when views such as these are all around you.

If you seek the adventure hike of a lifetime in a true Alaska wilderness setting, then look no further than Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Prepare to be amazed. We hope to see you there soon!

Nina Winegar-Thurston
St. Elias Alpine Guides

Location: Wrangell, Alaska - St. Elias National Park

Visit their website at Hiking and Backpacking in Wrangell- St. Elias National Park

Date of editor review: May 2, 2008

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