Being one of the largest wilderness preservations in the world, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska has plenty of options when it comes to adventure, particularly some of the United States’ premier glacier trekking and ice climbing. Occupying more than 13 million acres, America’s largest national park is larger than Switzerland and has four of the six tallest peaks in the country, including the second tallest summit, Mount St. Elias at just over 18,000 feet. In Alaska, mountains offer many opportunities for adventure. Traversing a frozen landscape surrounded by breathtaking peaks is tough to top.
At Wrangell-St. Elias, it’s easier to find a blissful solitude among the epic terrain than in other national preserves. Less than a fifth of the number of visitors to Denali make it to Wrangell-St. Elias. Even the park’s visitor center, located 190 miles from Anchorage on the northeast corner of the park, is a place where one can be fully exposed to the natural world.
Both Kennicott Wilderness Guides (kennicottguides.com) and St. Elias Alpine Guides (steliasguides.com) operate within the park and can take aspiring glacier trekkers and ice climbers of any experience level out on a daytime glacier excursion. From putting on your harness to skirting up an icefall and belaying back down it, the guide’s job is to get you on and off the glacier safely with a story to tell back home. A popular trek for beginners is on Root Glacier between Mount Regal and Mount Blackburn, the second-highest volcano in the U.S.
Based out of McCarthy, Alaska, in the center of the park, both guide companies will teach you the basics of ice climbing—what crampon techniques to use, how to use your ice tool to properly ascend a vertical icefall, which dangerous rock and ice formations to watch for—in one of the most jaw-dropping landscapes in the world.
Not many have come to face the challenges and glimpse the sights that this Alaskan wilderness has to offer. Even with climate change affecting glaciated areas around the world, this backcountry behemoth is still one of the most pristine places on the planet, with glacier trekking being one of the ultimate ways to experience it. To get information on visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, go to nps.gov/wrst.