Adventures in Oz

Walk the Wrangell Mountains. The Land of Oz.

  • Backpacking, photography, glacier hiking
  • Flexible 4-10 day itinerary
  • Air taxi flight over the glacier
  • Spectacular views of Mt. Blackburn and Kennicott Glacier
  • Gorgeous alpine pass
  • Often see Dall sheep and mountain goats
  • Packrafting optional extension

Welcome to the Land of Oz. A short but absolutely stunning backpacking trip in the Wrangell Mountains.

This backpacking trip is a shorter section of a longer trek from Nugget Creek and the Kuskulana Glacier to Kennicott. Your hike starts at the Lakina River in the Wrangell Mountains just south of the glaring face of 16 000′ Mt. Blackburn.

We hike up towards the mountain, cross a creek and ascend into one of the prettiest little alpine passes in the mountains . Locals call it “Oz”.

The Backpacking Trip

This backpacking route is becoming more popular every year for good reason. It’s not an overly difficult hike, though still challenging enough for most folks. It’s a flexible route with various options for exploring the many hanging valleys and ridges along the way. You’ll have a blast up here.

The alpine pass between Hidden Creek drainage and the Lakina is simply gorgeous. Green hillsides, alpine lakes, hanging glaciers and cirques on the mountaintops. Everyone falls in love with this region.

Once over the pass we descend the drainage alongside Hidden Creek down to Hidden Lake. This lake is what’s known as a joukaloupe. From here we head north along the lateral moraine of the Kennicott Glacier to our destination at the Fosse.

Backpacking Trip Options

This trip is the mid-section of the Nugget Creek-Kennicott route. This is a good option for those maybe not quite up to the rigors of the longer more arduous route but are still looking for an adventurous hike in some amazing landscape. We get many of the same big views with fewer miles, fewer rivers to cross, and we avoid the 2 strenuous moraine crossings at either of the complete route.

Looking for a nice short but rewarding Alaska backpacking trip? This may well be just the one for you.

Trip Highlights

This route is possible in just a few days but really is a great option for a week long trip. One week nicely allows time to explore the Hidden Creek drainage. It’s a real treat to hike through, definitely one of the prettiest little alpine valleys in the park, if not all of Alaska.

We then cross a small ridge and ascend up the valley towards Mt. Blackburn and the ‘the Fosse’, a small depression between the glacier and the mountains next to the lateral moraine.

A day on the glacier is a nice option too. Most folks have never hiked on a glacier before, so this is always fun.

The side canyon up Glacier Creek is a nice walk, and there are some wonderful day hikes in the upper alpine valley region as well.

You’ll have a blast hiking in Oz.

The Place

Mt. Blackburn

The 5th highest mountain in the country sits a few miles north of our route.  Mount Blackburn dominates its surrounding landscape like all big mountains, towering above you as you hike.

16 390’ high.

Blackburn is named after Sen Joe Blackburn, a US senator from Kentucky. The local Ahtna name for the mountain is K’a’si Tl’aadi or “the one at cold headwaters”.

Kennicott Glacier

Pouring off the southeastern face of the Mt. Blackburn, Kennicott Glacier is perhaps the best known of the glaciers that take the mountain as their headwaters. Let’s take an extra day, and wander around on this chunk of ice.

Nearly 30 miles in length, we never know exactly what we’ll find on these glaciers. Every hike is something different.

Trip Logistics

We travel from Anchorage to McCarthy, overnight in McCarthy and then fly in to the backcountry. A week in the backcountry area and we fly back to McCarthy, show and eat and afterward 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.

There’s a link below in the FAQ section to a comprehensive outline of your return travel schedule Anchorage – McCarthy.

Where Are We?

Trip FAQs

  • Varies with your experience, fitness and experience. It’s an easy two day walk for strong experienced hikers. For those folks looking to explore a little more, and not push quite so hard, 4 days of hiking is nice. Six nights gives you more time to spend at Kennicott Glacier and up in the high alpine country. There are plenty of hike-able areas to wander.

  • Maybe. I usually see Dall sheep up here, and some times mountain goats. We’ve also seen grizzly and black bears along the way. Moose do live in the area (Lakina River valley is good moose country) but I haven’t seen any myself.

    We’ll also see the usual smaller critters, such as Arctic ground squirrel, marmots and so on.

  • Not overly so. Earlier in summer they are worse than later. Bring a headnet and repellent.

