What You'll Find Here
This location will work well for various backpacking trips. There are nice 4 day options, and longer 8 day routes to explore for the more adventurous folks as well.
Fly in, unload the plane, and set up camp. Spend your days hiking with a small daypack rather than 40 pounds of heavy backpacking gear.
Add some packrafting experience to your backcountry resume. The primary lake is a great place to float about and practice your paddle technique or just relax and explore.
Mountains and mountains and mountains. Alpine tundra and easy walking terrain.
We call it 50 Shades of Blue for a reason. Every lake has its own hue.
Dall sheep live in the area. bears come up the valley. Moose chew on the willow.
I don’t know of anyone else who visits this area. Spend some time alone with Alaska.
What's all this about kissing frogs?
Truth be told, putting new trips together takes a lot of scouting, a lot of exploring and a lot of “hhmmmmm, well this one isn’t going to work”.
Not all locations work well for commercial trips. Some are too hard, some are too long, some are too sketchy, some aren’t scenic enough, some are logistically too fiddly, and so on.
We might explore 3, 4 or more new locations before we find a single 1 that makes us say “oh yes, THIS one is perfect”. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find that prince/ess.
Where is this?
The trip is based in the Chugach Mountains, slightly west of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
How far are we going?
It’s really up to you. We may cover a lot of ground, and we may not. The area is host to various ridges and valleys and regions to walk and explore.
Is there a basecamp option available?
There certainly is.
Avoid the hassles of carrying a heavy backpack and the longer travel days of McCarthy-based trips. Travel to Glennallen and fly in to the backcountry, camp and explore the area via day hikes and packrafts (* optional), fly back to Glennallen, grab lunch 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.
How are the difficulty ratings defined?
Well, “defined” probably isn’t the right word. This is Alaska after all. But this an important question to consider.
One boot equals easiest and five boots the most challenging option. Thanks.
As a general rule I’d suggest rating everything here one notchfrom what you might be used to (assuming you haven’t hiked in Alaska before). If you consider yourself up for an intermediate level hike assume that a trip rated intermediate here will probably be a bit tougher than you’re expecting. Not impossible, but harder than you think.
As I mentioned above, terrain is the biggest factor here and it’s extremely subjective as to what is difficult terrain and what is not.
Some people really struggle walking over a boulder field, and others don’t find it difficult at all. Some people find sidehilling more difficult, or bushwhacking, and so on. But the most common element people struggle with is almost always terrain. Your balance is probably a more important consideration than how miles you run on a treadmill each day in the gym.
One of the best ways to lower a rating is simply give yourself an extra day or 2. Make a 5 day hike a 7 day hike and it’ll much more manageable. Conversely, if you want a challenge give yourself a little less time and you’ll find just about any trip here as challenging as you could want it to be.
Again: please carefully. It’s the boot icon in the sidebar of the trip page.
Do you have a Gear Check List?
Oh yeah. Right here
Upon your reservation I’ll also send out a detailed Trip Information Packet with more than enough information on gear to keep you busy. Until then the above check list is a good outline of what you need.
Backpacking Gear Check List
Here’s a very simple gear check list. Email me if you have any specific gear/food questions. Try not to overpack but don’t short change yourself on essential items like raingear, tent, backpack, boots, sleeping bag, etc. Temperatures can be below freezing with rainy and even snowy weather.
Once we leave Anchorage (or Fairbanks), there are usually NO options for purchasing gear, supplies, food, etc. Anchorage has a great REI and several other gear stores, groceries, etc. The best option is to bring as much as you can with and only use Anchorage for forgotten and last minute items.
Expeditions Alaska will supply bear resistant food canisters, fuel (white gas/coleman fuel, or isobutane mix) and water filter system, First Aid Kit and maps. I highly recommend bringing your own “boo boo kit” – a basic first aid supplies, like sunscreen, blister kit, bandaids, ibuprofen/aleve, etc). We can, if you need, provide tents and food as well. Let me know if you have any specific gear requirements. We’re always glad to work to accommodate them.
I also recommend you see this post for my gear list for more information.
Tent, w/ groundcloth
Sleeping Bag (20degF min)
Backpack – w/ rain cover
Trekking poles – (Provided if necessary, highly recommended*)
Plastic garbage bags
Stove (check with Carl)
Cook set (check with Carl)
Fuel bottle (check with Carl)
A couple of gallon sized zip lock bags
Flashlight/headlamp (if before mid-Aug)
Long underwear (wicking, top & bottom)
Long sleeve nylon shirt
Additional thermal layer
Rain shell – Pants and Jacket
Wool or fleece gloves
Hat – Cap and 1 Fleece
Wool socks & liners
Head Net/mosquito Repellent
Toiletry items – Toothbrush, toothpaste, Floss,
Biodegradable soap, etc
Blister stuff (mole foam second skin, etc)
Small bath towel (2′ long)
Camera & Film/memory cards
20˚F, or lower, sleeping bag
Waterproof-breathable rain jacket and pants
Pack rain cover
Fleece jacket (min. 200 wt) or (even better) down/synthetic fill jacket
Trash bag as rain gear or pack cover
Flip flops for river shoes
35˚F or higher rated sleeping bag
I have a gear question?
