Root Glacier and Stairway Icefall

Chitina, Alaska 99566

Root Glacier and Stairway Icefall

Root Glacier and Stairway Icefall Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A trail with both short and longer overnight options and easy
access from a historic mining town to the Root Glacier."

Root Glacier and Stairway Icefall Trip Reports

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I actually rate this as a 3.5 out of 5.
The trail is straight forward, fairly level and quite short. The trail offers pleasant views of the glacier moraine ending up at the end of the glacial ice. Guided tours take you across the glacier, should you wish to travel further.
As the trail was rather short, I chose to go up to Bonanza Mine, a trail that is steep, but offers magnificent views of the glacier, surrounding terrain and ends up at an old mine. This trail I rate as a 4.5 out of 5 and the best trail I went on during my two weeks of hiking in Alaska.
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This hike allows you to experience the vastness of the Alaskan Wilderness. You can hike or mountain bike this trail. First, you start out taking a hand-pulled tram across the raging, glacial Kennicott river. Then you hike for about 1 mile and enter the town of McCarthy. A friendly town that has a hotel and a few shops, including a bike shop, if you need repairs. From McCarthy you head into the forest passing an old mining cemetary and numerous creek crossings. After a couple of miles in the woods you head up to the old mine. Here lies the beautiful, Kennicott Glacier Lodge. Stop and have lunch on the porch. They have excellent meals and if you have the time (plan far in advance)stay a night and explore the area. Once you head into the actual mining area, you can catch a glimpse of the rugged glacial moraines and mining tailings. The Root glacier will be visable, as well as the Kennicott glacier in the background. Once you head out of the mining area, there will be a wet, river crossing. Be careful in early summer. This crossing had a log to walk across the last time I was there. Use a walking stick to help yourself across. Then you start to wind down toward the glacier. The glacier is incredibly beautiful. The different patterns that the river has carved through the ice and the subtle blue tint that glares from deep within the ice. If you are going to go onto the glacier, BE CAREFUL! Please only go up there if you know what you are doing and have proper equipment. Glaciers are very dangerous if you do not take proper precautions. This hike is a must, for the photographic opportunities and the solitude (once outside the town & mining area). If you plan on staying in the area (Kennicott Glacier Lodge or McCarthy Hotel) make sure you book well in advance. Also check out the rafting in the area or flights over the park. Happy Hiking! :)

Root Glacier and Stairway Icefall Photos

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Trail Information

Nearby City
2-4 miles
Trail Type
Easy to Moderate
Skill Level
Best June through mid-September
Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway, PO Box 439, Copper Center, AK 99573; (907) 822-5234;
Local Contacts
USGS McCarthy C-6 and B-6; National Geographic Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Local Maps