This trip starts in Anchorage and we depart early for the scenic drive to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. Travelling along the northern edge of the Chugach Mountain Range and then south along the Copper River Valley we should have (weather permitting) great views of Mt Drum, Mt Wrangell, Mt Sanford and Mt Blackburn.
All are ice and snow-capped peaks that tower over their surroundings. We spend the first night in McCarthy before flying out the following morning in a small bush plane for the backcountry landing strip at Skolai Pass. A short hike takes us to our campsite on the tundra and then we’ll have lunch and head off for the afternoon for some photography.
From here we spend the following 6 nights in and around Skolai Pass photographing some of the grandest scenery in Alaska. We’ll get up close and personal with Russell Glacier, visit Hole in the Wall, photograph Castle Mountain, hike over into the Chitistone Valley with it’s sweeping views, as well as the Nizina Drainage and the eastern edge of the Alaska Range, including Mt Frederika.
We’ll spend time during the day hiking and exploring the area for potential images, as well as resting so we’re wide awake to shoot during the hours of good light – in Alaska during the summer, that can mean photography in the the midnight hours. On our final morning, we’ll take some photos, return to camp and get packed to await our pilot’s return for the pickup, then fly back to McCarthy for breakfast at Ma Johnson’s hotel and a shower at our cabins.
Next we can catch a shuttle up to the small historic town of Kennicott and explore and photograph the old buildings and machinery left behind from the days of the copper mining. For the adventurous, another options is to hike out onto the Root Glacier. We’ll stay the night in our cabins in McCarthy, then have a quick breakfast and take the drive back to Anchorage on our final day. If the weather is in our favor, it is well worth taking a sight seeing flight around Mt. Blackburn in the morning for some aerial photography, with the potential for some truly spectacular views of the mountain range.
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.
“Carl was a great guide on an outstanding 5 day backpacking trip in the Wrangell Mountains. He is very knowledgeable and really made the trip even more fun with his sense of humor. I look forward to a possible Arrigetch Peaks trip in the future.”
– Dan Lind, AZ – See review
“Amazing trip as someone who visited Alaska on a tour with my family 10+ years ago. I chose this trip because I wanted to hike into the wilds of Alaska and see what we saw and of course take pictures. This trip will not disappoint if that is your motive. Make sure you are fit if you are >40!”
– Alex, V, VA
“The Skolai Trip was more than a memorable experience. Hiking, backpacking, camping and photography out there are, compared to other offers, affordable and well organized. A great compliment to our guide Carl, in whom we found a companion for upcoming new adventures.”
– Andy Seeger, Germany
Where Are We?
Backpack or Basecamp?
I’ve run this trip either way. Basecamp near the landing strip and only do day hikes, carrying camera gear, etc. Or we backpack to the far end of the valley (a day’s walk) and camp there, before returning to the landing strip area.
That decision is made as a group decision though, and we’ll discuss that during the booking process and see what folks would like to do.
Carl’s advice = move camp.
Is it buggy?
Skolai is never really buggy. A fall trip, late August/early September is likely to be completely bug-free.
June/July might see some mosquitoes. Nothing terrible though
What kind of camera gear do we bring?
Camera gear is largely personal preference. Some folks bring the kitchen sink, some bring very minimalistic setup.
I wouldn’t bring a big super-tele, like a 500mm F4 or anything. Some of the new lighter f5.6 zooms would be nice to have though.
Definitely your wider angle stuff and lightweight but sturdy tripod.
Carl’s recommendation = less is more. Lighter is better.
Do we need backpacking experience?
It’s preferable. I’ve run the trip with folks who’ve never backpacked, and they did fine. We can tailor it somewhat to match what you’re up for, but some experience is obviously going to ease your pain somewhat.
It’s a remote wilderness, accessible only via bush plane, and you need to be comfortable camping in that kind of situation.
What clothing gear do we need?
Typical Alaska backpacking gear. Conditions vary. See Alaska Backpacking FAQs.
Outfitted or not?
That’s up to you? Most of the folks who join our trips have their own backcountry gear, such as tents, stoves, etc, so it works well for them to outfit themselves.
If you’re a newbie, don’t have your own gear or don’t want to deal with bringing it all to Alaska, Expeditions Alaska can outfit and feed you. No worries.
Wildlife are usually present in the area, and photography of grizzly bears, red fox, Dall sheep and caribou also.
An array of birds, including shorebirds like Wandering Tattlers and Semipalmated Plovers, as well as raptors like the golden eagle and peregrine falcon is sometimes possible.
We do (usually) see bears but this is NOT a bear photo tour. Please see one of the other listings if photographing brown bears is your interest.
What’s Included – MXY trips?
All multi-day trips (backpacking, basecamping, packrafting, photo tours) out of McCarthy include transport to/from Anchorage/McCarthy, 2 nights accommodations in McCarthy, air taxi flights McCarthy/The Backcountry, group gear such as cook tents, fuel, BRFCs, bear spray, etc. Hiking poles are included if you don’t have your own.
We include a satellite phone for emergencies and one backup emergency contact device, such as PLB or Garmin InReach. First aid kits, map and compass included. All guides are Wilderness First Responder Certified.
Storage of your overnight travel gear is limited but available (keep it small).
Outfitting of equipment such as tents is available. Expeditions Alaska can either fully outfit your trip (all food, tents, etc) or adjust things a la carte if needed.
Guide gratuities are not included but most appreciated.
We do NOT cover the cost of your travel meals, such as meals along the road to/from McCarthy, or in McCarthy pre/post your backpacking trip.
Trip insurance is not included but I strongly urge you to purchase it on your own.
For a full outline of What’s included/not included, please see this page.
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