McCarthy, AK

    Welcome to McCarthy

    If you haven’t been, I’m confident when I tell you that McCarthy is quite unlike any town you’ve visited before. I’ve been a visitor to the town for almost 20 years now and also spent my first two Alaska winters living here. McCarthy is definitely a place I kind of call home. Great people, great place and great times.

    Historic McCarthy

    The tiny town of McCarthy was established in the early 20th century, though the area had long been settled and explored by the Athabaskan people native to the region (the Ahtna).

    McCarthy developed rapidly as the nearby mining town of Kennicott began to grow. The Copper River and Northwestern Railway line was established and reached McCarthy in 1911, primarily to feed the mining settlement.
    McCarthy was essentially a small satellite town to the corporate center Kennicott. McCarthy was home to the bars and prostitutes forbidden in Kennicott and McCarthy quickly grew to become a sizable center.

    After the mining operation of Kennicott folded in 1938 McCarthy quickly fell into disrepair as most of the people moved away. The railway service was discontinued with the closing of Kennicott mine and this pushed the demise of the town. By the early 1970’s the population was almost zero.

    A few residents lived in the area and McCarthy started to become a small tourist attraction.

    In 1980 the Carter Administration created Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, 13+ million acres of Park and Preserve surrounding the town. Tourism began to grow and today the town is a small but fun hub for most tourism to the park.

    Today the population is listed as roughly 30 residents. The CDP (Census Designated Place) of McCarthy, AK is 150sq miles. That gives the town a Population Density of 0 (measured in persons per sq mile).

    In the summer that number swells nearly tenfold.


    Cash is best McCarthy. Most vendors, such as restaurants and the bar, etc, do take credit cards these days 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).

    MXY does have some cell service these days. Not all providers work. I have ATT and that does NOT work in MXY. Verizon usually does, as do Sprint, T-Mobile, etc. Alaska providers like GCI, ACS and Copper Valley Telecom work.

    McCarthy General Info

    Getting to McCarthy

    Getting to McCarthy is a bit of a mission.

    There is only one road here and that road doesn’t actually go all the way.

    At the end of the 60 mile dirt road from Chitina you’ll find a parking lot and a footbridge. Its a short 1/2 mile way into town or you can wait for a locally provided shuttle. If it’s not raining and you don’t have luggage, take the walk.

    The road can be pretty gnarly in the summer. Many car rental please don’t allow drivers to take their cars on the road. If you plan on driving be sure to check with your rental company before making plans.


    There are a number of places to stay in the area. Local residents provide B&Bs, cabins and hostels. There is a lodge in town as well as larger lodge in nearby Kennicott. There are a couple of camping areas in the area including one at the end of the road.


    There are quite a few choices for eating out. The Golden Saloon is a local bar with good fare. The adjacent fine dining bistro is another choice. The Potato is a great new place just up the road. Joe’s Meatza Wagon in Kennicott has great food. The Slow Down Cafe on the east side of the river is a nice breakfast place. Kennicott Glacier Lodge has excellent food as well. If you camp at Glacier View campground the owner Chris has burgers and similar fare as well.

    All the food here is good but expect to pay $$$ in McCarthy.

    Things To Do in McCarthy

    Enjoy the outdoors. Take a walk up the Wagon trail to Kennicott. it’s not quite 5 miles, one-way. Or catch a shuttle to Kennicott and explore the town there.

    You can take a guided hike through the old mill buildings (registered as National Historic Buildings).

    You can walk out towards the Glacier on a well maintained trail. It’s 2 miles one way Kennicott to the toe of the Glacier. If you have crampons you can get out on the ice and explore further. Best to hire my buddies at KWG and have them take you out.

    For the more adventurous take  day ice climbing with KWG.

    Super adventurous, bring your mountain bike and try riding the glacier. It’s a bit of a mission but kinda fun.

    Other hikes in the area include the Jumbo Mine walk, the Bonanza Mike hike (most common 4 miles up and back).

    You can also hike out to Erie Mine and back. you’ll find plenty of info on this stuff in McCarthy.

    Other options include rafting and packrafting on Kennicott Glacier and Kennicott Lake.

    If you really want a great trip fly in to Nizina Lake with us and do a basecamp or packraft trip.

    Things To Do

    Expeditions Alaska
    Visit the wild