Trip Number: 13010A
Staff: Wayne Martin
- Explore Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the snowcapped Chugach
- Kayak on Prince William Sound
- Hike on Root Glacier
- Spend three days in the charming coastal area of Cordova
- Five nights in a rustic lodge; five nights camping
- All meals
- Ferry transport and most activities
Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
Photo: Joyce Taira
This is a great introduction to Alaska's varied topography and wildlife for
travelers seeking a leisurely journey. Since we will be traveling slightly before
the height of tourist season, we will experience some of Alaska's most intriguing
environments without the crowds. The relaxed pace of our journey and the long
summer days will allow us ample time to explore fjords, ice fields, and some
of the highest mountains in North America. By van and ferry, we will travel
from Anchorage to Cordova and Valdez, two charming communities in Prince William
Sound, where we will see glaciers, rivers, historic sights, and Alaska's diverse
marine treasures. We will then travel by van to a base camp in Wrangell-St.
Elias National Park, visiting McCarthy and the ghost town of Kennicott. Finally,
we will proceed by van back to Anchorage.
Day 1: We will leave Anchorage early in the morning, taking
the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm. If we're lucky, we'll catch a view
of whales at Beluga Point. We will stop at the visitor center at Portage Glacier
and enjoy an hour-long cruise across Portage Lake, which is typically studded
with huge ice chunks that have calved off the glacier. In the afternoon we will
stop at a wildlife reserve for a picnic lunch. We’ll camp one night near
Days 2-4: After breakfast we’ll drive to Whittier and
catch the ferry across Prince William Sound to Cordova. Much of Cordova's charm
comes from its isolation; it is not on the road system and is accessible only
by water or plane. During these three days we will explore the immediate Cordova
area, enjoying leisurely hikes, spectacular mountains, possible moose sightings,
and other wildlife grazing in the valley. We may catch our first glimpse of
bald eagles or grizzlies fishing for salmon in the distance. We'll camp for
three nights near Cordova. (Unfortunately, the road to Childs Glacier and the
Million Dollar Bridge is temporarily closed.)
Photo: Joyce Taira
Day 5: Today we'll break camp and head back to Cordova, stopping
to view wildlife and to explore the downtown area. In the afternoon we will
enjoy sea kayaking in Prince William Sound, a natural aquarium that is home
to sea otters, seals, eagles, salmon, and orcas. Both brown and black bears
are often visible on shore against an incredible backdrop of snowcapped peaks.
We'll overnight at a lodge after enjoying a hot shower and a meal at a local
Days 6-9: Rising early, we'll proceed by ferry to Valdez.
After exploring Valdez, we'll drive by van to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park,
which is six times the size of Yellowstone National Park. The wildlife here
is exceptional, with frequent sightings of black and brown bears, moose, mountain
goats, beaver, and many species of birds. We’ll hike from the lodge up
the nearby valleys, and be rewarded with views of local glaciers and ice fields.
We will also cross a foot bridge for a guided half-day tour of Root Glacier
in Kennicott. We will also have the opportunity to tour the copper mill. Our
last day in Kennicott will be designated as a free day for additional hiking,
exploring, or just relaxing. (Optional activities are not included in the trip
price.) We'll stay the next four nights at a rustic lodge.
Day 10: We will leave the park, driving the first leg of the
240-mile journey back to Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. Along the way we will
stop at the visitor center in Chitina National Park and take a last look at
the glaciers. Overnight at Tolsona Campground.
Photo: Joyce Taira
Day 11: On our last day, we'll leave Tolsona for a leisurely
trip back to Anchorage, with a stop at Palmer en route. Trip members may plan
to enjoy a final meal together. You may also want to stay on in Alaska to enjoy
another part of this excellent state. June is a wonderful time of the year to
Trip members are advised to fly into Anchorage, our starting point, early
enough to be ready for travel on the morning of day one. By planning to arrive
early, trip members will have extra time to deal with (unlikely but possible)
missed flight connections or lost baggage. The leader will provide trip members
with the name of a reasonably priced, centrally located hotel to spend the night
before the trip, which is not included in the trip price.
