Alaska Tours – Basecamps

A listing of a few basecamp trips

One of the great things about doing fly-in trips in Alaska is the plane does the hard work for you; we load up, fly into the mountains, land, and we’re there. With the off-trail terrain, we are free to then head off wherever, and explore in any direction we choose. Hiking around unencumbered by the heavy backpack is a nice way to spend your time in the mountains.

For these trips, I recommend bringing a backpack for your gear, and then a 2nd, small daypack for the hikes and walks we’ll do each day. Most of the trips we can either camp right by the strip, or move camp a mile or 2 away for a little more solitude. Generally, I’d recommend the latter. It’s certainly possible, however, to camp right by the strip for those who don’t feel like lugging a heavy backpack a mile or 2.

Basecamps and Dayhikes in the Backcountry

Sunset and dwarf fireweed.

Sunset and dwarf fireweed. 

Steamboat Hills Basecamp

The Hanagita Hills are a great place to explore for a an entry level hiking trip. We travel to McCarthy, spend the night there, then fly in to the remote landing strip called “Steamboat”. We have 2 options.

1. Basecamp in the area, near some of the pristine alpine lakes in the area, and spend the days hiking the ridges lines, admiring the views, and watching for Dall sheep on the cliffs below.

2. Backpack from our end of the ridge to the far end, where we meet the bush pilot and fly back to McCarthy. The hike itself is generally easy walking, open tundra, not steep. 20 -25 miles.

Highlights – very rarely visited. Easy hiking, expansive views of the surrounding mountains. Perfect family camping, basecamping, wildlife viewing.

Access - Anchorage-McCarthy, backcountry fly in/out

Distance - basecamp, or 15-20 mile backpack.

Difficulty - entry level

Wildlife? Abundant Dall sheep, bears, arctic ground squirrels, foxes, golden eagles, ptarmigan.

 

Mountain Goat on McColl Ridge, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Mountain Goat.

McColl Ridge Basecamp

Options -  basecamp amongst incredible fields of wildflowers and dayhike along the ridge, hiking to the north and south, with endless views in every direction, down the Chitina river, up the River valley, east to the University Range, north to the Wrangell Mountains.

A 2nd option is to backpack from one strip to another, hiking approx 15 miles. We follow the ridge southward, with long gentle climbs, open tundra to hike over, and steep cliffs to the west, home to abundant trophy Dall sheep and Mountain Goats.

Highlights – Endless views, wildflowers, wildlife, solitude. very few visitors.

Access - Anchorage-McCarthy, backcountry fly in/out.

Distance - basecamp, or 15-20 mile hiking trip.

Difficulty - entry level.

Wildlife? Yes, dall sheep, mountain goats, ground squirrel, golden eagles, ravens, coyotes, bears.

 

A waterfall glows in the light of a colorful sunset. Near Chitistone Pass, looking toward Skolai Pass, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Sunset over Skolai Pass

Skolai Pass

Options – Skolai is a great option for all kinds of trips, photo tours, adventurous backpacking trips, basecamps and dayhikes, or combinations of all the above. It’s a jumping off point for the Skolai – Wolverine backpacking trip down the Goat Trail, but it’s also a fantastic place to spend a week and explore all of what it has to offer.

The best way to see Skolai is to backpack to the far end of the valley from the landing strip, then spend a few days hiking and exploring from basecamp there. It’s possible to basecamp right by the landing strip, without backpacking anywhere, but generally this trip will work better if we at least can move a couple of miles down the valley.

Highlights - Views of Mt Churchill and Mt Bona, Hole in the Wall, Russell Glacier, Nizina and Frederick glacier, alpine hiking, wildlife.

Access - Anchorage-McCarthy, fly-in from McCarthy.

Distance - varies.

Difficulty - Entry level – intermediate level hiking trip (depending on options)

Wildlife - Yes. Likely see grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep, marmots, ground squirrels, golden eagles. Have seen wolves in the area as well. Abundant bird life.

 

Hiking up at Wolverine, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Dayhiking at Wolverine

Wolverine

Options – Wolverine is a nice high ridge, overlooking the Chitistone Valley, with big views in almost all directions. Camping spots abound, but the best option, as with Skolai, is to at least backpack a mile or 2 from the strip, setup a basecamp, and then explore with a bunch of different dayhikes.

And there are countless options for dayhiking in this area. east, west, north, south, and all points in between.

Highlights – Possibly getting up close and personal with some of the many Dall sheep and mountain goats in the area. Views of the Twaharpy Mountains to the south, and Mt Blackburn to the north and west. A walk down nearby Grotte Creek is also a real treat indeed. Another option is poking around the butte, and looking for the amazing geologic features here, fossils, geodes, and more. There are some REALLY cool rocks up here.

Access – Anchorage – McCarthy, fly-in from McCarthy.

Distance – Backpack a mile or 2, then day hike til your heart’s content. Camping nearer the strip is possible, but not quite ideal. Dayhike might be 1 mile to 5 miles, depending on how adventurous you want to be.

Difficulty – entry level – intermediate level.

Wildlife? Almost always see a number of Dall sheep and mountain goats here. I’ve also seen black bears, red fox, numerous ground squirrels, marmots, raven, golden eagles, and more.

 

Unnamed Glacier and stream near Iceberg Lake, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Unnamed Glacier near Iceberg Lake.

Iceberg Lake

Options - Iceberg Lake is both the jumping off point for the Iceberg – Bremner trek, a possible destination for the Tana Glacier crossing hike, and a great place to dayhike and explore in its own route. My preference here is to make it a short and easy  backpack trip,  rather than a full basecamp, but either is fine.

There are a lot of options for hiking, including some glacier hiking. The hiking is probably a little more difficult than most of the others on this page; the terrain is a bit more rugged, and a lot rockier. But it’s also wonderfully rewarding.

Highlights - Iceberg Lake!!! Of course, Iceberg Lake is a highlight. Other highlights on this trip include views of the nearby Tana Glacier, some amazing, clear, blue alpine tarns just north of us, infinite icebergs and glacial formations, and the rugged Chugach Mountains. The whole area here is simply incredible.

Access - Anchorage – McCarthy, fly-in from McCarthy.

Distance - To do a short backpack loop in this area is maybe 10 miles of backpacking (more or less is definitely possible). If we just basecamp near the strip, dayhikes might be 1 mile to 5 miles, depending on how adventurous you want to be.

Difficulty - entry level – intermediate level.

Wildlife? It’s mostly rock, ice and icebergs here. That means not a lot of food for wildlife. And it also snows a LOT, and those harsh winters knock the wildlife around. We usually see brown bears here, some black bears, marmots and ground squirrels. Very, very ocassionally you might see a mountain goat. Not often.

What Else is Available?

Entry Level Great for hikers with little backpacking experience, or those looking for a more relaxed adventure tour.

Intermediate Level Great for hikers with some hiking and backpacking experience, in shape, but little to no experience with no trail travel.

Challenging Treks Adventurous backpacking treks for experienced, strong hikers. Self-sufficient, but the comfort of having a guide to help deal with those tricky Alaskan obstacles.

Exploratory Backpacking Exploratory trips are available for experienced hikers and photographers, preferably people who’ve done a previous trip with Expeditions Alaska.

Photo Tours Exceptional Alaska photo tours, backcountry and front country photo tours around Alaska, wildlife an dlandscape photo tours.

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