  • Possibly. This trip is becoming a little more popular, partly because of it’s proximity to McCarthy, and also because it’s such a fun walk. But you won’t see many. Two other groups of people hiking on this trip would be a lot.

  • Sure. that’s always fun. You never know quite what you might find out on on the ice.

    We’ll want crampons unless you just want a short hour long walk on the ice. If you’re up for it, we’ll bring crampons and add a day to the trip for the glacier. See below.

  • Standard 3 season backpacking gear for Alaska. Crampons an option if you want to do any real glacier travel at the start of the trip. Packrafting gear for that option will be provided, and flown in at the end of the trip. You will not have to carry the gear for the trip.

  • Trevor, legend from Wyoming, says this

    Trevor Boley Alaska backpacking guide avatar
    Trevor B

    “The Adventure To Oz is one of our most underrated trips. A great one for backpackers who are intimidated by Alaska’s off-trail walking but still want a full-value adventure.

    The flight to the starting point is short, and the views are insane. Your jaw drops at Blackburn, a 16,000-foot inactive volcano, 2 massive glaciers (one of which is the second largest staircase glacier in the world), and the famous mines of Kennicott.

    On the first day you see a drained glacier-dammed lake. The water that charged under the glacier in the spring has left behind enormous icebergs on the ground through which Hidden Creek charges through.

    The Hidden creek drainage is mostly limestone. Enormous gushing springs, some of which are the size of small rivers, pump out of the cliffs.

    As you walk along you gaze up drainages that defy reason: gigantic ice fields pop up over the ridge lines, giving you a sensation that the grand valley you are in is small compared to the Wrangell’s peaks and ice above.

    The final views at the top of the pass cannot be described. In my opinion, it possesses one of the most beautiful singular views of any of our 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. I strongly urge you to purchase it on your own. Our recommendation is Travelex.

    For a full outline of What’s included/not included, please see this page.

  • Very briefly

    Day 1 – We pick you up and drive to McCarthy, overnight there, and fly in to the backcountry the next morning. … hike … 2nd Last day – We fly back to McCarthy, overnight there.

    Last Day – We take you back to Anchorage and drop you at your hotel.

    For a much more comprehensive outline and schedule of this, see this page

  • I know you do. I do as well.

    I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page

    More questions? Email me or call me  and we’ll go through them.

    Upon your reservation I’ll also send out a comprehensive trip information packet that covers just about everything and more you might imagine about your trip.

Who's It For?

Reflection and Wrangell Mountains in Oz, an alpine pass on the Hidden Creek backpacking trip, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Those people looking for a shorter hike may have well met their perfect match here at Oz.

The hike doesn’t cover a lot of miles and is a great 3-5 day backcountry trip. Beginner backpackers are fine but you must be able to traverse some steeper sidehill sections. One or two open exposed slopes can cause minor quibbles for those folks uncomfortable with looking down and wondering ‘what if’. Nothing too sketchy but it can challenge some hikers.

Advanced hikers looking for a few more days in backcountry might prefer to include a walk Through Oz as part of the Rugged Hike Home from Nugget Creek to Kennicott. If you’re interested in that trek, let me know. We’ve ran it a few times and it’s always a blast.

Biggest Challenges

River crossings. Unless Hidden Creek is at high water, the crossings are not too bad at all. Get used to the cold water however, as we usually cross 2-3 times on the way up the valley.

Some bushwhacking as noted in the itinerary.

Sidehilling is probably the hardest part of the route.

Steep exposure on a couple of sections.

Trip Extensions

There are two options for extending this trip. Contact us and inquire about either. Or, if you’re really looking for full on Alaska experience let’s chat about working in both of them.


One option is to start a little further west near the confluence of Nugget Creek and Kuskulana Glacier. Hike east to the Lakina River and complete our Hidden Creek itinerary. If you’re up for it continue on across two glaciers and walk right back to Kennicott. A fun and challenging hike. Not for the meek.


Experienced whitewater pack rafters only.
A second option is to packraft the Lakina River. See packraft trips for this info. Or drop me a note.

Trip Itinerary

The Hidden Creek backpacking trip in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a fun hike; 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 Hidden Creek route: for simplicity’s sake, I’ll assume the trip dates are Aug 1 – Aug 8.

Realize everything here is simply an example. I’ve hiked this route, point to point, in under 2 days, and I’ve also spent 9 days doing this route. I feel a 5-day backpacking trip (+ 2 days travel) is about perfect for this route. For a fun additional option, consider packrafting from our pickup location down the Lakina River instead of flying back to McCarthy (experienced paddlers only).

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