Hiking in forest, Wrangell - St. Elias Park, Alaska.

Hiking along an old bear trail in the rainforest.

Backpacking The Lost Coast

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

Trip outline

  • – 5-9 days in the backcountry
  • – A classic shoreline 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


* * * * * * *

This section of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is a real gem, and 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, west toward the coastal boundary of the park at Fountain Stream. We start on the eastern near Strawberry Island and grand Wash River, and make our way west along the shoreline. We will spend some time up on Malaspina Glacier, poking around on the edges of the glacier. We’ll also packraft and paddle part of Malaspina Lagoon, just for a change of pace.

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. One option is to hike to Malaspina Glacier, and then use the packrafts to cover the first leg of the trip, and come back to the coast 10 miles west of here.

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 (supplied) to cross the few rivers and streams on the trip. Easy paddling, fine for novices. They’re also a good way to explore inland a little, 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. Sitting by the fire at supper, watching the waves roll in and listening the sounds of the surf is a real treat. The myriad calls of migratory birds in the forest accompany the coastal tune.

Sitka bluffs, not 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 they haul out on some of the rocky outcrops near here.

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.

How long will this trek take?

Point to Point, hiking solidly the whole way, 5 days or so. Optimally? I’d suggest 6-9 days.

What might we encounter?
Rivers. Glaciers, ice, grizzly bears, Stellar’s Sea Lions. Mt. St. Elias. Malaspina Glacier. Beaches and shoreline.

How many people visit this area
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!

Where is this trek?
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The north side of Disenchantment Bay, across the bay from Yakutat.

Do we need any special gear?
Oh yeah. We’ll bring packrafts (supplied) for the river crossings. Some small dry bags for your gear. Mostly we’ll just paddle across the rivers and streams, so we won’t be running anything much. Good rain gear. Bugspray and headnets. Other than that, standard backpacking gear.

Hiking Lost Coast, Wrangell St. Elias Park, Alaska.

Packrafts in hand, hiking The Lost Coast, Wrangell St. Elias Park, Alaska.

How tough is this trek?
Not. Some people might struggle on the boulder field. But there’s really no elevation gain to speak of, some bushwhacking though. 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.

$1750, per person.

When is it?

2017, June 16-22
Custom dates available June-Sep, 2017

Got a map?
Sure. Check it out below.

Trip At A Glance

Trek Highlights Very little visitation to the area, solitude, bears, old growth forest, Pacific Ocean, Sea lions, Malaspina Glacier, camping on the beach

Trek Detail Relatively mild hiking along the coast, some bushwhacking, packrafting, traverse the Lost Coast of Wrangell – St. Elias and enjoy a hike very few people have EVER made.

Level Mild

How Much further? 30-40 miles

Elevation 0-100′ ASL

Duration 5-9 days*

Custom Dates Available, June-Sept

2017 Dates June 16-22

Price $1850

Similar Trips Similar location, but more difficult and longer route is the Malaspina Glacier traverse.

Location Wrangell St. Elias Park

Email for more info about a trip

Connect with Carl and Expeditions Alaska

Expeditions Alaska on Facebook
Expeditions Alaska on Twitter
Expeditions Alaska on You Tube
Expeditions Alaska Linked In page.
Expeditions Alaska on Google Plus



Photos from this trip

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email

Error: Please enter your first name

Error: Please enter your last name

Error: Please enter a username

Error: Please enter a password

Error: Please confirm your password

Error: Password and password confirmation do not match