When it comes to national parks, there doesn’t seem to be a bad one in the bunch. Unfortunately, some parks simply aren’t very well known. This can be for many reasons, including accessibility. Today, we’ll share nine amazing things you didn’t know about Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska.
Where Is Wrangell-St Elias National Park?
You can find Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. This 13.2 million-acre park is in the far southeast corner of the state’s mainland. The main visitor center sits 10 miles south of Glennallen, Alaska, on Highway 4, approximately 200 miles northeast of Anchorage and 250 miles south of Fairbanks.
There are multiple entrances, a few of which are long remote roads. From the north, you can reach the park from Slana on Nabesna Road, an all-dirt road with few services.
From the west, you can take the famous McCarthy Road from Chitina to the off-grid former mining town of McCarthy. This road is nearly 60 miles of dirt roads that are often in rough condition. Four-wheel drive and high clearance are recommended!
We drove the McCarthy Road out to Wrangell-St. Elias, and you can see our adventure in Go North Episode 14 after we visited the nearby town of Valdez.
9 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Wrangell-St Elias National Park
You’re going to notice a theme with this national park, and that theme is “large.” Everything about this park is large and expansive. Wrangell-St Elias National Park is nothing short of spectacular. Let’s take a look at just nine amazing things you didn’t know about this park.
1. It’s Home to the Largest Piedmont Glacier In the World
Piedmont glaciers are at the base of a mountain instead of being enclosed by a valley. They spill onto flat plains and spread out into bulb-like lobes.
Malaspina Glacier is North America’s largest glacier, and it sits right in Wrangell-St Elias National Park. The glacier is so large that it’s bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! It encompasses roughly 1,500 square miles.
2. It’s Home to Some of the Largest Volcanoes in the U.S. and Canada
If you’re looking for a massive volcano, Wrangell-St Elias National Park has what you seek. The Wrangell Mountains cover more than 2,000 square miles, and collectively the volcanic field has thousands of lava flows.
This area is also home to some of the highest peaks in all of North America. It’s here that you will find Mount Wrangell. Mount Wrangell is one of the largest and most active volcanoes in the entire world at 14,163 feet of elevation.
While it hasn’t erupted in over 100 years, Mount Wrangell is considered an “active” volcano. Sometimes visitors will see steam rising from vents in the summit crater, hinting at the molten heat far below.
3. This Park Houses the Largest Single Wilderness Area in the Nation and is Part of An UNESCO World Heritage Site
With more than nine million acres of wilderness area, this national park has the largest single wilderness area in the nation. It’s protected to preserve its natural state, giving you a glimpse at an untamed side of Alaska.
Additionally, Wrangell-St. Elias lies on the Alaskan border with Canada’s Kluane National Park. Together with Kluane, Glacier Bay National Park, and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, it forms a Unesco World Heritage Site. Declared in 1994, the combined area protects 37,989 sq miles (over 24 million acres) of wilderness and is the world’s largest non-polar icefield.
Pro Tip: Ready to RV Alaska? Find your perfect RV with our Complete Guide to Alaska RV Rentals.
4. Grizzly Bears Here Can Reach Heights of More Than 10 Ft
If you’ve ever come face to face with a grizzly, you know they’re massive creatures. If you come across one at Wrangell-St Elias National Park, you might face a grizzly as tall as 10 ft. The grizzlies here got the memo on this park being known for its size, and they live up to the assignment.
5. There Are No Maintained Backcountry Trails
Unlike many national parks, Wrangell-St Elias National Park has no maintained backcountry trails. This doesn’t mean you can’t venture into the backcountry.
It’s actually quite the opposite; the park encourages it. The park aims to provide a wilderness experience to visitors, and that includes the adventure of figuring out your own route.
6. Kennecott Ghost Town and Mine Lies Within Park Boundaries
The bustling town of Kennecott was abruptly abandoned in 1938. The previously successful copper mine had used up the copper deposits, making the mine unnecessary.
This well-preserved area provides a unique look back at what life was like in this mining community.
You’ll need to either hike in or take a shuttle to spend some time exploring the area. Those who make the trek will get to experience both history and beautiful views.
7. The Entire Park Is the Size Equivalent of Six Yellowstones
Anyone who has been to Yellowstone National Park will tell you it’s large, and it is. It’s hard to imagine that Wrangell-St Elias National Park is six times the size of Yellowstone. There’s so much to see and do that it’s nearly impossible to get it all in a single trip, or even a few.
Pro Tip: Alaska is full of stunning national parks to explore. Unsure where to start? Check out our Complete List of Alaska National Parks.
8. Park Elevation Ranges from 0 Ft to More Than 18,000
The park’s tallest peak is Mount Saint Elias at 18,008 feet. But just because the park has some of the highest peaks in North America doesn’t mean the entire park is in the clouds. One of the things that makes the high peaks so impressive here is that they’re in such proximity to sea-level terrain. This means the view of these peaks in relation to the area around them is massive.
9. A Huge Population of Dall Sheep Call This Park Home
While there are many impressive animals to find in Wrangell-St Elias National Park, one of the most talked-about is the Dall Sheep. The park holds one of the largest concentrations of Dall sheep in all of North America. There are more than 13,000 sheep that call the park home.
Is Wrangell-St Elias National Park Worth a Visit?
If you like truly being away from it all, Wrangell-St Elias National Park is worth the trip. The diverse landscape and thriving wildlife make this a must-see national park.
Have you had the opportunity to explore any of the Alaskan national parks? Will you be adding Wrangell-St Elias National Park to your travel destination bucket list? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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