Best Place to Backpack in Alaska?

December 17th, 2021 by Carl D
Backpacking the 7 Pass Route Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
Backpacking the 7 Pass Route Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Hey Folks,

A favorite topic of mine.

Where do I want to backpack most?

It’s impossible to say. In some ways, I’d simply suggest (and often do) “wherever you happen to have good weather”

And I’ve done more than a small share of backpacking in Alaska. I’ve backpacked in the arctic, walked the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and I’ve backpacked in temperate rain forests of SE Alaska. I’ve also traversed many, many points in between.

I’ve enjoyed them all. Really. I can’t think of any place I didn’t enjoy backpacking the wilderness in Alaska. I’ve had some trips that were harder than others, I’ve had some trips with less than favorable weather, I’ve had some trips that I’d love to have another jaunt at and do a “take two”. But I’ve certainly found positive experiences on all of them.

There’s something about Wrangell-St. Elias National Park that just holds me. That could be the alder of the Chugach mtns, LOL. 

Seriously, backpacking in Alaska is just a unique experience every time. I’ve backpacked the Goat Trail many times, and it’s different every time. I’ve hiked up around the Arrigetch Peaks numerous times and had some epic moments there.

And I’m the first to admit there are far more places to explore on my bucket list here than there are ones I’ve checked on that list. Those remain my “to do” list.

But of the places I’ve spent time in the wilderness here, and backpacked and hiked for any length of time, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park just wins every time.

And it’s not close. 

Gates of the Arctic National Park is a gem, with an array of opportunities to get out and saunter. it’s got a wonderful primordial feel to it, and in some locations, many miles of really, really good walking. 

ANWR similarly so. Backpacking and walking around Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is special, and I’ll always enjoy a trip there. In fact, we have a new exploratory trip this coming summer, June 8-17, 2022. Let me know if you wanna join us.

Denali National Park is a cool place, for sure. There’s no place like it. And that mountain is just sublime. One of my favorite backpacking trips there I spent 12 days in the park, wandering from the east to the west, and had an absolute blast.

Backpacking in Alaska though, to me, is about big mountains. Jagged, clawing peaks. Glaciers that pour down from those peaks, and moraines and talus and scree that all speak to the ever-changing transit nature of the landscape. 

Picking my way through the brush, or finding that campsite that I never want to leave, or sitting all evening long to watch the sun slowly ebb away behind the horizon is an experience that holds me present. Always.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park isn’t the first place I’ve backpacked in Alaska. It’s not even home of the first fly-in solo expedition I ever did here. But it’s certainly the one that really woke me up, made me feel differently about a place, an experience, about wilderness, about wildness, about myself.

Given the opportunity to hike pretty much anywhere in the state that I would like to, I still find myself being drawn back to this park. I want to know it more intimately, to see more of it, to feel it beneath my body and to roam its breadth as awestruck as I was the first time I set foot here.

And I get to do that every summer.

So grateful.

Expeditions Alaska
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