Park Overview – Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Mt. Bona and the Russell Glacier make for an inspiring vista, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (aerial photo)

Mt. Bona and the Russell Glacier make for an inspiring vista, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska. (aerial photo)

Wrangell РSt. Elias National Park and Preserve was established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act. At approximately 13.2 million acres, Wrangell РSt. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest National Park in the United States. Over 9 million of those acres are designated wilderness, making the park not just a grand National Park, but one of the most important wilderness parcels of land in the nation.

Adjacent to the Canadian border, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve is contiguous with Kluane National Park. Together they were designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1978. Tatsenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in British Columbia and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska were both added to the listing in 1993, and together these four units cover 24.3 million acres, one of the largest internationally protected ecosystems on the planet!

Humans have been present, as both residents and visitors, to the region for centuries, but the park stands as a testament to natural systems; glaciers and rivers forge the landscape, volcanic and tectonic mountains tower above endless stretches of forest and tundra. Migratory birds in their thousands visit Wrangell St. Elias National Park every summer, returning from their southern winters. Mammals like grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, wolverine, caribou, moose and Dall sheep call this place their home. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is definitely a wilderness park.

Although the park itself may be one of the most accessible National Parks in Alaska, it is, by most measures, inaccessible. There are just 2 functioning roads that provide within the park boundaries, the McCarthy Road (60 miles long), entering from the western boundary, and the Nabesna Road (40 miles long), from the Park’s northern border. Combined they offer a mere 100 miles of public road in a park which is over 18 000 square miles of area. For reference, Yellowstone National Park, at less than 1/6th the landmass, has over 460 miles of road, and nearly 15 miles of boardwalk. Yellowstone National Park, for example, has 92 different trailheads inside it’s boundaries, and Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve has less than 10.