Above these lakes, the ridges offer unbelievable views of some of the biggest and most impressive mountains in North America. Mt Blackburn (16 000′), Mt Logan (19 000′), Mt St. Elias (18 000′), Mt Churchill (15 000′), Mt Bona (16 000′) and Mt Sanford (15 000′) are all visible from the high country here if the weather remains clear.
There’s simply no better place in all of the park to see each of these grand mountains. The views extending across some of the broad open glacial formed valleys of the Tana, Chitina, Nizina and Chitistone Rivers are truly breathtaking. The views help impart some sense of scale as to just how infinite the backcountry is here.
The high alpine tundra make it relatively brush free walking. Always a plus in Alaska.
We’re on the northern edges of the eastern Chugach Mountains, just south of the Chitina river.
Part of what makes this area so nice is the easy walking. The terrain is almost entirely open tundra. There are no alder thickets or willow patches to struggle through, no fields of boulders strewn along the way that you must carefully traverse, no slippery icefields and glaciers to negotiate.
The rolling open tundra of these ridges is a great place for a more moderate walk and especially nice for a family trek or for those otherwise less adventurous souls; those for whom the idea of a great hike doesn’t involve wondering why the miles are measured in hours.
It’s also a great place for a photo trip. Basecamp and dayhike to explore the landscape and look for interesting compositions or stalk the wary Dall sheep rams that frequent the area. I saw possibly the biggest ram I’ve ever seen in my life up on this ridge a few years ago.
Steamboat Hills are a small range of rolling hills that few people visit. The area is very remote, accessible only via a small bush plane. We’ll fly out of McCarthy, enjoy a short flight over the forested lowlands of Wrangell-St. Elias NP, land high on an open ridge, and spend 6 days with your guide, hiking, camping, backpacking and exploring the many sights and opportunities offered in this amazing place.
If the weather holds, you’ll find no better place to enjoy a game of Alpine tundra frisbee, with a backdrop better than you could ever imagine.
Where Are We?
You need to arrive in Anchorage (at the latest) the day before your trip departure date is scheduled for. Organize your accommodation in Anchorage this night. We’ll pick you up at your doorstep in the morning.
You should arrange your departure from Anchorage no earlier than the day following the date of our scheduled trip Final Day. Again, schedule your accommodation in Anchorage for this night. Expeditions Alaska will provide you with a trip Departure Packet that lists a variety of options in Anchorage.
We travel from Anchorage to McCarthy, overnight in McCarthy and then fly in to the backcountry. A week in the Skolai Pass area and we fly back to McCarthy, show and eat, and then enjoy the afternoon relaxing in the slow-paced rustic town of McCarthy, or venture up to Kennicott and look at the historic copper mine Mill buildings and leftovers of this ghost town. We spend the night in McCarthy, and travel back to Anchorage on the final day.
We may hike east to west, Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines, or we may start at Bremner and hike east to Iceberg Lake.
You’ll receive a Trip Departure Packet upon your reservation with a detailed Gear section and a comprehensive Gear Check List for you. Read it carefully, and be sure you have the appropriate gear with you. We’ll do a gear review before your trip but you really should contact me with any questions you have before you arrive in AK.
Cash in McCarthy. Most vendors, such as restaurants and the bar, etc, do take credit card, but it’s a good idea to bring some cash as well.
You can leave an overnight bag with us in McCarthy, and any valuables (wallet, passport, etc in the safe with the air taxi if needed).
This trip, maybe more than most, is a pretty loose and flexible itinerary. Read below at your peril. 🙂
We really don’t have an solid itinerary for this route. It’s so flexible we can fly in and hike to the finish in a day or 2, or we can mosey along and enjoy the journey. Typically, we do more of the latter on this route.
It really works well as a basecamp, and we can explore the ridge and views, scramble down the backside of a few steep hillsides as we look for Dall sheep, or wander south over the opposite end of the mountainside. It’s pretty much up to you and the weather how we approach the hike.
The best option, I think, is a combination. Do a couple days basecamping near the eastern end of the ridge, and move westward at your leisure, spending a couple nights camped en route to the far end. This route works well for a 4 day trip or a weeklong jaunt as well. That’s up to you.
What wildlife are we likely to see here?
Mostly Dall sheep. They like it here in part because there is low pressure from predators like wolves and bears.
Of course you’ll likely see arctic ground squirrels and maybe pikas as well. Those critters draw small predators like fox or coyote, and raptors such as hawks and eagles. So keep your eyes tuned skyward as well.
Why do so few people visit this area?
I have no idea. For the most part however, it’s a little visited area, which is just the way I like it. Easy walking, great camping and not too many other people.
How are the bugs?
Really not bad at all. We’re high enough that this area doesn’t get a lot.
Do we need any special gear for this trip?
