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.
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.
Where Are We?
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.
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.
We may hike east to west, Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines, or we may start at Bremner and hike east to Iceberg Lake.
You’ll receive a Trip Departure Packet upon your reservation with a detailed Gear section and a comprehensive Gear Check List for you. Read it carefully, and be sure you have the appropriate gear with you. We’ll do a gear review before your trip but you really should contact me with any questions you have before you arrive in AK.
Cash in McCarthy. Most vendors, such as restaurants and the bar, etc, do take credit card, but it’s a good idea to bring some cash as well.
You can leave an overnight bag with us in McCarthy, and any valuables (wallet, passport, etc in the safe with the air taxi if needed).
This trip, maybe more than most, is a pretty loose and flexible itinerary. Read below at your peril. 🙂
We really don’t have an solid itinerary for this route. It’s so flexible we can fly in and hike to the finish in a day or 2, or we can mosey along and enjoy the journey. Typically, we do more of the latter on this route.
It really works well as a basecamp, and we can explore the ridge and views, scramble down the backside of a few steep hillsides as we look for Dall sheep, or wander south over the opposite end of the mountainside. It’s pretty much up to you and the weather how we approach the hike.
The best option, I think, is a combination. Do a couple days basecamping near the eastern end of the ridge, and move westward at your leisure, spending a couple nights camped en route to the far end. This route works well for a 4 day trip or a weeklong jaunt as well. That’s up to you.
What wildlife are we likely to see here?
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.
Why do so few people visit this area?
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.
How are the bugs?
Really not bad at all. We’re high enough that this area doesn’t get a lot.
Do we need any special gear for this trip?
Nope. Standard Alaska backpacking gear is all.
Who do you recommend this trip for?
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.
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.
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.
What’s our travel schedule – MXY trips?
– We pick you up and drive to McCarthy, overnight there, and fly in to the backcountry the next morning. … hike … – We fly back to McCarthy, overnight there.
– 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 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.
Work hard, see far
The 7 Pass route is no joke. There are numerous points where, in the moment, you will curse the heavens; or recognize that if you slipped and fell, that you’d get seriously hurt. The passes are steep, the streams are cold, and the bushes get thick. All that said, if you’re mentally prepared and put […]From: Seattle WANumber of Trips: 1
Written on October 14th, 2021
Front seat to a bear fight.
Excellent trip. Front row seat to an amazing bear fight over food. Carl was Very Good. Knew how to get close to the bears. Helped me diagnose a camera problem twice. The boat captain was excellent.From: MinnesotaNumber of Trips: 1
Written on October 14th, 2021
Rhane, Rain and the Seven Pass Route
Expeditions Alaska can’t control the weather but Rhane, our guide helped our group cope with a week of rain by staying optimistic, positive and by providing a dinner and cook tent which he carried: his pack was 70 pounds – he’s an animal! Get the food package, it is worth it, the Guide prepared delicious […]From: Pagosa Springs, ColoradoNumber of Trips: 1
Written on October 14th, 2021
Unique Adventure in the Arctic
Cold and stark, yet stunning. Not the kind of backpacking I’m used to; this trip involved shoe-swallowing muskeg, rolling tussock, face-slapping bushwhacking, squishy mud puddles, and intermittent scrambling. Nevertheless, the views of the peaks and turquoise glacial lakes are incomparable.From: San FranciscoNumber of Trips: 1
Written on October 14th, 2021
First time in the backcountry exceeded my expectations
We could not have asked for better guiding on our first time backcountry camping. Expeditions Alaska did a great job of trying to accommodate a physically fit family of 4 with no camping experience, including our 12 and 15 year old. sons. Rachel fielded a vast array of questions from us and made sure to […]From: New York, NYNumber of Trips: 1
Written on October 14th, 2021
hello wilderness – Arrigetch peaks
If you’re looking for an off the beaten path hike this is it. Actually most of the time there is no path! For this trip you have to earn the right to hike these valleys and sit by sky blue alpine lakes. Be ready for slow hiking and rough terrain , your not going to […]From: HawaiiNumber of Trips: 1
Written on September 19th, 2021
No pictures can truly capture the splendor of the Arrigetch Peaks – you must walk among them! Yes, it’s hard work to get to them for most of us but the reward is worth the tired legs… Sheer granite peaks pushing up through the limestone of the overall Brooks Range, alpine lakes, cascading streams and […]From: AlaskaNumber of Trips: 2
Written on September 14th, 2021
Amazing backpacking trip
Spent 5 days and four nights on an absolutely incredible backpacking trip in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park this summer. I can’t wait to check out other trips.From: Oakland, CANumber of Trips: 1
Written on August 21st, 2021
Had a great 12-day rafting trip with Expeditions Alaska in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. The guides and equipment were excellent and the scenery and animals were extraordinary.From: Carson City, NVNumber of Trips: 1
Written on July 11th, 2021
I had a great time.
This trip met my expectations. The yoga and meditation were perfect for all levels. I am a beginner at both, but more experienced ladies were able to challenge themselves. I would have liked to have hiked more, but being in a group of mixed abilities, … I was the weakest link in the pack rafting, […]From: Wasilla, AKNumber of Trips: 1
Written on July 5th, 2021