Spent the day yesterday, last night and part of today in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. I’ve never been to a National Park that allows boondocking, but this one does according to the Ranger in the Slana Ranger Station Visitor Center on Nabesna Road. What a beautiful place to boondock! They even have picnic tables and rustic campfire pits at most pull offs along the road. At mile 28 on the Nabesna Road there is a free, ten site campground at Twin Lakes. There were five tents set up there but since we don’t usually stay in campgrounds, we drove through the campground, looked around, left and went to a pull off that overlooks Twin Lakes, the forest and the Wrangell Mountain Range.
Nabesna Road into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park–
Accessing this National Park is difficult unless you catch a flight and fly into a remote wilderness area. From there you are on your own unless you are with some kind of Wilderness Adventure Guide and are looking forward to hiking and camping in the Wilderness. That was not part of our plan. We had hoped to explore part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park using our RV and figured to use the three roads into the park. The roads barely penetrate this huge park but we figured it was a start.
Last week, we took the McCarthy Road into the Park, looked around McCarthy and toured the Kennicott Mine operation. This trip was very difficult as the dirt road is so bad with so many potholes and washboard areas that it rattled the teeth in our heads. We were determined to see part of the park on the McCarthy Road and while it was worth the struggle, we would not take a lesser built rig on that road. If you really want to see that area and don’t want to take your vehicle, there is van transport available for a fee. We have been told by others that the McCarthy Road was the worst road they ever drove. We won’t argue with that assessment and we have driven a lot of dirt roads in various states of disrepair.
The Nabesna Road also goes into the park and it, too, is a dirt road but it is worlds apart from the McCarthy Road. The first 12 miles are paved and the dirt road part up to mile 28 is quite well maintained (for a dirt road) and that is as far as we went. After the 28 mile mark, you are fording streams that run across the road, etc. Were there potholes? Some but not too bad. Were there any washboard areas? A few but they were short lived. Was there any traffic to worry about? We saw two other cars on this road and one RV. Could most any two wheel drive vehicle make it on this road? We think so if; you go slow, only travel the first 28 miles (can’t comment on the road after 28 miles) and don’t expect it to be an interstate highway, at least as the road conditions stand today.
If you go into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve via the Nabesna Road, and we think everyone SHOULD see at least part of this park, be sure to stop at the Slana Ranger Station to check road conditions and to pick up the map and free CD Audio Tour. For those who want to stay in the park but not bring their RV there’s a lodge as well as some free public use cabins you can reserve. We met a man who was staying at the Viking Lodge Public Use Cabin with his family. He said he had reserved it for his family’s use through the park service.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve–
What is there to say about a place that is part of a huge World Heritage Site? What words can capture the grandeur? This National Park is so big that it easily contains multiple glaciers, lakes, streams and rivers, a mountain range and many mountains that are part of other mountain ranges, etc. plus much of it is wilderness. One of the glaciers in the park (the Malaspina Glacier) is said to have the mass the size of Rhode Island. An amazing place, beautiful, too huge to fully describe and rarely visited compared to some our other popular National Parks. There’s a lot of wildlife in this park but we only saw fox and squirrels besides various birds.
We feel very lucky to have seen even a small part of the less visited northern part of this wonderful park. We love that this huge, beautiful area has been put aside by the United States for future generations to come and enjoy. What this means to us is that our great grandchildren and their great grandchildren will likely see what we have seen in these past few days. Truly priceless.