Nope. Standard Alaska backpacking gear is all.
Who do you recommend this trip for?
Anyone looking for a relaxing easy trip. It’s great for families with small kids. It’s great for those folks looking to just get away and enjoy the quiet. it’s great for those folks wanting a basecamp and day hike trip.
It’s also a nice easy backpack for those wanting to deal with moving camp every day, but not go overboard with some of the difficult terrain we have elsewhere here in Alaska.
Is there a basecamp option available?
There certainly is.
Avoid the hassles of crying a heavy backpack. Travel to McCarthy, overnight, fly in to the backcountry, camp and explore the area via day hikes and packrafts (* option on some trips), fly back to McCarthy, overnight and return travel to Anchorage. Fully-outfitted or do it yourself. These trips are extremely flexible, wonderfully fun and a whole lot easier on your body than backpacking trip is.
Looking for something “in-the-middle”? Sure, we can do that too. Fly in and out of the same location, and make a smaller backpacking loop or out and back, combining a few days camping and a few days of backpacking. Contact me via email or call 1-770-952-4549 and we’ll set it up.
What’s Included – MXY trips?
All multi-day trips (backpacking, basecamping, packrafting, photo tours) out of McCarthy include transport to/from Anchorage/McCarthy, 2 nights accommodations in McCarthy, air taxi flights McCarthy/The Backcountry, group gear such as cook tents, stoves, fuel, BRFCs, bear spray, etc. Hiking poles are included if you don’t have your own.
We include a satellite phone for emergencies and one backup emergency contact device, such as PLB or Garmin InReach. First aid kits, map and compass included. All guides are Wilderness First Responder Certified.
Storage of your overnight travel gear is limited but available (keep it small).
Outfitting of equipment such as tents is available. Expeditions Alaska can either fully outfit your trip (all food, tents, etc) or adjust things a la carte if needed.
Guide gratuities are not included but most appreciated. Trip insurance is not included but I urge you to purchase it on your own.
For a full outline of What’s included/not included, please see this page
What’s our travel schedule – MXY trips?
– We pick you up and drive to McCarthy, overnight there, and fly in to the backcountry the next morning. … hike … – We fly back to McCarthy, overnight there.
– We take you back to Anchorage and drop you at your hotel.
For a much more comprehensive outline and schedule of this, see this page
I Have More Questions
I know you do. I do as well.
I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page
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.
Julien F, NYC
I’m just back from the bald eagles november photo trip with Carl and it was amazing. Thousands of eagles right here, posing for the camera, in the charming and quiet town of Haines. Carl was a wonderful guide and photography teacher. I learnt a lot about eagles, Alaska, and photography, notably improving my skills and […]
Hank S, GA
“Carl — just wanted to say hi and thank you for the awesome trip to Katmai! My pictures are fantastic!! – If you will be offering the trip again in 2013 I am very interested. Thank you again for fantastic trip last year”. – Hank S, GA Related Articles
Bob Schlatter, CA
“Carl, I think you have raised the bar for photographing bears with your tour. The experience of being with those magnificent creatures will last a lifetime. Everyday brought new and exciting opportunities, being in the water or on the river bank made it so much better. …. Mark was fantastic, his meals were varied and […]
David Campbell, Australia
“Carl really made sure I had the best possible shooting opportunities and drove out to numerous different sites. Most nights we traveled hundreds of miles in search of good foreground interest (Carl knows all the great spots) I could not recommend Expeditions Alaska higher!” — Dave C Related Articles
George Kelly, CA
In my opinion, there is no other wilderness guiding company out there that can match what Carl Donohue provides to his clients….professionalism, fun, excitement, and his services are worth ever dime spent to experience the wilds of Alaska. Thank you Carl. Related Articles
Carl did such an amazing and conscientious job of putting us in position for the killer shot. His experience photographing really showed and I could not be more pleased with the result. Related Articles
Alex V, VA
Amazing trip as someone who visited Alaska on a tour with my family 10+ years ago. I chose this trip because I wanted to hike into the wilds of Alaska and see what we saw and of course take pictures. This trip will not disappoint if that is your motive. Make sure you are fit […]
Dan Lind, AZ
Trip could not have been any better! Related Articles
Saskia V, TX
I highly recommend taking a trip with Expeditions Alaska. I took an Aurora photography tour and had a great time. Carl does a superb job getting his guests to the right locations to get the opportunity to see and photograph the Northern Lights. Enjoyed being in a small group that afforded each participant plenty of […]
Yeoh Bee Yen
From the moment i decided to join the Aurora Borealis Photo Tour, I was full of excitement coupled with some nervousness due to no experience in subzero temperature and night photo-shooting. I have to thank Carl for making this trip a smooth one for me and the tips on photography. It has been wonderful to […]