Steamboat Hills

Hike in the Heart of the Park. Camp Above the Clouds.

  • Basecamp or backpack
  • Easy, tundra walking
  • Ideal for the family trip
  • All transport Anchorage to/from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
  • 2 nights accommodation in McCarthy, Alaska
  • 2 bush flights in/out of the backcountry

This is one of those guided hiking trips that offers something for everyone. A wonderful place to bring the family, relax, watch Dall sheep and enjoy some of the most amazing views in Alaska.

The rolling open tundra of the area makes for easy hiking with lots of options for base-camping, dayhiking and exploring the area.

Of course you can always shoulder that load and backpack from one landing strip to another.

Your choice.

This guided tour has so many options and choices it’s easy to spend up to 10 days here, hiking and backpacking the high alpine country. The terrain here is very easy to walk over unlike some of the other more rugged areas of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It’s a perfect choice for those looking for a milder, yet still very remote, backcountry hiking experience.

Wildlife in the area include Dall sheep, with ewes and lambs often along the open country. Small bands of full-curl horned rams can be found climbing the steep ridges to the north. Ground squirrels are common in the area as are picas, small, rabbit-like mammals frequenting the rocky screes slopes along the ridges.

Many birds nest in the area. Semipalmated and Golden Plovers, Tattlers and other small migratory birds. Raptors such as Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagles are often seen soaring the skies above.

A number of clear deep lakes make great swimming holes. A refreshing stop at lunch or when the weather is warm. The cool water is also nice to jump into after a couple of days in the backcountry, cleaning off the dirt and sweat from several days hiking. A quick dip and you’re ready for a few more days up here.

The Place

Sunset from Steamboat. Gilahina Butte and Lost Butte are the small hills in the distance.

Above these lakes, the ridges offer unbelievable views of some of the biggest and most impressive mountains in North America. Mt Blackburn (16 000′), Mt Logan (19 000′), Mt St. Elias (18 000′), Mt Churchill (15 000′), Mt Bona (16 000′) and Mt Sanford (15 000′) are all visible from the high country here if the weather remains clear.

There’s simply no better place in all of the park to see each of these grand mountains. The views extending across some of the broad open glacial formed valleys of the Tana, Chitina, Nizina and Chitistone Rivers are truly breathtaking. The views help impart some sense of scale as to just how infinite the backcountry is here.

The high alpine tundra make it relatively brush free walking. Always a plus in Alaska.

We’re on the northern edges of the eastern Chugach Mountains, just south of the Chitina river.

The Hiking

Part of what makes this area so nice is the easy walking. The terrain is almost entirely open tundra. There are no alder thickets or willow patches to struggle through, no fields of boulders strewn along the way that you must carefully traverse, no slippery icefields and glaciers to negotiate.

The rolling open tundra of these ridges is a great place for a more moderate walk and especially nice for a family trek or for those otherwise less adventurous souls; those for whom the idea of a great hike doesn’t involve wondering why the miles are measured in hours.

It’s also a great place for a photo trip. Basecamp and dayhike to explore the landscape and look for interesting compositions or stalk the wary Dall sheep rams that frequent the area. I saw possibly the biggest ram I’ve ever seen in my life up on this ridge a few years ago.

Steamboat Hills are a small range of rolling hills that few people visit. The area is very remote, accessible only via a small bush plane. We’ll fly out of McCarthy, enjoy a short flight over the forested lowlands of Wrangell-St. Elias NP, land high on an open ridge, and spend 6 days with your guide, hiking, camping, backpacking and exploring the many sights and opportunities offered in this amazing place.

If the weather holds, you’ll find no better place to enjoy a game of Alpine tundra frisbee, with a backdrop better than you could ever imagine.

Book this one early!

Where Are We?

Trip Logistics

You need to arrive in Anchorage (at the latest) the day before your trip departure date is scheduled for. Organize your accommodation in Anchorage this night. We’ll pick you up at your doorstep in the morning.

You should arrange your departure from Anchorage no earlier than the day following the date of our scheduled trip Final Day. Again, schedule your accommodation in Anchorage for this night. Expeditions Alaska will provide you with a trip Departure Packet that lists a variety of options in Anchorage.

Trip Itinerary

This trip, maybe more than most, is a pretty loose and flexible itinerary. Read below at your peril. 🙂

Trip FAQs

  • Mostly Dall sheep. They like it here in part because there is low pressure from predators like wolves and bears.

    Of course you’ll likely see arctic ground squirrels and maybe pikas as well. Those critters draw small predators like fox or coyote, and raptors such as hawks and eagles. So keep your eyes tuned skyward as well.

  • I have no idea. For the most part however, it’s a little visited area, which is just the way I like it. Easy walking, great camping and not too many other people.

  • Really not bad at all. We’re high enough that this area doesn’t get a lot.  thumbs up emoji

  • Nope. Standard Alaska backpacking gear is all.

  • Anyone looking for a relaxing easy trip. It’s great for families with small kids. It’s great for those folks looking to just get away and enjoy the quiet. it’s great for those folks wanting a basecamp and day hike trip.

    It’s also a nice easy backpack for those wanting to deal with moving camp every day, but not go overboard with some of the difficult terrain we have elsewhere here in Alaska.

  • There certainly is.

    Avoid the hassles of carrying a heavy backpack. As an example, travel to our jumping-off destination, overnight, fly into the backcountry, camp and explore the area via day hikes and packrafts (* option on some trips), fly back, overnight and return travel to Fairbanks/Anchorage. Trip logistics and itinerary will vary with the specific trip. Fully-outfitted or do it yourself.

    These trips are extremely flexible, wonderfully fun and a whole lot easier on your body than a 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.

  • 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.

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