Accommodations and Food
We will camp the first night near Portage Glacier. While in Cordova we will
camp with the exception of one night at Orca Lodge. In Wrangell-St. Elias National
Park we will stay at the Kennicott River Lodge and Hostel. On our return trip
to Anchorage, we will camp one last time at Tolsona Campground. All meals are
included, from lunch on the first day through dinner on the last. All food is
included in the trip fee, along with the use of cooking gear, stoves, and fuel.
Trip members will be divided into cook crews so that everyone will be involved
in meal preparation and clean up a few times during the trip. Vegetarian preferences
can be accommodated. Let the leader know of any food allergies or limitations
as far in advance as possible.
Photo: Joyce Taira
The trip is designed as a gentle but authentic introduction to Alaska. The
variety of optional activities should allow participants to choose appropriate
activities for their ability levels. There are no overnight backpack trips,
and you will only need to carry lunch and such items as rainwear and a sweater
while hiking. The weather in early June is generally mild and many tourists
have not arrived yet. Temperatures typically range from the 40s to the 70s.
Assume that there will be rain during the trip, especially in Cordova. If you
are prepared, and able to greet adverse weather as part of the adventure, you
will enjoy this trip. Insects should not be a major problem in this area, but
bring insect repellent and face netting just in case.
Equipment and Clothing
On Sierra Club outings, participants furnish their own personal equipment,
including items such as tents, sleeping bags, daypacks, boots, a basic first-aid
kit, toiletries, and eating utensils. Due to space constraints in the van, participants
need to use duffle bags to pack their gear -- backpacks are not acceptable.
The Sierra Club furnishes all shared group gear, including stoves, cookware,
cooking utensils, a group first-aid kit, route-finding materials, and food,
unless otherwise noted in the trip brochure. The leader will supply an equipment
list in correspondence with registered participants. Please address any questions
about the suitability of equipment to the leader.
- Muir, John, Travels in Alaska.
- Rockwell, Kent, Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska.
- Bancroft, Hubert H., A Guide to the Birds of Alaska.
- McPhee, John, Coming Into the Country.
Photo: Joyce Taira
Part of our route parallels the oil pipeline, a potent reminder of past disasters
and future threats to Alaska's land and wildlife. In fact, Prince William Sound
was the site of the Exxon-Valdez disaster. We will take time to discuss some
of the conservation issues confronting both Alaska and the Lower 48.
Travel in Alaska and the Arctic
Sierra Club outings in Alaska and Arctic Canada are special experiences in true wilderness, but they also carry an element of risk. Trip locales are often remote, away from the amenities of civilization, including sophisticated medical care and immediate evacuation possibilities. Many of our Alaska and Arctic Canada trips now carry satellite phones, but even with this technology, communication with the outside world can be difficult and emergency assistance can be days away. Weather in Alaska and Arctic Canada is unpredictable, and inclement weather can be severe. Among other hazards are cold river and stream crossings, tidal activity, calving glaciers, the psychological effects of remoteness, and the presence of large wild animals. You're in good hands, though, so don't worry: Your trip leaders have vast experience in the Last Frontier, and they'll provide all the guidance you need.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Wayne Martin began his adventures with the Sierra Club more than two decades ago, when he went snow camping in the Sierra Nevada with the Bay Area chapter. Two years later, in 1984, he led his first national Sierra Club trip. Since then he has led more than 50 trips and served as chair of the club's International Outings Subcommittee.
Joyce Taira was born and raised on the island of Maui, and never fully realized how fortunate she was to come from such a beautiful place. Although many would never have left the island paradise, Joyce was in search of new adventures and moved to the east coast for college. Currently, she lives in San Francisco and works for the Sierra Club. Joyce is passionate about the outdoors, and thoroughly enjoys hiking, biking, and kayaking in the Bay Area. Additionally, she has traveled to many places outside of the U.S., and delights in experiencing new cultures.
Ellen Stein continues on her quest for new and exciting travel experiences. As a San Francisco Firefighter/EMT she enjoys the challenges of running into unique and unpredictable situations but prefers leading groups into exotic locations. She finds travel similar be it the Darwinistic shores of the Galapagos evolving into the tiger laden hills of India to the Tyrollean Mountain tops of the Dolomites. Her hobbies include almost every sport excluding those which require minimal activity. After her last trip to India, she has gained a new passion for birds. Join her in a fun-filled adventure of your passionate destination of choice.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips