Lakina River Packrafting Trip

Pack It In. Pack it Out. Come Paddle the Lakina River.

  • Single Day Trip
  • Or a backpacking/packrafting combo
  • Overnight accommodation in McCarthy
  • Class II and III Water
  • Whitewater Paddling experience required

The Lakina is rapidly becoming one of the most popular packrafting trips in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

A great mix of Class II and Class III water, this is a fun river for paddlers with some whitewater experience.

We begin near the headwaters of the Lakina River in the Wrangell Mountains just below the outflow of the Lakina Glacier.

The first section of the paddle is easy, mostly flatwater. A few miles of fast but shallower water with few features to worry about. *

Below this is the canyon. The real fun starts here. Lot of features to watch for and lines to take that keep you on your toes. We’ll go through a comprehensive river safety talk with you before the run so you’re aware of what to watch for and how to approach this section.

You’ll finish you up at the junction with the McCarthy Road. Hop out, get changed and we’ll have as hustle for the short trip back to McCarthy. A hot shower, a good meal in town and an evening in McCarthy is always a fun wrap to packrafting the Lakina River.

* Primarily wood in the river. See FAQs.

Lakina River Packrafting Video

Packrafting Trip


This means you must have some previous whitewater packrafting or kayaking experience. Whitewater rafting doesn’t cut it.  Class III requisite.

You must be comfortable in whitewater. That is, swimming IN whitewater. You must be a strong swimmer and not “panicky” if you swim. Packrafting is about self-rescue. You swim, you flip your boat and climb back in.

If this is NOT you, we can talk about a 1-2 day packrafting course prior to this trip to get you setup for it.

Water levels of course also play a part. The Lakina at high water is pretty sporty.


We can run this trip as an overnight trip. Fly in from McCarthy in the afternoon, camp and begins he packraft out the next morning. Alternatively we can do the whole trip in one day. Fly in early, get on the river, packraft out and be back in McCarthy that evening.

We can also tack on one of 2 different backpacking trips beforehand. Oz is a popular option, great for beginner/intermediate hikers. For strong folks looking for something a bit burlier, talk to me about coming in from Kuskulana.

Trip FAQs

  • Not on my trip.

    If you’re a novice paddler but feeling confident, we can do a day or two packrafting course in McCarthy, on Kennicott Lake and Kennicott River and see how that goes.

  • Obviously #1 = drowning.

    We’ll go through a comprehensive river safety talk before the trip, as well as before get on the river, and then discuss more details as we go down the canyon.

    There are usually no sketchy features on the river other than wood in the river. Sweepers and strainers that can fall across the river.

    “Eddy out now” in Alaska waters means “get out of the river right now”.

  • Either/or. Possibly both.

    We can hike in from Kennicott Glacier (4-5 days). Folks not packrafting out will then fly back to McCarthy. We’ll also have the packrafting gear flown in to Lakina River at that point. Hence we don’t have to backpack with packrafting gear. And we can fly out some of our backpacking gear as well.

    Adventurous hikers looking for something a little more challenging can start the hike over west of here at Kuskulana River. It’s a similar length hike (4 days or s0 for good hikers), but much more challenging. Talk to me about it.

  • You sure can.

    Fully outfitting your trip is $250.00 per person, with group discount available. For single individual items, contact me and we’ll see what you need and work that out. A tent (1 or 2 person) is $200.00 per person for the trip. If you just want us to handle food, and have all your own gear (tent, etc) that’s $225.00 per person.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

You May Also Like
Expeditions Alaska
Visit the wild