I know you do.
There areof gear questions.
There are alsoof info on this site about gear.
Please do some reading. Start on the Backpacking FAQs page. Use the blog and browse the Gear Categories pages there. You can also use the search function on the sidebar of any blog post.
Seriously, there is aof info on this site. There is also quite a bit more info in your trip info packet. Read it thoroughly.
If what you need to know is not on the site, ask me, rather than via email.
Can we book a basecamp trip if we don’t own any camping gear?
You sure can.
Fully outfitting your trip is $250.00 per person, with group discount available. For single individual items, contact me and we’ll see what you need and work that out. A tent (1 or 2 person) is $200.00 per person for the trip. If you just want us to handle food, and have all your own gear (tent, etc) that’s $225.00 per person.
How much experience do I need?
I work with all levels of backpackers from the novice to the experienced trekker.
In planning trips you should be as honest as possible about your experience and confidence so trips can be organized accordingly.
If you’ve never carried a backpack before or camped in the wilderness, it takes longer to get used to than you think. However we can accommodate your experience by scheduling a trip that works best for you.
Basecamping and dayhiking is a great way to really explore an area and means less time spent carrying the weight of a full pack. Conversely those more experienced may wish to plan a trip that covers more miles, and crosses more difficult terrains, the exploratory trips are great for experienced hikers.
Regardless of your situation, the more preparation you put into your trip the more rewarding it will be.
Can I Drive Myself?
If you’d rather, yes. Please notify us in advance. Parking costs will not be covered for extra vehicles.
Can You Accommodate Food Allergies?
Most likely. We want you to feel healthy and thrive on this trip! We have experience catering to dairy and nut allergies, gluten free diets and other food restrictions. Please notify us in advance so we can make a suitable meal plan for you. Please note there may be an additional fee to cover extra food expenses.
Food Form Info
~ If Expeditions Alaska are providing food for your trip, you’ll need to complete this form and submit the information. Earlier is better. It helps us prepare ahead of time. Thanks.
What’s Included/Not Included?
All trips and trip prices include the following.
* Professional Guide Service: Experience is paramount, as is a friendly, flexible atmosphere for your trip, and Expeditions Alaska go out of our way to bring that to the backcountry. I know the routes, the natural history and the place as well as anyone, and all the best campsites! Backcountry camping in Alaska can be intimidating for a novice and even for some intermediate and experienced hikers. A qualified guide service can go a long way to minimizing problems that may come up. Customers returning for
seven eight nineten consecutive hiking trips with Expeditions Alaska speaks volumes for the value of a good guide.
* Travel and Accommodations: Expeditions Alaska typically offers a complete .
For example, for our Wrangell-St. Elias National Park trips, we’ll pick you up from your hotel in Anchorage, drive to McCarthy in our comfortable conversion van, stay the night at the Kennecott River Lodge, enjoy a hot breakfast the following morning in McCarthy, then fly into the backcountry. Backpack and hike for your trip, fly back to McCarthy, have the afternoon in and around McCarthy, exploring the Kennecott Glacier, or the old mines up at Kennecott, spend another night at the Kennecott River Lodge, and drive back to Anchorage the final day, right to your hotel in Anchorage.
For the ANWR trips, we’ll usually travel from Fairbanks to Coldfoot or Kaktovik by plane, then fly into the backcountry. Whether we pick you up at your hotel in Fairbanks or not will depend on whether we’re driving or flying north. If we fly, we’ll meet you at the airport. If we’re driving, we’ll pick you up.
* Gear: We can provide all cookware, fuel, etc for the trip. Feel free to let us know if you’d like to bring your own. We can get the fuel you need as it’s not possible for you to fly with any fuel in your luggage. If you would prefer a fully outfitted trip we can accommodate that. You’ll need to bring your personal gear, such as a sleeping bag and backpack. We’ll also provide bear-resistant food canisters and bear spray for the trip. Expeditions Alaska trips will also provide a cook tent for the trip. We also provide hiking poles for you if you don’t have your own.
* Safety: Any professional guide service puts safety first. This means caution, it means responsibility and it means an excellent knowledge of the area: the terrain, wildlife and travel, backcountry camping and safety. Fully qualified Wilderness First Aid certification. A satellite phone available for emergency backcountry service if necessary and a backup emergency messaging device such as Delorme inReach or PLB. We bring a GPS, map and compass on every route we do. This is an owner-operated business and all participants can feel confident knowing they’re not getting an intern or inexperienced guide for their trip.
* Storage: Extra travel items that won’t be needed while we’re in the backcountry (limited space available).
What’s Not Included?
Expeditions Alaska do not provide the following unless otherwise specified.
a) food and camping gear — Expeditions Alaska will outfit your trip if you would like us to. For a minimal addition in cost, I’m glad to supply food and camping gear (you will need your own personal gear, such as a sleeping bag, pad, clothes, pack, etc). Any specific items you may need help with, just send me an email or call me and I’ll work it out for you.
b) travel arrangements to Anchorage from outside Alaska.
c) trip insurance. Our suggestion is Travelex.
d) travel meals. Any hotel or lodge meals we eat in the frontcountry are not included in your price. So if we stop to eat along the road, for example, we do not pick up the tab for that.
d) guide gratuities.
