The Lost Coast

The Edge of Nowhere. The End of Everywhere.

  • 5-9 days in the backcountry
  • A classic coastline hike
  • Packraft several river crossings
  • Grizzly bears
  • One of the most rarely traversed hikes in Alaska
  • Campfires on the beach
  • Check out Malaspina Glacier
  • Easier, flatter hiking grade

Hike along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, trek through old growth temperate rainforest, across a glacier and glacial moraine, packraft across coastal streams and rivers, watch sea lions in the surf and enjoy a fire on the beach at night. Oh, and how about a view of Mt. St. Elias?

This section of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is a real gem. Best of all, hardly anyone ever goes here.

That’s part of what makes it such a treat.

We’ll traverse the entire section of coastline from the edge of the St. Elias mountains and Mt. Cook. Hike west toward the coastal boundary of the park at Fountain Stream. We start near Strawberry Island and grand Wash River and make our way west along the shoreline.

We’ll spend some time up on Malaspina Glacier poking around and exploring on the edges of the glacier. We’ll also packraft and paddle part of Malaspina Lagoon just for a change of pace.

Packrafts are essential for this trip. The stream crossings are deep enough to warrant bringing packrafts. They also allow us to explore the Malaspina Lagoon and even camp on some of the islands in it.

The Route

Fly in from Yakutat, AK, to a landing zone on the beach near Fountain Stream. Set up camp, and then we might hike up Grand Wash a ways and check out some of the terrain in that area.

The coastal hiking is mostly pretty mild, walking on either soft sand or small rocks of the gravel shore. We can venture inland at times and walk through magnificent old growth Sitka Spruce forest, shadowing the footsteps of the great Grizzly bear on these incredible maze of bear trails; individual foot prints embedded deep in the moss illustrate centuries of journeys by Old Man Grizzly along the coast here.

We’ll use packrafts (provided for you) to cross the few rivers and streams on the trip. Easy paddling, fine for novices. Packrafts are also a good way to explore further inland, bushwhacking north away from the coast and then paddling any of various streams back toward the coastline.

Further west we’ll explore Sitka lagoon, and paddle over to the edge of Malaspina Glacier, and have a look at the forest growing on top of the ice there. Amazing, unique ecology and geology.

Campfires along the beach are awesome. Sit by the fire after supper and watch the waves roll in, listening to the sounds of the surf. The myriad calls of migratory birds in the forest accompany the coastal tune.

Sitka bluffs (now mostly Sitka boulders after centuries of erosive pounding from the Pacific Ocean) are really the only challenging hiking en route. They’re also the best place to get a good view of the Stellar’s Sea lions here, as the sea lions haul out on rocky outcrops near here. Their barking and banter is always fun to hear.

Keep heading west and we’ll get to our pickup location near Fountain Stream. If we arrive here early, it’s a good place to make a day hike up toward the glacier, and packraft back down the stream to the coast. The air taxi will pick us up on the beach and we fly back to Yakutat.

Trip FAQs

  • Point to Point, hiking solidly the whole way, 4-5 days or so. Optimally? I’d suggest 5-8 days.

  • Rivers. Glaciers, ice, grizzly bears, Stellar’s Sea Lions. Mt. St. Elias. Malaspina Glacier. Beaches and shoreline.

  • In 2014, excluding guided hunters and fishing trips, the entire district for this area (150 miles long) had a sum total of 2 people backpack and/or raft it; yes, only two (2) people! Chuck and myself in early June!

  • Definitely.

    We’ll bring packrafts (provided for you) for the river crossings. Also some small dry bags for your gear. Mostly we’ll just paddle across the rivers and streams, so we won’t be running anything too rigorous. Perfect for novice paddlers. Good rain gear. Bugspray and headnets. Other than that, standard backpacking gear (maybe trail shoes rather than boots).

  • Not. Some people might struggle on the boulder field. But there’s really no elevation gain to speak of, some bushwhacking though. We may do a little bushwhacking, but nothing terribly challenging. The packrafting is mild, pretty easy, great for beginners.

    This is a good trek for someone with less experience, but an adventurous spirit and a willingness for a really wild and unique trip.

  • Expeditions Alaska will outfit your packrafting trip. That includes packraft, spray skirt and boat deck, dry suit or splash wear (trip dependent), neoprene paddling gloves and booties. Whitewater trips include helmets. All paddlers are provided with an approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device).

    Dry bags are included for you as well.

    Your guide will also carry a tow strap, throw bag and line, plus the usual backcountry safety equipment of sat phones, first aid kits, etc.

    If you have your own equipment, you’re welcome to use that instead. Let’s talk about it first and make sure your rig is appropriate for this trip.

  • If you’d like, Expeditions Alaska can handle your backcountry food for the trip. Cost depends on trip length, but it’s typically $325 for a 2-4 day trip, and $425 for a trip 5 days or longer (backcountry days).

    We will organize and pack the food, handle all backcountry prep, as well as pots and pans, the stove/s, fuel and your mess kit. Assistance for cleanup and dishes is always appreciated, but not requisite.

