Top Trails: Root Glacier Trail in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Riley stands triumphantly on top of Root Glacier
Standing on Root Glacier for the first time

Did you know that Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is the largest in the nation? It stands at a whopping 13.2-million acres, and like its Alaskan counterparts, most of that is rugged wilderness. There aren’t many trails, but the ones that do exist are all beautiful. My favorite is perhaps one of the less scenic, but you get to walk on a glacier at the end, and that’s pretty freaking awesome in my book. That’s why it’s considered one of my Top Trails in our national parks.

Trail Description

Length: 4 miles round-trip
Time: Allow 2 hours to do the trail, then add more time to spend on Root Glacier
Start/end: The trail begins passed the Kennecott Mine.
Parking: You cannot drive into Kennecott or nearby McCarthy unless you’re a resident. You’ll need to park before the footbridge, then walk across the bridge. From here, take the shuttle, walk, or ride a bike the remaining 4.5 miles to Kennecott.
Disclaimers: Walking on glaciers is dangerous. I would not advice doing so without proper gear, such as spikes or crampons.

Hiking Root Glacier Trail

In this photo you can see the Root Glacier Trail winding down to the Kennicott and Root Glaciers
In this photo, you can see the Root Glacier Trail winding down to the Kennicott and Root Glaciers

The trail itself isn’t very exciting. It also changes every year as the glacier recedes, so it’s difficult to write about. You’ll walk through the woods for the majority of it, so be on the lookout for wildlife. I saw a moose and her calf the first time I hiked this trail. You’ll also cross over a couple small creeks, but there are wooden planks to assist you. After you take the spur trail to the glacier (which is clearly marked), you’ll be out in the open for the rest of the way. If it’s sunny or windy, prepare accordingly with sunscreen and a windbreaker.

Root Glacier

Riley walking on Root Glacier
Walking along Root Glacier

This is not one of those “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” situations. The highlight of the Root Glacier Trail is the glacier itself. Like I said, don’t attempt to walk on the glacier without crampons or spikes. It’s very slippery and there are various crevasses. But if you can secure the proper footwear and make the long trek to Kennecott, it is so worth it.

More Photos from the Root Glacier Trail

 

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