Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Guide

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Introduction

Imagine exploring the largest national park in the country filled with raw wilderness from volcanoes and snow-capped mountains to glistening glaciers and even beaches. This dream can become a reality when you take an RV trip to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve. At over 13 million acres, it’s like exploring a land mass the size of Switzerland, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park combined. It’s so huge, some areas are only accessible by boat or plane. From alpine lakes to rugged icefields, this stunning landscape is one of the last, untouched areas in the country where you can experience nature’s authentic majesty.

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve is home to some of the most spectacular peaks in the world including Mount St. Elias, which is the tallest in the park at over 18,000 feet, and Mount Wrangell, an active volcano. During an RV excursion to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, you can discover breathtaking glaciers such as Malaspina Glacier, which is the largest piedmont glacier in North America. You might want to fly over the icy wonderland of the Bagley Icefield that covers most of the park’s interior. Or you can park your big rig and tour the old copper mining boomtown of Kennecott.

The sunny summer is the peak season for RV visitors, which is a great time for hiking and mountain biking. Although temperatures at night can drop well below freezing in the winter, there are loads of activities to enjoy during the colder months too. If you can brave the cold you’ll love exploring this vast park by cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. During the spring, you can get out of the RV and catch sight of some of the park’s majestic native creatures like bears, moose, and mountain goats. In the fall, you might even get to see the mystical sight of the Northern Lights. No matter what time of year you take an RV getaway to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, you are in store for a life-changing adventure in one of the most scenic national parks in America.

Park Alerts (5)

[Information] New Regulations Prohibit Brown and Black Bear Baiting

Baiting for black and brown bears is prohibited in Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve. Regulations also prohibit taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) from May 1 through August 9 and prohibit using dogs to hunt big game, including black bears.

[Information] NPS Finalizes Subsistence & Wildlife Collection Regulations [+ Info]

The NPS published final regulations in the Federal Register which allow federal subsistence users in Alaska to collect and use non-edible animal parts and plants for the making and selling of handicrafts.

[Information] Authorized Park Concessionaires Has Changed [+ Info]

The list of authorized concessionaires for Wrangell-St. Elias has recently changed. PLEASE check the park's list of all concessions authorized to provide sport hunting services in the park BEFORE hiring a service. Click "more" for this list:

[Information] Kennecott Visitor Center New Phone Number

The Kennecott Visitor Center in the Blackburn School at the Kennecott Mines National Historical Landmark has a new phone number: (907) 205-7106

[Information] Visitor Center Hours of Operation for Summer 2019

Copper Center May 15 - Sept 29, daily 9 am – 5 pm. Kennecott May 24 - Sept 8, daily 9 am – 5 pm. Slana April 22 - May 17, M – F, 8 am – 5 pm. May 20 - Sept 29, daily 8 am – 5 pm. Chitina May 24 - Sept 2, daily 9 am – 5 pm.

RV Rentals in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Transportation in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Driving

You’ll quickly get a feel for how truly vast Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve park is when it comes to traveling in and around the park. It’s so massive that some areas of the park, particularly in the Yakutat and coastal areas, are only accessible by boat or plane. There are two gravel routes that are drivable entrances into the park: Nabesna Road and McCarthy Road. These roads are open to vehicles and RVs during the summer months, but may not be passable during the colder months. Four-wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are recommended for driving past mile 29 of Nabesna Road. Some roads near the park such as Edgerton Highway may be difficult for large RVs or those towing trailers. During the winter, some roads may be extremely difficult for driving, or impassable.

Parking

Parking is available at the visitor centers in the park, campgrounds, pullouts along Nabesna Road, and at the end of McCarthy Road. Summer is the peak season for the park so while there is more parking available, some locations may get crowded more easily. Parking may be much more limited or inaccessible during the colder months.

Public Transport

There are several bus transportation lines run by private companies that provide access to the park from Anchorage and Glennallen. During the summer months, there are local private shuttles that run into the park on McCarthy Road. You can also fly into the park during the summer with a private plane service from Chitina. If you are driving a rental car, you’ll want to check the rental company’s requirements as some do not allow driving on gravel roads in the park.

Campgrounds and parking in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Campsites in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Reservations camping

Reservations Camping

All camping options at the park are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

First-come first-served

Camping Along the Nabesna Road

There are several primitive campgrounds along Nabesna road. Some of the these pullouts will accommodate small to medium RVs and travel trailers, while others are available for tents only. These primitive sites may only have restrooms and picnic tables on site, but all of them offer gorgeous views of some of Alaska’s most beautiful mountains, lakes, and forests.

