Alaska Backpacking Tours – Intermediate Trips

A listing of intermediate level backcountry tours more suited to less experienced backpackers

These backpacking tours are ideal for those folks with a modicum of backpacking and backcountry experience but maybe little off trail hiking experience. It’s unfair to label them all in the same group, however. The trips below range in difficulty enormously, and with a few changes in the route and number of days you’re out, they could easily be moved into a harder or easier level. And it really depends on how readily you adapt to backpacking off trail terrain; some folks have a harder time than others with moraines and boulder fields, for example. In general, these trips will provide some challenge, to quite a challenge, for most people on their first Alaska backpacking tour.

All the trips listed below are in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park.

Backpacking trips for the moderately experienced hiker

View from high on the Jarvis Plateau, across the rolling hills and alpine tundra of the Wrangell Mountains. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hiking on the Jarvis Plateau.

Jarvis Plateau backpacking trip

The Mount Jarvis Plateau is a rarely visited area, with spectacular views of nearby 13 000′ Mount Jarvis. Easy walking marks the high alpine terrain, with mostly open tundra around. The view of Mt. Jarvis from here is second to none.

1. Basecamp in the area, and explore the Jacksina Glacier moraine and surrounding tundra, easy day hikes.

2. Backpack from high on the tundra to a landing strip down on the Jacksina River. Many route options to get there, depending on how easy or hard you want to walk. 10 – 25 miles.

Highlights – Absolute solitude. Unbelievable views, and great easy walking.

Access – Anchorage-Nabesna, backcountry fly in/out.

Distance – basecamp, or 10-20 mile backpack.

Difficulty – entry level – intermediate, depending on itinerary.

Wildlife? Dall sheep, possible grizzly bears, arctic ground squirrels, caribou.


Photographing early morning light on the ridge. Wolverine Butte trip, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Wolverine butte, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Wolverine backpacking trip

Options –  Circuit around the butte; several days, including a couple for exploratory hikes down Grotto Creek, overlooking the Nizina River and Wrangell Mountains.

Option 2 is a basecamp and various dayhikes in the area. There’s no shortage of explorations in the area to keep you busy for a week at least. Or sit on a cliff top and gaze down the awesome Chitistone Valley.

Highlights – wildlife, big mountain views, alpine tundra, geologic wonders including fossils and geodes, etc.

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

Distance – basecamp, or 15-20 mile backpack.

Difficulty – entry level – intermediate backpacking trip.

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


Natalie catching up on some reading near Mt. Drum, on the Sanford Plateau, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Sanford Plateau trip, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Sanford Plateau backpacking trip

Options – A great backpack up and over the Sanford Plateau, between Mt. Drum and Mt. Wrangell, to the Dadina River drainage. Best done as a point to point, and then mix it up via the various day hike options along the way.

Highlights – generally easier hiking, various dayhike options on the plateau, incredible views of Mt. Sanford (16 000′) Mt Wrangell (14 000′) and Mt. Drum (12 000′). Solitude. Bison.

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

Distance – 20 – 30 miles, depending on route choice.

Difficulty – Intermediate level.

Wildlife? Possibly dall sheep, grizzly and black bears, porcupine, wolves and caribou. One of the very few places in the park, indeed all of Alaska, you might see wild bison.


Wrangell Mountains and reflection in a high alpine pass, Hidden Creek, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hidden Creek trip, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hidden Creek backpacking trip

Options – Generally a backpack from near the Kennicott Glacier up Hidden Creek, over a high alpine pass, and down to the Lakina River. Multiple day hike options and scrambles along the way. Can include a day or 2 on crampons exploring the Kennicott Glacier.

Highlights – Views of Mt. Blackburn, alpine lakes and pass, multiple terrains and ecosystems. Some wonderful waterfalls along the route, and an infinte array of cool little drainages and canyons to explore en route. Watching a mountain creek gush forth out of the side of a mountain is quite a treat.

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

Distance – 20 miles,  or 10 more for extended hiking options..

Difficulty – Intermediate level

Wildlife – Often see Dall sheep, possible mountain goats, brown and black bear, moose, eagles and birds, ground squirrels, etc.


Sunsets at Hole in the Wall during early summer can be simply stunning. The wildflowers, the snowmelt streams, glaciers, snow-capped peaks and that warm alpine light are hard to beat. Hole in the Wall, Skolai Pass Trip, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hole in the Wall, Skolai Pass, Wrangell – St. Elias Park

Skolai – Wolverine backpacking trip

Options – also known as “The Goat Trail” very flexible route; point to point, with multiple dayhike and exploratory hike options along the way. Possible basecamp in Skolai Pass and dayhike options as well. I’ve done this trip so many ways it’s impossible to define it as any one singular thing.

Highlights – Everything. Hole in the Wall, Russell Glacier, Mt Churchill (15 000’+) and Mt. Bona 16 000’+), wildlife, Chitistone Valley, Goat Trail. A little more popular, but rarely do we see more than 2 or 3 other trips out here.

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

Distance – 25-30 mile route, point to point. Extended hikes and alternative routes possible.

Difficulty – intermediate level.

Wildlife? Yes. Almost always see grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep, mountain goats, red fox, marmots, ground squirrels, golden eagles and many other birds.


Unnamed Mountain on the Chitina River, near the Logan Glacier, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Unnamed mountain, Chitina River area.

Chitina River backpacking trip

Options – Lot of options. Basecamp, basecamp/backpack combo, backpack out and back, loop route, etc. Depends completely on time frame, experience level, etc.

Highlights – solitude, views of Mt. Logan, endless views down the Chitina River Valley.

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

Distance – various. As few as 5 and as many as 30 miles.

Difficulty – intermediate level leaning towards difficult. Challenging terrains (glacial moraine), some bushwhacking and steep ridges.

Wildlife – grizzly bears, black bears, Dall sheep, moose, migratory birds include golden eagle and Peregrine Falcon.

What Else is Available?

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

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 Hikes – 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.

Email for info/booking

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