Wrangell - St. Elias National Park: Skolai Pass Backpacking trip
The largest National Park in Alaska, even all of North America, and part of the largest internationally protected heritage land in the world, Wrangell St. Elias National Park is an adventure unto itself. This backpacking route guides you alongside wild and majestic mountains, soaring peaks clawing their way skyward. Hiking through the deep jagged valleys carved by rushing rivers and prehistoric glaciers, this trip guides you through the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park wilderness, second to no other in Alaska.
Your guided hike takes you, via an Alaskan bush plane flight, deep into the wilderness and spend the next 5-7 days camping, backpacking and hiking under the open Alaska sky. The University Ranges provide a stunning backdrop, with peaks over 16 000' high, as we explore the high alpine passes, visit ancient glaciers, even hiking over to the adjacent Chitistone Valley, an early miners route into the Yukon territories.
Together, we'll explore the nearby "Hole in the Wall", Russell Glacier, Chitistone Valley and most of Skolai Pass. Then, venture west, through Chitistone Pass and on down the Chitistone Valley, where you'll cross the Goat Trail, a tricky traverse across a steep scree slope where you'll be glad you're hiking with an experienced guide. I've guided and backpacked this route more times than anyone I know of, and this section is one where you'll appreciate having someone who knows the route lead your trip.
This region offers some of the finest landscape photography anywhere and is also home to a rich diversity of wildlife. Bring your binoculars or telephoto lenses and scan the open tundra for grizzly bear, caribou, wolf and Dall sheep, migratory shore birds, ptarmigan, ground squirrels and red fox. Golden eagles are frequently seen here too. Enjoy the afternoon quietly soaking up the peaceful solitude of these mountains, or play a game of alpine frisbee with your guides on the open tundra.
After the Goat Trail, we head north toward 'the Fin', up behind Hole in the Wall. A couple of small stream crossings and before you know it you'll be climbing up to Wolverine, one of the few buttes in all of Alaska. There are a couple of options here, to make our way around to the south side of the butte overlooking the Chitistone Canyon, south toward the Twarharpy Mountains.
We often see Dall sheep and mountain goats in this area, along with the ever present ground squirrel and mountains. Sometimes we see grizzly bears, and often run across other critters, such as red fox. Wolverine is perhaps best known for its amazing geology, and we can easily spend a day or 2 looking through all the old broken rock for the many fossils and geodes found up here.
DurationThis trip can be a 4-5 day backpack from "Point to Point", directly hiking from Skolai Pass over the Goat Trail to Wolverine, or can include various dayhikes and explorations along the way (recommended) and easily stretched into a 7-10 day trip. A typical duration for this trip is 7 days, allowing time for side hikes and explorations up the Russell Glacier, Mount Baldwin and Hole in the Wall and Wolverine ridge.
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.
Where are we?
View The Goat Trail in a larger map