    NB: this means, if we’re doing food for your trip, you must arrive with requisite space in your backpack for your share of the food. This typically means a BV500, sized 8.7 in. diameter. (22.1cm) x 12.7 in. (32.3cm) height. There’ll also be your mess kit (cup, bowl, cutlery, etc) and maybe some additional group gear, whether it’s a fuel bottle, stove or pan or skillet. In general your guide will carry the bulk of this stuff, but we certainly can’t and don’t intend to carry all of it. So don’t arrive with a backpack packed full, no space left in it, if we’re doing your food for you. Your food goes in your pack.

    More info linked on the page below.

    All your questions about our backcountry food answered right here.

  • Trip dependent. For a 12 day backpack and packraft you can expect a different constitution of food than you’ll see on a 5 day basecamp trip.

    Another thing to remember is Expeditions Alaska isn’t a simple “production line” outfit. Guides all have their own systems and menus and favorites, so we don’t have a generic “here’s your trip menu” at all. Menus vary trip to trip. Often a lot.

    What I can tell you is you’ll enjoy good food. Really good food. Whether it’s a great pizza, a dish of Pad Thai or greek salad or a lentil soup, I assure you that you’ll appreciate your guides’ culinary expertise. Good food takes a bit extra effort, but can really help bring your trip experience up a notch. Or three.

    We do our best to accommodate most dietary requirements, tastes and preferences. We have a comprehensive food form for you to complete and we’ll do our very best from there to put together a menu for the trip that you’ll enjoy.

    This is a common question we get , and an important one. So important, it warrants its own page.

    All your questions about our backcountry food answered right here.

  • That is trip dependent.

    For backpacking trips, a fully outfitted option includes your tent (one or two person tent), all your kitchenware, food and cooking by Expeditions Alaska. A typical trip, up to 12 days long, costs an additional $450.00 per person for the fully outfitted option ($350 for 4 day trips or shorter).

    Available “á la carte” options are (per person)

    Tent $50.00/tent
    Food/cooking $325.00 (up to 4 day trip duration)
    Food/cooking $425 (any trip 5 days or longer)

    For personal items such as a backpack, or sleeping pad, talk to me prior to your trip and we’ll see if we can possibly arrange something. If you need a pack I recommend you rent a backpack from a reputable local outfitter. They can find and fit a pack to you rather than “making do” with one of mine that may or may not be a good fit for you.

    Items such as BRFC, bear spray, fuel, hiking poles are included gratis with Expeditions Alaska trips. See What’s Included? for more info.

  • 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 nine ten consecutive hiking trips with Expeditions Alaska speaks volumes for the value of a good guide.

    * Travel and Accommodations: Expeditions Alaska typically offers a complete Door-to-Door service.

    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.

    For all other trips, check first as to exactly what the plan is.

    * 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.

    Extra Info

    Please note

    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 trips MUST be 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 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.

The Place

The Lost Coast

The coastline here is a long stretch of shore that parallels the terminus of the Malaspina Glacier. One could possibly suggest it IS the terminus of the glacier.

The terrain is mixture of temperate forest and more open brush lands. At times we’ll hike on sandy beaches and at times we’ll hike on boulder fields. Boulders are synonymous with glacial terminus. Moraines become boulder fields. Some of the hiking is on ancient bear trails through the forest.

Mt. St. Elias

Sovereign of the park. Mt. St. Elias towers over 18 000′ right from sea level. It’s definitely a sight to behold and one of the grand mountains of the world.

Best views of the mountain are found out on the glacier or the lagoon. We’ll get some vantages points along the shoreline but trees and brush often obscure us.

The Packrafting

Easy Paddling/h2>
This area is a great intro to packrafting location. The waterways are not turbulent. Even the larger streams here are Class I water. Packrafts allow us to cross the rivers safer and easily.

They also allow us to more easily explore inland a little further. We’ll hike up toward the lagoon and poke around there a while. When we’re done there we choose one of a number of streams to float us back to the beach to continue our hike.

Packrafting Malaspina Lagoon on Lost Coast backpacking and packrafting trip, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Where Are We?

Trip Options & Extensions

One option is to hike to Malaspina Glacier and then use the packrafts to paddle west, covering the first leg of the trip. Then we’ll come back to the coast 10 miles west of here.

Looking for a longer trip? One option is to add this hike to the Malaspina Glacier Traverse. We can easily make this a 2 week trek, and even add in a food drop/cache so we don’t have to carry all the food from Day One.

We can also spend a couple of days up at Malaspina Lagoon, paddling and exploring before making our way back down to the coastline.

Who's It For?

Those folks looking for a real getaway, without the challenge of rigorous mountain trek. Off trail hiking in Alaska can be tough, and this trip offers a great way to find some real wilderness, solitude and adventure without all the adversity of mountain terrains.

Are you looking for something different? This trip is a gem, yet very, very few people ever visit the area. You’ll be VERY unlikely to run across anyone here.

Few folks from outside Alaska have experience with packrafts, and the Lost Coast trip offers a great introduction to this type of adventure.

Trip Logistics

We’ll depart out of Yakutat, AK (you can fly there via Alaska Airlines). We take a short air taxi ride across Disenchantment Bay to The Lost Coast, unload and begin the walk.

At the end of the hike, we’ll meet up with our pilot, load up and fly back to Yakutat. Either overnight there or catch an evening flight out to Anchorage or Juneau.

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