Alaska Backpacking Tours – Challenging Treks

A listing of challenging backcountry treks for adventurous and  experienced backpackers

These backpacking tours are challenging treks for even most experienced hikers. These treks are generally longer, in the 10 day range and longer, with greater mileage and more difficult terrain. Typically glaciers, moraines, talus, bushwhacking and river crossings make these trekking expeditions a little tougher. Ideally suited and recommended for return guests with some Alaska and off-trail experience, they’ll provide a real Alaska adventure for just about anyone.

Some of them may be more on the intermediate side, depending on time frame and route choices. The Arrigetch Peaks trip is a good one for flexible itinerary, as is the Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines route. Both of those treks work well for tailoring an expedition to match your level of experience and ability. The Bremner-Tebay trek and the Kuskulana-Kennicott Trip are both a challenge for intermediate-experienced hikers.

The exploratory route for 2012 is the Samovar Hills route, see below:

 

Backpacking trips for the experienced/strong hiker

Hiking in the Maidens, Arrigetch Peaks backpacking trip, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska.

The Maidens, Arrigetch Peaks.

Arrigetch Peaks

A massive granite outcrop in the Brooks Range, Gates of the Arctic National Park. Several backpacking routes available, with various dayhikes around the valleys and peaks.

Generally done as an out and back backpacking route, other loop options available.

Highlights – Superb alpine hiking and vistas. mixed terrain, from boreal forest to open alpine tundra, talus and scree and moraine. The Arrigetch Peaks are some of the most impressive mountain spectacles in Alaska.

Access - Fly Fairbanks-Bettles, backcountry fly in/out.

Distance - 30 mile backpack, multiple dayhikes and extensions available.

Difficulty - upper end of intermediate to challenging trekking.

Wildlife? Possibly bear, black and/or grizzly, caribou, Dall sheep. Small mammals like beaver, squirrel, fox, etc. Golden eagles, ptarmigan, grouse.

 

Backpacking in the Iceberg Lake valley, towards Bremner Mines. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Backpacking near Iceberg Lake.

Iceberg Lake – Bremner Mines

Options –  Generally hiked as the misnamed Seven Pass Route, across the Tana Love of the Bremner Glacier. Other options include

* – basecamp and dayhike in Iceberg lake area

* – backpack/dayhike combo in and around Iceberg Lake drainage.

* – backpack to Allie’s Valley.

Highlights – glacier crossings, Chugach mountain range, varied terrains/ecosystems. Fantastic campsites.

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

Distance - 35 mile backpack. Extend via additional dayhikes. Iceberg – Allie’s Valley option is approx 10 miles shorter.

Difficulty - intermediate backpacking trip 7 day option, challenging by adding extensions and/or shortening time frame. Challenging terrain.

Wildlife? Sometimes mountain goats, brown and black bears, golden eagles, marmot, pikas, ground squirrels, etc.

 

Chugach Mountains at sunset, bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes Trek, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Sunset in the Chugach mountains, Bremner-Tebay.

Bremner Mines – Tebay Lakes

Options – A challenging route, rarely ever hiked. Preferable route is a standard point to point route. Lots of day hike options along the way if you care to add some time.

Highlights - Real wilderness and solitude. Wonderful alpine valleys, mixed terrains and some glacier crossings. Excellent campsites.

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

Distance - approx 60 miles.

Difficulty - challenging backpacking trek.

Wildlife? Grizzly bears primarily, small mammals such as marmots and ground squirrels, golden eagles, ptarmigan, mountain goats.

 

Waterfall in the Wrangell Mountains, Kuskulana to Kennicott trek, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Waterfall en route to Kennicott.

Kuskulana River to Kennicott

Options – An extension of the Hidden Creek trip. Best hiked west-east, from Nugget Creek/Kuskulana River to Kennicott. Various options to shorten the route, by finishing at the Lakina River, at Hidden Creek, or the Kennicott Glacier before final crossing.

Highlights - rarely hiked route. Very little visitation. Up close and personal with rugged mountain terrain, awesome views of Mt. Blackburn (16 000′+), glacier crossings.

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

Distance - approx 65 miles, end to end.

Difficulty - This is a challenging backpacking trek.

Wildlife - Grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose. Small mammals such as marmots and ground squirrels and pikas, fox. Golden eagles.

 

Backpacking in the coastal forest, among towering Sitka Spruce, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Forest hiking near the Wrangell – St. Elias coast.

Samovar Hills & Malaspina Glacier backpacking

Options – Exploratory trek for 2012. Goal is to start at the Samovar Hills, near Mt. St. Elias, and then explore south across the Malaspina Glacier, and on to the Pacific Ocean. Final section is a traverse along the coast and the Sitkagi Bluffs region.

Highlights – Mt. St. Elias (18 008′), Malaspina Glacier, lush coastal forest, and the awesome Pacific Ocean. I’ve hiked virtually all of this route, and it’s amazing. I know of only one other couple to ever do this route. Backpacking, packrafting, photography, camping on the glacier (3-4 nights).

Access – Yakutat, fly in/out of the backcountry.

Distance – approx 45 mile route, point to point. Extended hikes and alternative routes possible.

Difficulty – challenging trekking trip.

Wildlife? Brown bears, moose, mountain goat, marmots, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, myriad migratory birds esp waterfowl and shorebirds. Sea lions. Friends saw a wolverine in the Samovar Hills in 2011.

What Else is Available?

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

Intermediate Backpacking Tours Great for hikers with some backpacking experience, in shape, but little to no experience with no trail travel.

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

Photo Tours - exceptional Alaska photo tours, backcountry and front country photo tours around Alaska, wildlife and landscape photo tours.

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