Kendesnii Campground

This free campground is only the one run by the National Park Service in the park. It offers ten campsites that accommodate small to medium sized RVs or travel trailers. Open year-round, the Kendesnii Campground is located on a rustic, majestic spot covered by shady trees that is close to hiking trails and lake shoreline. You’ll have plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and canoeing nearby. You’ll also have access to restrooms and picnic spots on site.

Camping Along the McCarthy Road

There are some primitive campgrounds available on McCarthy Road. Camping along McCarthy Road allows you to soak in gorgeous views of the Chitina and Cooper Rivers, as well as some great spots for wildlife viewing. Some of these campsites provide restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits, while others offer no amenities. Most of these sites are tent-only, but some may offer space for small or medium-size RVs.

Alternate camping

Backcountry Camping & Cabins

If you’re looking for a rustic experience in the raw natural serenity of the Alaska wilderness, you might be up for a backcountry camping adventure. You can pitch your tent or stay at one of the 14 public-use cabins dotted around the park. Most are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but three of them must be reserved within 24 hours of your stay. Whether you want to camp in the forest or near the icy peaks of Wrangell Plateau you’ll be in untouched wilderness just waiting to be explored. Permits are not required, but you are encouraged to complete a backcountry itinerary at a park visitor center and you’ll want to make sure you’re safely prepared for your remote journey.

Private Campgrounds

There are private campgrounds, RV parks, and lodging facilities available on McCarthy Road, Nabesna Road, and outside of the park. These accommodations may offer modern amenities such as full hookups, wireless internet, cable TV, swimming pools, and laundry facilities. Whether you are looking for a rustic or luxury experience you are sure to find the right accommodations for you within minutes of the park.

Seasonal activities in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Spring

Guided Wilderness Tour

In the late spring as the weather warms up, you can hire a private company to take you on a guided tour of this raw wilderness. You can hike in alpine fields covered in wildflowers or trek out to see the incredible beauty of glaciers. Or you can venture out to the cascading waters of Stairway Ice Fall or Donaho Falls. Whether you want your adventure to last a half-day or several days, you’ll be guided by experts while you make unforgettable memories during your RV vacation.

Wildlife and Bird Watching

The spring is a perfect time of year to break the binoculars out of the camper and spot the native wildlife jump into action as the snow melts. If look up towards the mountains you can spot Dall sheep and if you venture out to the lake, you might see a moose. If you love birdwatching, you’ll have a chance to see Canada geese, Trumpeter swans, thrushes, warblers, and more.

Photography

There are no shortage of amazing opportunities for incredible photography during a Spring RV trip to Wrangell–St. Elias. The spring is a great time of year to capture the changing seasons as the snow fades away and the park bustles with life again. Whether you want to get the perfect shot of glaciers, majestic snow-capped peaks, or untouched forests, it’s time to get the camera out of your travel trailer and just look all around you.

Airplane Tour

There’s no better way to grasp the full vastness and breathtaking beauty of Wrangell–St. Elias than to see it from above. You can hire a private company to fly over jaw-dropping mountains and land on remote glaciers. You can spot wild bears and roaming Dall sheep way up in the sky. Flightseeing is one of the most unique ways to access areas of the park you can’t experience in any other way.

Mountaineering

If you're looking for your next summit, an RV getaway to Wrangell–St. Elias offers the perfect chance to climb some of the country’s most majestic mountains. If you’re an experienced mountaineer you can reach above the clouds by climbing up the amazing peaks of Mount Blackburn, Mount Sanford, or Saint Elias Mountain Range, which can reach over 16,000 feet. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience unforgettable panoramic views of untouched natural beauty.

Summer

Ranger-Led Interpretive Programs

If you drive your motorhome to Wrangell–St. Elias during the summer you’re in luck to take part in one of the several exciting ranger-led interpretive programs offered. There are regularly scheduled programs located at the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center, Slana Ranger Station, and Kennecott Visitor Center. You can attend free ranger talks, evening programs, guided walks, and family-friendly programs to learn all about the natural and cultural history of this incredible region of Alaska.

Fishing

If you love fishing you’ll love the catches you’ll snag during your RV getaway to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. With hundreds of miles of streams, abundant lakes, and two rivers there’s almost no limit to your fishing opportunities. If you’re lucky, you can catch salmon, trout, or Arctic grayling. There are dozens of spots to fish from right off the highway in the park, from Moose Creek to Louise Lake.

