Part of the adventure and pleasure of visiting Kennicott & McCarthy is getting here. Below is some information to help you decide how you’d like arrive in the area. Whether you fly, drive or shuttle we encourage you to look forward to the journey and give yourself a full day to enjoy the beautiful scenery, rivers, glaciers and mountains along the way.
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 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. A 4-wheel drive SUV or Truck is not needed to drive to McCarthy.
In general, you should expect the 60 miles from Chitina to the footbridge near McCarthy to take about 2 hours. There are sections on the road where there is poor visibility around corners, so the best way to stay safe and give yourself the best chance of not getting a flat tire is to keep your speed to 35 mph or slower.
Flat tire repair service is available in McCarthy and keep in mind that Chitina is the last stop for fuel!
KWG recommends renting a car through Midnight Sun Car and Van Rental. They are local and friendly, have competitive pricing with nice vehicles, and they encourage driving the McCarthy Road and Denali Highway. As other companies are always changing their rules about travel down the McCarthy Road, we are not sure if the bigger national companies allow driving the 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 will have 4G LTE and is the only national carrier that works. You will not have service past Glennallen with AT&T. The East side of the Kennicott River (Where McCarthy and Kennicott are) is accessible via a footbridge only. There is a covered bus stop with schedule across the river.
Check out this awesome video from our friends at Alaska.org that describes the journey: Getting to McCarthy
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.