The McCarthy Road is the last stretch of your journey to Kennicott/McCarthy. It is a 60-mile gravel road which will take you from Chitina to the pedestrian footbridge over the Kennicott River, near McCarthy. Following the old railbed from the mining days, the drive is beautiful and full of historic views, natural scenery and possible wildlife along the way!
It must be taken into consideration that the McCarthy Road is that it is gravel, and although recently resurfaced, and regularly maintained throughout the summer, the road often contains washboard sections and potholes, and the occasional railroad spike. It isn’t abnormal to experience a flat tire on the road, so it’s always recommended to travel with a full-size spare if possible. Make sure to ask your rental car company if they can outfit your car with a full size spare instead of the smaller “doughnut” style. A 4-wheel drive SUV or Truck is not needed to drive to McCarthy.
Flat tire repair service is available in Chitina, and in McCarthy. In general, you should expect the 60 miles from Chitina to the footbridge near McCarthy to take about 2 – 3 hours. Keep in mind that Chitina is the last stop for fuel!
Many visitors rent cars in Anchorage or drive their own to visit Kennicott/McCarthy. Many rental companies do not have insurance that cover driving on gravel roads such as the McCarthy road. However, in the past few years, as the road has gotten better, those rules have been changing, so make sure to ask your rental car company if you are able to drive the McCarthy Road.
Once you arrive at the footbridge, you can park you car for $5/day if you are staying in McCarthy or Kennicott, or camp for $20/night.
There is a phone at the end of the road to dial local area numbers or accept a calling card if you do not have a phone that works. Verizon and most Alaska based phone companies work in the area, while AT&T does not. The East side of the Kennicott River (Where McCarthy and Kennicott are) is accesable via a footbridge. There is a covered bus stop with schedule across the river.
From Anchorage – 314 miles (8 hours)
Take the Glenn Highway out of the downtown area and into the Matanuska Valley. Pass the Parks Hi-way turnoff, continue through the town of Palmer (last stop light and grocery store) and follow it 130 more miles as it twists and turns between the northern boundary of the Chugach Mountains and the southern boundary of the Talkeetna Mountains. Turn south in Glenallen (fuel up), taking the Richadson Highway 33 miles through Copper Center, the Wrangell Mountains boldly presenting themselves in the East. Then turn east (left) on the Edgerton Highway, and cruise 33 more miles to Chitina and the bridge crossing the Copper River. From there it’s 60 miles of dirt to McCarthy.
From Fairbanks – 374 miles (8 hours)
Take the Richardson Hi-way south through Delta Junction and Glenallen before taking a left on the Edgerton Hi-way to Chitina & McCarthy. A great side trip is taking the Denali Highway 14 miles out of Paxson and staying at Tangle Lakes. Beautiful alpine tundra, lakes, and Alaska Range monster peaks. There is camping and lodging at the end of the pavement.
From Valdez – 176 miles (5 hours)
Take the Richardson Hi-way north 100 miles, then head East (take a right) on the Edgerton Hi-way to Chitina & McCarthy. This is a gorgeous drive through the Chugach, some highlights including Thompson Pass and following the Tonsina River.
From Denali National Park – 359 miles (8+ hours)
Head East from Caswell on the Denali Highway, which is a dirt road whose condition you should ask about before taking. This runs @120 miles. Once in Paxson, head south on the Richardson Highway through Glenallen, then left on Edgerton Highway to Chitina & McCarthy.
Taking a shuttle is an easy way to get to Kennicott/McCarthy! It is especially nice for single travelers and may be more cost effective than renting a car. Make sure and contact shuttle companies directly to check for any changes in scheduling.
Wrangell St. Elias Tours
Direct service from Anchorage to McCarthy, 5 days a week! There are also other shuttle destinations and schedules to choose from. They do a great job, and have been safely and reliably bringing our clients out to McCarthy/Kennicott for years.
Flying saves time in a busy travel schedule and is a phenomenal way to see the vast landscape of Alaska. If you are already considering taking a flightseeing tour while you are in Alaska, air shuttles can be a great way of combining that flight see experience with an efficient and logical transportation solution.
Wrangell Mountain Air
Wrangell Mountain Air offers three daily flights from Chitina (a 5 hour drive from Anchorage, 6 from Fairbanks and 2.5 from Valdez). You can also contact them to schedule a private charter from anywhere else in South Central Alaska. Contact Wrangell Mountain Air directly for their current schedules and prices.
Copper Valley Air
Offers regularly scheduled flights from Anchorage to McCarthy at affordable rates. Flights offered Mondays and Thursdays (weather and availability dependent). This is a great option for convenient and timely travel from Anchorage that is way more affordable then a private charter rate. Contact Copper Valley Air directly for their current schedules and prices.
Providing private charter air service from Cordova, Valdez, Anchorage, or anywhere in between. Contact directly to charter flights from anchorage or Cordova.
Providing transportation from Chitna or Valdez while paired with an exclusive Wrangell mountain guided adventure based from the stunning Ultima Thule Lodge. Contact Ultima Thule directly to learn more about lodge based adventures with stopover trips in McCarthy.
Contact KWG if you are interested in pairing guided activities with fly-in lodge accommodations. Schedule and travel logistics are flexible and can be worked around your timeframe.