High, open, subalpine terrain. A tent needs to be sturdy and durable here.
There are a number of great sites for basecamping in the area. We can camp up by the face of Mt. Jarvis the duration of your stay, or we can move camp after a night or two down the ridge a little.
Easy, open tundra to explore and wander. Or sit back and soak in the view.
It’s all about Mt Jarvis. Rising over 5000′ above the surrounding Wrangellia Plateau, Jarvis dominates everything. Two peaks (distinct enough to qualify as separate two “thirteeners”) and a jagged, ice covered vertical face make this view something to behold.
Turn 180 degrees and cast your eyes on a feast of endless hills and plateaus and valleys. The Wrangell Mountains slip away beneath you toward the eastern edge of the Alaska Range and on in to neighboring Canada beyond. You simply can’t see far enough here.
Unless you’re choosing a packraft option to get back to Nabesna, nothing too challenging. The hiking is very doable even for novice backcountry travelers.
Obviously weather in the high country is always a possible mechanism of concern. It’s not uncommon to snow at 8000′ in Alaska during the summer.
Standard 3 season backpacking gear for Alaska.
Packrafting gear (if you choose that extension) will be provided and is flown in at the end of the hiking section. You will not have to carry packrafting gear. Contact me for a chat about packrafting Jackson River.
We travel from Anchorage to Nabesna, overnight in Nabesna and then fly in to the backcountry. One week up on the Plateau area, then an easy hike down to a landing strip for the pickup. We then fly back to Nabesna, shower and eat, and then enjoy the afternoon relaxing, or take a day hike on one of the trails in the area. We spend the night in Nabesna, and travel back to Anchorage on the final day. If conditions are good, we might leave early to catch dawn alpenglow on Mt. Sanford – always a treat!
Where Are We?
I put this itinerary online here to give visitors to the site a more detailed look at this trip and what options it might include.
What I work hardest on is tailoring trips to the specific interests and abilities and experience of the people who hike with us. No 2 trips are the same. Where possible, we don’t use the same campsites trip to trip. We often even vary the route.
I try to be flexible with how far we hike each day, how many days we spend in the backcountry. What time we get up in the morning, for example, is largely up to the trip participants (unless for some reason I feel we need to be up and on the trail by a particular time – this rarely happens).
is a pretty mild hike; nothing really too challenging, unless you really want to “go big”. 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 Jarvis Plateau route: for simplicity sake, I’ll assume the trip dates are Aug 1 – Aug 8.
Realize everything here is simply an example. I’ve spent time up here just basecamping and dayhiking, or backpacking several miles a day, or a more adventurous expedition. We’ll figure out what itinerary works best for you and the group, and go from there.
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 Nabesna, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. The drive typically takes about 6-7 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 Glennallen area. Then we head north and east along the Tok Cutoff, to Slana. Clear skies offer incredible views of the Wrangell Mountains just to the south.
At Slana, we’ll enter the park and drive the remaining 40 miles to Nabesna. We’ll stay there at Devil’s Mountain Lodge, have a great big dinner, and get some rest.
The following morning we’ll need an early start. Pack up gear, eat breakfast at the lodge, and then load the bush plane for our flight into the backcountry. We land up high, around 7000′ right by the face of Mt Jarvis. Some nice campsites can be found up a little higher, so we’ll likely head up that way and make camp that afternoon.
It’s crazy to leave this area too soon, so I advise spending a day or 2 up here, and we can explore the neck of Jacksina Glacier, the face of Mt Jarvis, and the ridge we’re camped on. Dayhiking options abound. A scramble up a nearby unnamed peak will top us out at over 8000′; one of the few places anywhere in Alaska you’ll be this high ASL without crampons and ice axes.
Pack up and hike over the open rolling tundra to a new campsite to the south Easy hiking. Keep your eyes peeled for Dall sheep and caribou up here.
Staying up on the tundra, we’ll saunter down a little lower, and camp by a couple of lakes.
Descend off the plateau and find our way over to the Jacksina River where the landing strip is. We’ll camp and then spend the afternoon dayhiking up and/or down the wide open river valley.
The pilot will come in and pick us up after breakfast, and we’ll fly back to the lodge. Drop off gear there, shower and change, eat lunch, and spend the afternoon on one of the many dayhikes in the area, if you like. Back at the lodge for dinner.
