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Donoho Lakes Glacier Trek and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Tour

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 8 day(s)
Group Size: 3 - 6 people
Destination(s): Alaska  
Specialty Categories: Hiking & Trekking   Glacier Tours  
Season: June - July
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 950 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 1450 US Dollar (USD)

Who says you have to spend an hour bouncing around in a cramped bush plane to get into the Alaskan wilderness? For this trek we shoulder our packs and simply start walking out of town from the historic site of Kennicott deep in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This trek is unique in other ways as well. The emphasis is on exploring the fascinating world of glaciers. Four days on the trek will include at least some time spent hiking on the ice. Don’t feel intimidated about the idea of hiking on a glacier. This will not be technical in any way and we will not be roped up. The glaciers we cross are low angle valley glaciers and by summer time the snow has melted off. So there are no dangerous snow bridge crossings such as you might find at higher elevations.

There will be however lots of fascinating features to explore out on the ice, including ice cliffs, winding melt stream canyons, pools of deep blue melt water, deep holes in the ice (moulins) and crevasses. Our guide will help us to safely navigate our way across our first glacier, the Root, to our moraine campsite on the far side. Most visitors to Alaska hope to see a bear in the wild and this trek is one of the best trips for spotting bears in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It’s rare to travel in this area and not see a few bears, either black bears, grizzlies or both. We may also spot a family of foxes that make their den near one of our campsites.

The mountain scenery on this trip is spectacular too. The views of the surrounding peaks and ridges are just stunning and provide many excellent photographic opportunities of the peaks that rim the valley. On a clear day we will get a great view of might Mt. Blackburn. Because there is no costly bush flight, this is one of our most economical and most popular Alaskan back country adventures but rest assured, there is no economizing on adventure with plenty of interesting hiking, wildlife opportunities, great views and glacial exploration.

Style of trek: In McCarthy we will be staying in a 3-star hotel. The wilderness trek will be 5 days of backpacking over rugged terrain with no trails. Participants will carry all of their personal gear as well as a share of group gear and food. This is a moderate backpacking adventure and good conditioning is recommended. Most days include about 5-6 hours of hiking over moderate terrain. No major elevation gain.

Your Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska. Arrive in Anchorage and make taxi arrangements to your hotel or B&B.

Day 2: Van transportation from Anchorage to McCarthy. Overnight McCarthy, Hotel. You will be picked up at your lodging in Anchorage for the van ride to McCarthy. It will take about 8 hours for the drive but you won’t get bored. The route passes through some stunning country in the Matanuska valley. When you see Mt. Drum looming straight ahead, then you will know we’re getting close. We arrive in McCarthy around 5-6:00 pm. As soon as everyone is checked into the hotel, we meet with our back country guide at their headquarters. The guide does a gear shakedown to make sure everyone has what the need, but nothing that they don’t. We all get a plastic, bear canister chock full of tasty meals and snacks. After cramming all of our newly acquired gear into our packs, we meet up at the New Golden Saloon for some dinner, a few brews and if we’re lucky maybe a bit of local bluegrass entertainment.

Day 3: After breakfast in McCarthy we take a short van ride from McCarthy to the former mining town of Kennicott. After passing through Kennicott, we just head out of town on a path that was once a road to some of the mines in the area. Fifty years ago we would have been able to get up on the glacier right at Kennicott, but like most glaciers in the world, the Root Glacier is receding. But after about an hour or less of easy hiking we arrive at the toe of the glacier. Today’s journey takes us across the Root Glacier by the scenic route.

We take our time in the crossing to explore the fascinating glacier features such as melt water streams and canyons as well as deep holes called moulins that are created by water drilling a hole down into the ice. Your guide will teach you about how glaciers are formed from the gradual transformation of fluffy snow into super dense glacial ice hundreds of feet thick. Our first camp is set up on the far side of the Root Glacier on the moraine edge near a thundering waterfall. Bears are often spotted here as well as a family of foxes that has a den not far from our camp. 5-6 hours of hiking. Overnight camping. Includes: (L), (D).

Day 4: We start by hiking along the edge of the lateral moraine of the Root Glacier. Then we turn to the west and cross the Donoho Lakes land mass. We pass right past the base of Donoho Peak which rises This is a moderate day of hiking as we make our way (on dry land) to our next camp by a lake just past the foot of Donoho Peak. We pass by two lakes that sit below Donoho which towers above us. At one point today we’ll have to get our feet wet as we negotiate a chilly stream crossing. Our camp is near a spring and close to the junction of the Kennicott and Gates Glaciers. A short hike from camp and up a hill gives us a commanding view of the glaciers and peaks that surround us. 5-6 hours of hiking. Overnight camping. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 5: We leave our camp set up today and head out for some exploring with just our day packs. It's more fun on the, this time on the Gates and Kennicott glaciers. This area has some of the most interesting glacial features on the trip including some dramatic fins. This will be the longest day of our trek but one of the most rewarding. 5-6 hours of hiking, day packs only. Overnight camping. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 6: We pack up camp and head onto the Kennicott Glacier and head back towards Kennicott. But it's a long way back so we stop for the night near the end of the white ice and set up our camp, right on the glacier! Don't worry, we'll take an extra sleeping pad to ensure that we stay warm. 5-6 hours of hiking. Overnight camping. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 7: After breakfast we cut across a band of moraine and are back on the Root Glacier. We take the express route over the ice and back into Kennicott for the conclusion of our trek. A van takes us back down to McCarthy and hot showers. Later we meet up at the Golden Saloon for dinner and a few well deserved brews as we share our experiences of the trek. 3-4 hours of hiking. Overnight McCarthy, Hotel. Includes: (B), (L).

Day 8: Van transportation from McCarthy to Anchorage. We depart after breakfast for the return trip to Anchorage. We should arrive in Anchorage by 6:00 pm. You can make arrangements for a night flight out of Anchorage or stay overnight and depart the following day.

Trip dates:
- June 10-13, 17-20, 24-27
- July 1-4.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- Round trip van transportation Anchorage/McCarthy with pickup at Anchorage hotel
- All local transportation in McCarthy
- Lodging in McCarthy before and after trek (2 nights total)
- 5 day back country trek
- Group camping gear
- All food and snacks for trek
- Professional wilderness guide
- Group medical kit
- Emergency VHF radio.

Price Excludes:
- R/T airfare to Anchorage, Alaska
- Hotel accommodations in Anchorage
- Meals or local transportation in Anchorage
- Meals in transit to and from McCarthy
- Meals in McCarthy
- Guide gratuities
- Personal camping gear
- Alcoholic beverages
- Travel, evacuation or medical insurance.