Hiking

There are loads of trails all over this vast national park to discover during your summer RV vacation to Alaska. You can check out volcanic geology on the Skookum Volcano Trail and or see historic mine buildings along the Rambler Mine Trail. If you are looking for incredible glacier and mountain views, you’ll want to explore the Wagon Road. Another highlight is the Jumbo Mine Trail, where you can discover historical artifacts while taking in incredible panoramic views.

Boating & Kayaking

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park is home to some of the last authentic, untouched rivers in the country. If you’re an experienced sailor you can brave the waters on your own or hire a private company for an incredible tour, whether you want to float along the rustic river or go kayaking. Icy Bay on the coast of the park is a remote, but gorgeous spot for sea kayaking you won’t want to miss during your RV trip.

Kennecott Mill Town

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park offers a rare chance to see a ghost town during your RV getaway. You can hire a private company during the summer to get a tour of Kennecott Mill Town, which was once an operating mining and mill town in the early 20th century. You’ll learn about the copper mining history of the area, tour historic buildings, and discover the local heritage of this beautiful region.

Fall

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights is an magical, unforgettable sight that you can experience for yourself during your RV vacation to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Far away from the lights of the big city, you just might be lucky enough to catch sight of the mystical aurora borealis that explode the night sky with color. The fall is a great time of year to catch a sighting before it gets too cold.

Mountain Biking

Those warm autumn days are a perfect time to get your bike out of the motorhome to hit the trail at Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. One of the most popular cycling routes is along McCarthy and Nabesna Roads. While these gravel roads may present challenging conditions, you can coast through amazing scenery of lush evergreen forest and soaring hills on a bike trip you will never forget.

Backpacking

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a haven for backpackers with over 13 million acres of rugged wilderness to explore. So pack your gear and head out from the camper for a thrilling adventure, such as a trip down the Nugget Creek Trail, which will take you through an old mine and glacier. The Dixie Pass Trail is another unforgettable backpacking route that will take you through a serene creek and up an alpine pass.

Off-Roading

Once you park your travel trailer you can get in your off road vehicle or ATV and explore Alaska’s raw wilderness in a unique way. You can coast scenic mountains and grassy valleys on Trail Creek Trail or Lost Creek Trail. You will be marveled by the glistening waters at Big Grayling Lake and Soda Lake while you cruising by on the Soda Lake Trail. While an off-road vehicle permit is required, one you’re all set you are in for a one-of-a-kind way to experience the wonder of Wrangell–St. Elias.

Glacier Hike

If you want to get out of the RV and onto a glacier, hire a private company for a guided glacier hike. This is an incredible way to see Alaska’s natural beauty up close and personal by traversing through the Blue Pools and rolling ice of Root Glacier. On the way you’ll learn about the park’s amazing geology and natural history by an expert guide in one of the most picturesque settings on Earth.

Winter

Snowmobiling

If you love snowmobiling then Wrangell-St. Elias will be like a winter playground. Locals call them “snowmachines” and you have more than 13 million acres of raw wilderness at your disposal when you take an RV trip to the nation’s largest national park. This is one-of-a-kind way to see a side of the park most won’t get a chance to see since you won’t be limited to nature trails as you cruise amidst majestic peaks and rugged snowy meadows.

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing in the country’s largest national park is a once-in-a-life opportunity you won’t want to miss during your RV adventure. Luckily, if you’re not an expert ice climber you can hire a private company to take you on a guided skiing and ice climbing tour. Armed with an ice axe, you’ll get a chance to traverse snowy mountain summits, glaciers, and ice walls amidst the backdrop of an Alaskan winter wonderland.

Winter Hiking

If you’re up for a challenge during your winter RV excursion to Wrangell-St. Elias, bundle up and go for an memorable winter hike. Although you’ll want to make sure you check weather and route conditions before you head out, you can hike on any of the park’s open trails. For instance, the Boreal Forest Trail and Copper River Bluff Trail are easy to moderate half-mile loops near the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center that offer scenic views of the Wrangell Mountains and Cooper River.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is an exciting way to discover the glory of Alaska’s great outdoors during the winter. Once you get your skis out of the rig you can cruise along freshly fallen snow on trails all over the park. You can glide to the majestic Root Glacier or coast along the park’s frozen rivers. If you prefer, hire a private company to take you on a guided cross-country skiing tour to learn from the experts as you cruise across the snow.

Snowshoeing

When the snow is falling on the lush Alaska Forest and the lakes are shiny pockets of ice, it’s a fantastic time to break the snowshoes out of the camper and explore the marvelous sights around you. You can snowshoe across any of the park’s numerous trails like Caribou Creek Trail. This is a great option for a short, moderate trek where you’ll be greeted by frozen waters and a winter wonderland forest.

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