The ANWR and Gates of the Arctic National Park trips include all travel (return) from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, or from Fairbanks to Kaktovik, where we fly into the Refuge, as well as rafts, dry bags, etc. The Icy Bay and Malaspina Glacier trips start and end in Yakutat, Alaska. Because of the nature of backcountry adventure, trips vary year to year. Each trip is also available for longer or shorter durations, and trip prices vary accordingly. Similarly, group bookings (3 or more participants) can receive substantial discounts.
For more information, contact us using the Contact Form here.
All clients complete the backcountry waiver before departing for any of our trips.
Reserving your place on a trip requires a 50% deposit. Deposits are non-refundable. All tripsbe paid in full 45 days prior to the scheduled departure date.
If the client cancels on a trip paid in full, 90% of the price can be deferred to another trip within the next 12 months, provided that
i) Expeditions Alaska is able to fill the spot,
ii) the trip is full and
iii) 30 days notice is given.
If cancellation is within 30 days of the trip only 75% of the fee can be carried over to a future trip. No refunds are given for cancellations within 14 days of the trip departure.
Expeditions Alaska reserves the right to cancel and/or modify the itinerary of a trip. You will be refunded your payment in full if Expeditions Alaska cancels your trip.
If weather or other factors delay or impede your trip, there will be no refund of fees. Expeditions Alaska is not responsible for any other costs incurred by the client as a result of the cancellation. Additional costs incurred through weather delays and itinerary changes are the responsibility of the client.
I still have more questions
We all do. Questions are good. That’s how we learn. Either give me a call or send me an email and we’ll go through them.
I also send out a comprehensive Trip Information Packet upon your reservation and that will usually answer your questions.
Why Come Here?
Who’s This For?
This trip is ideal for those looking for a quiet getaway, either to explore some high mountain terrain or relax and amble on the tundra. Nothing terribly strenuous, but opportunity to push yourself a little in the wilderness.
Those with a little less time than some of the trips require, since we don’t have the longer travel time required of the Arctic trips or even Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
Solitude. I know of nobody else who comes here, at all. No hunters, no hikers, no commerical operators. Nobody.
Scenery. We call it Blue after the myriad of gorgeous alpine lakes and tarns in the area. Set beneath towering alpine peaks and adorned with alpine tundra, this place is just plain gorgeous.
Terrain. Hiker-friendly terrain isn’t always on offer in alpine Alaska. The walking in this area is as good as it gets.
Skolai Pass in that way; not too hard, not too easy, and a little something for everyone. Like all the trips I run, the itinerary is somewhat fluid. Weather, hiker experience and many other factors determine the actual trip. But to give the web visitor a basic outline of how this trip might typically unfold, here’s a detailed look at the 50 Shades trip: for simplicity sake, I’ll assume the trip dates are Aug 1 – Aug 8.is an area that provides a variety of trip types and experiences. Similar to
Realize everything here is simply an example. This could be a point to point backpack or it could be a leisurely basecamp and day hike, with a short easy paddle around a lake. It’s up to you to let us know what you’re looking for, and we can (generally) tailor this location to that.
Trip participants should arrive in Anchorage no later than the evening before our schedule trip departure date. For our example, the Trip would require all participants arrive in Anchorage sometime on July 31. I highly recommend you try to arrive even a day earlier is at all possible, to allow for flight delays resulting from weather. Expeditions Alaska does not provide, but can recommend, accommodation in Anchorage.
Your guide will pick you up from your accommodations in Anchorage first thing in the morning. The exact time will depend on how many people are on the trip, where everyone is staying, etc. Typically it will be somewhere around 8am, Alaska time (4 hours behind EST).
We’ll spend the day traveling to Glennallen, Northeast of Anchorage. The drive typically takes about 3 hours, depending on stops, etc. We pass along the northern edge of the spectacular Chugach Mountains, following the Matanuska Valley, the open taiga forest of the Glenallen area.
We meet up with our air taxi near Glennallen, and load the plane, double check we have everything, and fly to the backcountry. It’s a short flight to our landing spot. Unload and ready ourselves to hike to camp. There are numerous locations for camping, so this will depend a bit on time and conditions and so on.
Depending on whether this is a backpack or a basecamp, you’ll explore the high country here with either day hikes or your backpack. It works well for either.
If backpacking you’ll eventually make your way back to the same place we started for the air taxi departure and flight back to the road system. It’s not a point to point hike.
Break camp and meet the bush plane for our return flight. When we get back we’ll pack the van, go grab some lunch nearby and then drive ack to Anchorage and drop you at your hotel.
All the above is weather dependent. This is par for the course with any backcountry trip and particularly one involving bush flights.
Unlike our trips to the Wrangells, This trip doesn’t require a full day travel to McCArthy, an overnight, and another overnight and full day travel back to Anchorage. We can pick you up in Anchorage and be in the backcountry by lunch (most of the time). And one return, we fly out of the backcountry, and are back in Anchorage that same evening.