We’ll get up early, have breakfast and hit the road for the drive back to Anchorage. Typically we get back to Anchorage around 5 or 6 pm. I’ll drop you and you/r party off at your Anchorage accommodation. I highly suggest you don’t plan on flying out of Anchorage that evening, but wait until the following day – we CAN experience weather-delays in the backcountry that could easily make it difficult to get back to Anchorage in time for a flight on this day. If you must book your return flight on this day, please (a) speak with us about it well in advance, and (b) schedule a red eye, such as 1:00am the following morning (Aug 9, 1:00am, for our example here).
Is it buggy?
Not generally.We’re high enough that we’re out of bug country, for the most part.
On the other hand, if you choose a trip extension like packrafting down the Jacksina River to Nabesna, you’ll likely run into some mosquitoes en route, particularly July/early August.
What wildlife will we be likely to see?
Possibly Dall sheep. Maybe caribou. I’ve seen both those species up here. Grizzlies do venture up to this area, but not routinely. We sometimes see moose along the Nabesna Road as well.
Small critters like arctic ground squirrel and marmots or pikas are likely as well. Red fox sometimes as well.
Why do so few people venture to this location?
Nabesna doesn’t have quite the same tourist infrastructure set up as, say, McCarthy & Kennicott. Hence, it draws far fewer people. But the hiking here is really every bit as stunning and in some ways more amenable to a diverse and wider group of adventurers.
Looking to really “get away” and find some solitude? The north side of the park (Nabesna side) is amazing. Looking to traverse some rugged and wild terrain with epic views of these really magnificent Wrangell Mountains? North side wins again!
Is there a basecamp option available?
There certainly is.
Avoid the hassles of crying a heavy backpack. Travel to McCarthy, overnight, fly in to the backcountry, camp and explore the area via day hikes and packrafts (* option on some trips), fly back to McCarthy, overnight 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.
I Have More Questions
I know you do. I do as well.
I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page
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.
Tim Block, Rochester MN
My wife and I just completed a two week trip with Carl In June 2017. One week of kayaking at Icy Bay, “ice-breaking” in our kayaks, moose, wolverine, seal and sea lion watching, glacier calving, good conversation around the camp stove, all at the foot of Mt St Elias. A second week, exploring the tundra […]
Laura H., Houston, Texas
I did the Aurora trip with Carl in March 2017, and I had an excellent experience and came away with some shots that I was really happy with. We were lucky and were able to see the Aurora every night of the 6-night trip. And while luck played a part, I know that Carl’s careful […]
Julien F, NYC
I’m just back from the bald eagles november photo trip with Carl and it was amazing. Thousands of eagles right here, posing for the camera, in the charming and quiet town of Haines. Carl was a wonderful guide and photography teacher. I learnt a lot about eagles, Alaska, and photography, notably improving my skills and […]
Hank S, GA
“Carl — just wanted to say hi and thank you for the awesome trip to Katmai! My pictures are fantastic!! – If you will be offering the trip again in 2013 I am very interested. Thank you again for fantastic trip last year”. – Hank S, GA Related Articles
Bob Schlatter, CA
“Carl, I think you have raised the bar for photographing bears with your tour. The experience of being with those magnificent creatures will last a lifetime. Everyday brought new and exciting opportunities, being in the water or on the river bank made it so much better. …. Mark was fantastic, his meals were varied and […]
David Campbell, Australia
“Carl really made sure I had the best possible shooting opportunities and drove out to numerous different sites. Most nights we traveled hundreds of miles in search of good foreground interest (Carl knows all the great spots) I could not recommend Expeditions Alaska higher!” — Dave C Related Articles
George Kelly, CA
In my opinion, there is no other wilderness guiding company out there that can match what Carl Donohue provides to his clients….professionalism, fun, excitement, and his services are worth ever dime spent to experience the wilds of Alaska. Thank you Carl. Related Articles
Carl did such an amazing and conscientious job of putting us in position for the killer shot. His experience photographing really showed and I could not be more pleased with the result. Related Articles
Alex V, VA
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 […]
Dan Lind, AZ
Trip could not have been any better! Related Articles