Scenic Driving Alaska and the Yukon
by Erik Molvar (Falcon Guides)
© Erik Molvar/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This is a ROAD, not a trail. (Several unimproved / primitive trails branch from the road along the way to McCarthy.) The road is, as advertised, an adventure--unpaved, rarely maintained, with gravel, abandoned railroad spikes, and washouts/washboarding to test your resolve. The views are spectacular, IF you have a mostly clear day with which to view the surrounding mountains. (Unfortunately, summer in Alaska is mostly cloudy.) Take a full-size extra tire and fill up with gas ahead of time. For the casual driver, the road is open May-October.
At the end of this old railroad bed, is the incredibly beautiful Wrangell St Elias National Park. The road is not the most pleasant ride, but the end result is well worth the bumps. You will notice this once you pick up speed, your vehicle will lurch over what feels like a washboard, the old railbed. About a third of the way in or more you will approach the Kuskalana River Bridge. A great picture spot is on the right of the road about 200 feet back from the bridge.The Kuskalana River is approx. 300 feet below. The bridge itself is well worth the drive in. An architectural delight, the old railroad bride had wood planks thrown across the top making car travel available to McCarthy. I understand a few years back they finally put guardrails on the sides. From the river you head towards the mighty Copper River and the first views of the Wrangell Mountains. My favorite part is when you come around a corner and you get your first glimpse of Mt. Blackburn. The Copper River, 1/4 mile or more wide, provides great fishing in the area. From there you head to the end of the road. Here there is crude camping and a rafting company that does trips down the Kennicott, Nabesna, and Copper River. If you have the time, I highly recommend you take a trip. The one day trip was a lot of fun, ending in a scenic plane ride from a gravelbar in the middle of the river to a view of the Kennicott and Root glaciers. Across the raging, glacial Kennicott river lies the town of McCarthy and the Kennicott Mine, now a ghost town. There is so much to do in this area, that you could spend weeks and never do everything you want to do. Since the park is the largest National Park and the least visited, they allow many things that other parks do not. You may hunt and mountain bike to name a few.
Happy vacationing! :)
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