The best camping near Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve

Discover the most magical spots to pitch your tent or park your rig on your next Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve adventure.

Experience one of the most dramatic and wild landscapes on earth in the remote Alaskan wilderness.  

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Top-rated campgrounds near Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve


Wrangell Mountains Center

2 sites · Lodging3 acres · Mc Carthy, AK
We are located in a woodsy area of downtown McCarthy, centrally situated for access to the area's many adventures. The property is in town but this is a remote area and still feels quite off-the-beaten-path with the . This is our educational facility with a summer community of staff and volunteers. NOTE: PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN BEDDING/SHEETS Perks: Affordably priced at $75/night. You will be centrally situated in downtown McCarthy, a central hub in the community with shuttle access to Kennicott. The WMC campus is also near to McCarthy Creek, just out of the range of most of the town commotion. But please note that on weekends there are typically bands playing in downtown, in the open air, and the music can go on into later hours. A stay at our guest housing is also a chance to get a closer, first-hand look at what we do at the WMC and to support our work and mission. Reduce your travel footprint... Our primitive guest housing provides visitors with a low impact, affordable housing option centrally situated in the Kennicott-McCarthy valley. Our guest housing is significantly less expensive than other local lodging, but please note that the WMC has limited resources, and we seek to run a minimalist and sustainable campus, as much as possible. The best way to reduce one’s footprint is simply to use less, so staying at our guest housing facilities is an effective exercise in sustainable travel lodging. You will get first hand experience in seeing our communal living situation where we utilize solar power, rainwater collection, and trash separation to reduce our footprint while also hosting science and art programs throughout the year and bringing community together. Because this is a primitive lodging situation, please take note of the following: There is no running water in the room. There are no conventional shower/bathing facilities. We do have an outdoor shower stall where we use bucket showers (a 5 gallon bucket with a slow release valve) that you are welcome to! Shower stall faces Mccarthy creek and is built into a tree for a peaceful experience. Otherwise, we bathe in the Mccarthy swimming hole, a glacial pool a 15 minute walk from WMC with killer 360 mountain views. We use outhouses, so there are no conventional flush toilets. We have plenty of TP stocked and an outdoor handwash sink. You have access to kitchen areas, outside of our program hours. We have a beautiful 6 burner gas propane stove, and big kitchen loaded with spices, appliances, and lots of dishware. Guests are expected to do their own dishes please! We do have a small refrigerator and freezer and can set aside some space for personal items brought, please just let us know in advance to make shelf space! We have a good solar system that generates plenty of solar-generated power for laptops, phones and other small personal electronics. So charging devices is no problem, but please note that you will not have an outlet in your room. We have power strips located in the classroom and library of the main building you are welcome to leave your devices to charge. We also ask that you bring your own sheets/bedding to save on our resource use and support our efforts at a minimal footprint. We do not have the resource capacity (water and electricity) to do laundry at our facilities, so please bring a sheet and bedding/sleeping bag. Also note that it is your responsibility to navigate to the Wrangell Mountains Center in downtown McCarthy. This can take some doing, and we are happy to provide tips and advice, but ultimately it is your responsibility to navigate to our facility and adequately prepare for the challenges of this remote area of Alaska. For example, there is no vehicle traffic in the town of McCarthy and all vehicle traffic ends at the Kennicott River, which is a 1 mile walk (or shuttle ride) from the Wrangell Mountains Center. There is a free shuttle in town that picks up from the footbridge and drops you right in front of WMC, and there is a 5 dollar shuttle that runs every hour as well. Please be prepared to leave your car parked across the river and carry your stuff in via shuttle! In order to make the most of your time in this exceptional area, we recommend that you take a little extra time to research the area. WMC is located on the edge of town, so you will be able to walk on foot to the swimming hole or a restaurant, and we are happy to recommend hikes and walks in the area! This is an ideal housing situation for someone who shares our commitment to sustainability and is interested in supporting our educational programs, our vision of sustainability and our mission of connecting people with wildlands. Also visit for more info, and peruse our website for more on our mission and programs!
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The best camping near Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve guide



At 13 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest of all US national parks. It presents an incredible contrast with wild coastlines backdropped by mountains climbing 18,000 feet above sea level, and its massive backcountry is dotted with treasured rivers, numerous glaciers, and volcanoes. Many visitors come for the wildlife viewing and immersive Alaskan experience—think salmon runs, high-density brown bear populations, caribou, moose, wolves, and eagles on land, plus whales, seals, otters, and marine life by the coast. Wrangell-St. Elias is accessible from the Nabesna and McCarthy road systems, as well as by air and watercraft. Endless outdoor adventures and supreme camping options draw campers for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Notable campgrounds

  • Best for car camping: The Nabesna Road offers free primitive pull-outs that serve as first-come, first-served campsites. Top spots exist at Rufus Creek, Kettle Lake, Dead Dog Hill, and Rock Lake.
  • Best for amenities: The free Kendessni Campground’s 10 campsites have picnic tables, fire pits, and bathroom access, plus views of the Wrangell Mountains for tents and RVs.
  • Best for hikers: The Copper Lake Trailhead has primitive campsites and access to the 12-mile backcountry trail.

Tips for snagging a campsite

  1. Many Wrangell-St. Elias campsites are located on dirt roads with tight access. Research routes in advance to ensure your vehicle is capable and not too large.
  2. Backcountry camping is popular among hikers, anglers, and boaters. Practice bear safety and make sure you are prepared to manage unpredictable conditions.
  3. Most primitive campsites on the road systems are first-come, first-served sites. The remote nature of this park means finding a campsite is likely, but the summer months do see enough traffic to fill campgrounds on occasion.
  4. Private campsites in and around the communities bordering the park are great options. Book ahead during the summer months to ensure your site is secured.
  5. Several wilderness lodges operate within the park boundaries. Access is via aircraft for many lodges and backcountry cabins, making them ideal basecamps for flyout adventures.

When to go

Remote Alaska camping adventures are primarily a summer activity. Wrangell-St. Elias road systems are open during June, July, August, and September for roadtrippers, car campers, and RVers. Salmon runs are also predominantly summer events, coinciding with high levels of bear activity for exciting wildlife viewing. Spring draws steelhead into coastal rivers, so places like Yakutat are popular among anglers during April and May. The weather is often rainy and cold during the spring, however. Winter is less popular with frigid temperatures but does have fantastic opportunities for backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Sled dog tours and even winter paddling along the coast are worth considering for an off-season cabin stay.

Know before you go

  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is massive and very remote. Rather than attempting to see everything in one trip, make an itinerary that utilizes several towns for basecamps and activity centers. Break it into sections and plan tours to see the best of the park by boat or air.
  • Bring an emergency communication system for safety. A basic satellite messenger is useful in areas without cell service.
  • A majority of the park is best accessed by plane or boat, but there are some great roadside areas to explore, too. The surrounding towns typically offer park tours that begin and end in town for convenience.
  • The park offers audio tours for its driving routes. Download the audio for educational information as you drive and make stops to view glaciers and other various attractions.

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