Kennicott/McCarthy: A great Alaska TourSaver weekend! 

In Alaska Travelgram by scott

Flying over a massive glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

The Kennicott area in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a favorite Alaska destination for the McMurren tribe. We hit the road last Friday for a weekend getaway. 

It’s a five-hour drive from Anchorage to Chitina, on the banks of the Copper River. This is the beginning of the “McCarthy Road”, one of Alaska’s 35mph state-maintained highways. Also known as the “Edgarton Highway” , which actually starts at the cut-off from the Richardson Highway south of Copper Center.

Aerial shot of the historic mining district.

We’ve driven the road several times, but elected to fly this time with Wrangell Mountain Air. The 35-minute flight offers great views of the Copper River, of the Wrangell Mountains and the huge glaciers making their way down the valleys. The last part of the flight includes a big  sweep over the Kennicott and Root Glaciers, including a fly-by of the now-abandoned Erie Mine. Of course, there’s a bird’s-eye view of the old Kennecott Mining District (above), the Kennicott Glacier Lodge and many of the refurbished mine structures (thanks to National Park Service).

One of Wrangell Mountain Air’s Cessna 206 aircraft.

Use your $50 off coupon (per person, 1-4 people)  with Wrangell Mountain Air  in the Alaska TourSaver book to go flightseeing from McCarthy. They’ll fly you from McCarthy Airport (MXY) deep into the park to see the mountains, glaciers and rivers that few other visitors get to see.

Kennicott Glacier Lodge

The folks at Kennicott Glacier Lodge picked us up at the airport. They’ll also pick you up at the footbridge over the Kennicott River. There’s free parking at the footbridge if you’re staying at the lodge.

Kennicott Glacier Lodge is located up the road about five miles from the footbridge, right on “Main Street” in the Kennecott Mining District. The National Park Service rangers offer free walking tours. But for an in-depth tour of the mine buildings, including the 14-story Mill Building, ask the front desk to make a reservation for a “mill building tour” with St. Elias Alpine Guides.

On the patio at Kennicott Glacier Lodge.

The lodge was our base camp for adventure. We stay in the Main Lodge building, which features shared baths. It’s closer to the food! You can sit on the patio in the afternoon sun and enjoy a drink. We did it every day! Look out over the Kennicott Glacier to the mountains on the other side.

Enjoying a tall, cool one on the deck.

The historic mining district where the lodge is located is a throw-back to 100 years ago, when the Kennecott Copper Mine was at peak performance. You can see where the copper came from, how they got the ore to the mill building and how the high-grade ore was packed in sacks for the ride on the railroad to Cordova. It’s a fabulous story and an important part of Alaska history. All around the lodge there are reminders of the mining operation. The lodge sits on the location of the apartment building where the mine’s senior managers lived with their families.

What’s for dessert??

There’s one seating for dinner: 7:00 p.m. On the nights we stayed, they served halibut and filet mignon. DELICIOUS. If you’re going out on an adventure (glacier hike or rafting trip), the lodge will make you a lunch to take along! The breakfast buffet has something for everybody—you won’t go hungry! 

The Alaska TourSaver book: a treasure chest of travel savings

Use your $100 coupon in the Alaska TourSaver on your stay of two nights or more at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge.

Hiking with Jaxson on the Root Glacier

We went for a hike out to the Root Glacier with McCarthy River Tours. Our guide, John Pate, did a great job showing us around the blue pools, the waterfalls and the beautiful formations in the ice. We all had crampons for the sturdy grip.

Don’t forget to put the sunscreen UNDER your nose…or you’ll be sorry! #BigIce

Use your $95 coupon in the Alaska TourSaver book (or smartphone APP) to save on a private hike. John provided hiking poles and crampons. He had bear spray and a full first aid kit.

It’s about a three-mile hike out to the glacier from the lodge, so we stopped and ate our lunch before strapping on our crampons.

Don’t miss the chance to get up on the ice…it’s so cool to just walk up on the glacier! Of course, we all filled our water bottles with glacier water….SO DELICIOUS! 

Ask any river rafter: dry suits give you super-powers!

The next day, McCarthy River Tours picked us up at the lodge and took us to the toe of the Kennicott Glacier to go kayaking. Our guide, Anna, first fitted us with dry suits, a life jacket and oversized shoes to wear for the hike down to the boats.

Anna gives us a safety briefing before kayaking up to the ice.

The company uses inflatable kayaks to paddle around the lake. We paddled across the lake to watch the rocks falling down, revelaing the bare ice. The lake is getting bigger each year! 

There’s a $95 coupon for a private rafting trip with McCarthy River Tours.

Kayaking on Kennicott Lake. We watched the rocks roll down, exposing the bare ice of the glacier.

If you want to go on a longer raft trip down the Kennicott River, to the Nizina River or even the Copper River (5-7 days), check with McCarthy River Tours.

So, for a party of two travelers, the Alaska TourSaver trims $390 off your bill (if two others went flightseeing, that’s an extra $100 discount).

There’s a lot going on in Kennicott. There’s some great hiking, lots of history and plenty to see and do. Or, just sit back and watch the mountains, the glaciers, the sunrise, the sunset….the works.

View from the deck: the massive Wrangell Mountains and the Root Glacier.

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