Edgerton Highway - McCarthy Road

Chitina, Alaska

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2 Reviews
5 out of 5
Paved road from Richardson Highway to Chitina; 35 miles (56 kilometers). Narrow gravel road from Chitina to McCarthy; 61 miles (98 kilometers). This route is the primary road into Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, the largest park in the United States (six times as big as Yellowstone). The first 33 miles to Chitina are paved. Beyond this point, the McCarthy Road follows the abandoned grade of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway. This route is extremely narrow, so pass oncoming vehicles with caution. Even if you are driving a passenger car, you may have to find a wide spot to pull over to allow another vehicle to pass. This part of the route runs through Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, but most of the roadway is flanked by privately owned land. The road dead-ends on the banks of the Kennicott River. The town of McCarthy and the abandoned Kennecott Copper Mine lie across the river, and at the time this book was written, they could only be reached via a hand-powered cable tram above the water. This eTrail is a complete description of a scenic drive with a route map and information on the best travel seasons, interesting sites, recreation opportunities, camping locations, and much more.
Scenic Driving Alaska and the Yukon

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Scenic Driving Alaska and the Yukon

by Erik Molvar (Falcon Guides)

Paved road from Richardson Highway to Chitina; 35 miles (56 kilometers). Narrow gravel road from Chitina to McCarthy; 61 miles (98 kilometers). This route is the primary road into Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, the largest park in the United States (six times as big as Yellowstone). The first 33 miles to Chitina are paved. Beyond this point, the McCarthy Road follows the abandoned grade of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway. This route is extremely narrow, so pass oncoming vehicles with caution. Even if you are driving a passenger car, you may have to find a wide spot to pull over to allow another vehicle to pass.

This part of the route runs through Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, but most of the roadway is flanked by privately owned land. The road dead-ends on the banks of the Kennicott River. The town of McCarthy and the abandoned Kennecott Copper Mine lie across the river, and at the time this book was written, they could only be reached via a hand-powered cable tram above the water. This eTrail is a complete description of a scenic drive with a route map and information on the best travel seasons, interesting sites, recreation opportunities, camping locations, and much more.

©  Erik Molvar/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Scenic Drives
Nearby City: Chitina
Distance: 97
Season: Best late spring through fall
Local Contacts: Wrangell - St. Elias National Park
Driving Directions: Directions to Edgerton Highway - McCarthy Road

Recent Trail Reviews

6/21/2012
0

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.


11/3/2003
0

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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May 2018