Wrangell - St. Elias National Park: Bremner to Tebay Trek
Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park offers this rugged trek through some rarely visited country. In 2008 we were the first commercial trip ever to complete this trek, heading west from the higher altitude of Bremner Mines, through some of the most spectacular Chugach Range, paralleling the Bremner River drainage, and then north toward Tebay Lakes for our pickup at the landing strip.
Very few people have ever done this hike (it was first hiked, to my knowledge, in 2003), and it's not one recommended for beginners, though one alternative is a basecamp and dayhike trip to Tebay Lakes that is perfect for some less adventurous trekking.
This is a strenuous route, off-trail trekking at it's best. Steep sidehills, bushwhacking through alder and willow stands, a little glacial travel, as well as a river crossing or 2 make this an adventure for hardy experienced trekkers. The reward for all this hard work is unbelievable views, amazing campsites, a seemingly endless supply of rich juicy blueberries to graze along the way, and a remote and wild trek through classic Alaska backcountry.
The trek really doesn't require 12 days, but we allow plenty of time for the route, exploring and dayhiking along the way, for eating blue berries, and some photography, of course. 8-9 days is enough time to cover the distance in a straight slog, so the longer time frames makes for a really nice walk. Some of the favorite sections of the hike include Harry's Gulch, the Upper Klu River Valley, and the last ridge overlooking Tebay Lakes.
The trek is actually part of a longer route known as the Southern Traverse, which extends from Tebay Lakes all the way across the eastern Chugach Range to Iceberg Lake, across the Tana River and on to Granite Creek - quite a haul. The terrain is not for everyone, and challenges even experienced trekkers. That said, this trek is an absolute classic Alaska trekking route; the campsites alone are second to none.
One of the highlights of the trek is Harry's Gulch, a high narrow pass through which we follow in the footsteps of the great grizzly bear. The bears have worn a footpath over the tundra that consists of individual footsteps marking the way, each step worn into the tundra by the bears of centuries. Bears will frequently walk not just on the same trail as other bears, but literally in one another's footsteps, the indentations of each step are visible, unlike a regular path or trail.
The trek involves a couple of creek crossings, a good deal of moraine hiking and some bush-whacking, so it's not for the meek. That said, it's an amazing walk through some of the least visited hiking terrain in the park, and offers the visitor an absolutely incredible hiking experience.
This trekking adventure is one I recommend to anyone looking for a real Alaska challenge. It's a great way to spend 9-12 days in the backcountry and soak up the wilderness. I'd usually reserve this trek for folks who are at least intermediate to experienced backpackers.
This trek covers over 60 miles of off-trail Alaska mountain and alpine terrain. Fantastic views, and real solitude await.
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.
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