The Lost Coast

The Edge of Nowhere. The End of Everywhere.


  • 5-9 days in the backcountry
  • A classic coastline hike
  • Packraft several river crossings
  • Grizzly bears
  • One of the most rarely traversed hikes in Alaska
  • Campfires on the beach
  • Check out Malaspina Glacier
  • Easier, flatter hiking grade

Hike along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, trek through old growth temperate rainforest, across a glacier and glacial moraine, packraft across coastal streams and rivers, watch sea lions in the surf and enjoy a fire on the beach at night. Oh, and how about a view of Mt. St. Elias?

This section of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is a real gem. Best of all, hardly anyone ever goes here.

That’s part of what makes it such a treat.

We’ll traverse the entire section of coastline from the edge of the St. Elias mountains and Mt. Cook. Hike west toward the coastal boundary of the park at Fountain Stream. We start near Strawberry Island and grand Wash River and make our way west along the shoreline.

We’ll spend some time up on Malaspina Glacier poking around and exploring on the edges of the glacier. We’ll also packraft and paddle part of Malaspina Lagoon just for a change of pace.

Packrafts are essential for this trip. The stream crossings are deep enough to warrant bringing packrafts. They also allow us to explore the Malaspina Lagoon and even camp on some of the islands in it.

The Route

Fly in from Yakutat, AK, to a landing zone on the beach near Fountain Stream. Set up camp, and then we might hike up Grand Wash a ways and check out some of the terrain in that area.

The coastal hiking is mostly pretty mild, walking on either soft sand or small rocks of the gravel shore. We can venture inland at times and walk through magnificent old growth Sitka Spruce forest, shadowing the footsteps of the great Grizzly bear on these incredible maze of bear trails; individual foot prints embedded deep in the moss illustrate centuries of journeys by Old Man Grizzly along the coast here.

We’ll use packrafts (provided for you) to cross the few rivers and streams on the trip. Easy paddling, fine for novices. Packrafts are also a good way to explore further inland, bushwhacking north away from the coast and then paddling any of various streams back toward the coastline.

Further west we’ll explore Sitka lagoon, and paddle over to the edge of Malaspina Glacier, and have a look at the forest growing on top of the ice there. Amazing, unique ecology and geology.

Campfires along the beach are awesome. Sit by the fire after supper and watch the waves roll in, listening to the sounds of the surf. The myriad calls of migratory birds in the forest accompany the coastal tune.

Sitka bluffs (now mostly Sitka boulders after centuries of erosive pounding from the Pacific Ocean) are really the only challenging hiking en route. They’re also the best place to get a good view of the Stellar’s Sea lions here, as the sea lions haul out on rocky outcrops near here. Their barking and banter is always fun to hear.

Keep heading west and we’ll get to our pickup location near Fountain Stream. If we arrive here early, it’s a good place to make a day hike up toward the glacier, and packraft back down the stream to the coast. The air taxi will pick us up on the beach and we fly back to Yakutat.

Trip FAQs

  • Point to Point, hiking solidly the whole way, 4-5 days or so. Optimally? I’d suggest 5-8 days.

  • Rivers. Glaciers, ice, grizzly bears, Stellar’s Sea Lions. Mt. St. Elias. Malaspina Glacier. Beaches and shoreline.

  • In 2014, excluding guided hunters and fishing trips, the entire district for this area (150 miles long) had a sum total of 2 people backpack and/or raft it; yes, only two (2) people! Chuck and myself in early June!

  • Definitely.

    We’ll bring packrafts (provided for you) for the river crossings. Also some small dry bags for your gear. Mostly we’ll just paddle across the rivers and streams, so we won’t be running anything too rigorous. Perfect for novice paddlers. Good rain gear. Bugspray and headnets. Other than that, standard backpacking gear (maybe trail shoes rather than boots).

  • Not. Some people might struggle on the boulder field. But there’s really no elevation gain to speak of, some bushwhacking though. We may do a little bushwhacking, but nothing terribly challenging. The packrafting is mild, pretty easy, great for beginners.

    This is a good trek for someone with less experience, but an adventurous spirit and a willingness for a really wild and unique trip.

  • Expeditions Alaska will outfit your packrafting trip. That includes packraft, spray skirt and boat deck, dry suit or splash wear (trip dependent), neoprene paddling gloves and booties. Whitewater trips include helmets. All paddlers are provided with an approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device).

    Dry bags are included for you as well.

    Your guide will also carry a tow strap, throw bag and line, plus the usual backcountry safety equipment of sat phones, first aid kits, etc.

    If you have your own equipment, you’re welcome to use that instead. Let’s talk about it first and make sure your rig is appropriate for this trip.

  • I know you do. I do as well.

    I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page

    More questions? Email me or call me  and we’ll go through them.

    Upon your reservation I’ll also send out a comprehensive trip information packet that covers just about everything and more you might imagine about your trip.

The Place

The Lost Coast

The coastline here is a long stretch of shore that parallels the terminus of the Malaspina Glacier. One could possibly suggest it IS the terminus of the glacier.

The terrain is mixture of temperate forest and more open brush lands. At times we’ll hike on sandy beaches and at times we’ll hike on boulder fields. Boulders are synonymous with glacial terminus. Moraines become boulder fields. Some of the hiking is on ancient bear trails through the forest.

Mt. St. Elias

Sovereign of the park. Mt. St. Elias towers over 18 000′ right from sea level. It’s definitely a sight to behold and one of the grand mountains of the world.

Best views of the mountain are found out on the glacier or the lagoon. We’ll get some vantages points along the shoreline but trees and brush often obscure us.

The Packrafting

Easy Paddling/h2>
This area is a great intro to packrafting location. The waterways are not turbulent. Even the larger streams here are Class I water. Packrafts allow us to cross the rivers safer and easily.

They also allow us to more easily explore inland a little further. We’ll hike up toward the lagoon and poke around there a while. When we’re done there we choose one of a number of streams to float us back to the beach to continue our hike.

Packrafting Malaspina Lagoon on Lost Coast backpacking and packrafting trip, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Where Are We?

Trip Options & Extensions

One option is to hike to Malaspina Glacier and then use the packrafts to paddle west, covering the first leg of the trip. Then we’ll come back to the coast 10 miles west of here.

Looking for a longer trip? One option is to add this hike to the Malaspina Glacier Traverse. We can easily make this a 2 week trek, and even add in a food drop/cache so we don’t have to carry all the food from Day One.

We can also spend a couple of days up at Malaspina Lagoon, paddling and exploring before making our way back down to the coastline.

Who's It For?

Those folks looking for a real getaway, without the challenge of rigorous mountain trek. Off trail hiking in Alaska can be tough, and this trip offers a great way to find some real wilderness, solitude and adventure without all the adversity of mountain terrains.

Are you looking for something different? This trip is a gem, yet very, very few people ever visit the area. You’ll be VERY unlikely to run across anyone here.

Few folks from outside Alaska have experience with packrafts, and the Lost Coast trip offers a great introduction to this type of adventure.

Trip Logistics

We’ll depart out of Yakutat, AK (you can fly there via Alaska Airlines). We take a short air taxi ride across Disenchantment Bay to The Lost Coast, unload and begin the walk.

At the end of the hike, we’ll meet up with our pilot, load up and fly back to Yakutat. Either overnight there or catch an evening flight out to Anchorage or Juneau.

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