The National Park Service amended its special regulations for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to designate trails where motor vehicles may be used off roads for recreational purposes. The rule prohibits the use of certain types of vehicles based upon size and weight, and closes certain areas in designated wilderness within the park and preserve.
Through implementation of these rules, Wrangell-St. Elias will continue to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources and natural processes, and provide a variety of safe visitor experiences while minimizing conflicts among users.
A recreational ORV user is anyone who wants to use an ORV to access the park or preserve for recreational activities including sport hunting, and who is not a federally qualified subsistence user. If a non-local resident wants to engage in sport hunting with an ORV, they must obtain a recreational ORV permit. If a local is engaging in non-subsistence recreational ORV use, they must obtain a permit.
Recreational ORV permits are available FREE of charge in-person at the Slana Ranger Station for designated trails off the Nabesna Rd and at a kiosk at the Nugget Trailhead (Kotsina Rd junction) for designated trails off the McCarthy Rd.
- The rule designates specific trails in the National Park and Preserve for Recreational or Federal Subsistence ORV use.
- ORV users are required to obtain a permit to use the designated trails.
- Creating new trails is prohibited.
- Permits will be issued only for trails in a design-sustainable or maintainable condition, as determined by the Superintendent.
- The rule requires that ALL ORV users (Recreational and Federal Subsistence) stay on designated trails.
- The rule also establishes vehicle weight and size limits to protect park resources.
- ORV use is prohibited in designated wilderness areas.
Federally Qualified Subsistence:
- For trails in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Vehicle Management Plan, the rule requires that subsistence ORV users stay on trails and within identified trail corridors (for the purpose of game retrieval off trail).
- The trail corridors consist of 0.5 miles on either side of the trail.
- Travel outside of these designated trail corridors in the FEIS Wilderness Area is prohibited.
- Trails, trail corridors, and boundaries of the FEIS Wilderness Area are identified on the FEIS Wilderness Area Designated Trails Map (pdf format, 1.3 MB).
Authorized Off-Road Vehicles
The following types of vehicles, because of their size, width, weight, or high surface pressure (measured, for example, in pounds per square inch) are prohibited for recreational or subsistence uses:
- Nodwells or other tracked rigs greater than 5.5 feet in width or 4,000 pounds curb weight.
- Street-legal highway vehicles.
- Custom 4x4 jeeps, SUVs, or trucks designed for off-road use.
- Original or modified ''deuce and a half'' cargo trucks.
- Dozers, skid-steer loaders, excavators, or other construction equipment.
- Motorcycles or dirt bikes.
- Log skidders.
The rule requires that all wheeled vehicles (including all-terrain vehicles, utility vehicles, and Argos) be less than 1,500 pounds curb weight, not including trailers. Nothing in this rule supersedes the applicable provisions of 36 CFR part 4 and 36 CFR 13.460(d), which require that ORVs be operated in compliance with applicable state and federal laws, and prohibit damaging park resources or harassing wildlife.
Review the complete rules, located in the Federal Register 36 CFR Part 13 Subpart V - Special Regulations
Be aware that land ownership along the McCarthy Road and within the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a mix of public and private lands. The NPS welcomes visitors to the Kennecott area and reminds them that all the historic mill town and much of the surrounding area are within the Kennicott Subdivision, a residential community where NPS public lands are interspersed with privately owned lands. State ownership of the McCarthy Road ends at the southern boundary of the subdivision. Beyond that point, Kennicott Subdivision easements are private and reserved for the use of the present owners and their guests only. NHL visitors, as NPS guests in the subdivision, should be respectful of privately owned lands and residents of the subdivision.
For the purposes of this section, “off-road vehicle” (ORV) refers to all-purpose vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles that have been registered and approved by the State of Alaska for general highway use. Visitor use of ORVs to access the Kennecott mill town or points beyond, such as the Bonanza mine, is permitted as follows:
- Use of ORVs and other types of all-purpose vehicles is permitted on the State-owned McCarthy Road pursuant to Title 13, Chapter 2 of the Alaska Administrative Code (13 AAC 02).
- The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Kennicott River bridge was designed and intended predominantly for pedestrian use. To ensure safety for all users of the bridge, NPS urges ORV users to reduce speed and yield to pedestrians when crossing the bridge.
- As a landowner in the subdivision, the NPS encourages its guests to access the historic Kennecott mill town by using a local shuttle service from McCarthy. Use of a local shuttle service or reaching Kennecott by bicycle or by foot will minimize impacts of motor vehicle use on the historic character of Kennecott, on visitors’ experience of the NHL, and on subdivision residents. Landowners in Kennicott Subdivision have requested of NPS and its guests that property rights be respected where road easements cross their private land.
- On NPS lands in the NHL, parking is allowed only at the shuttle turnaround located next to the Kennecott Visitor Center. The turnaround has limited capacity for parking, with space only for 6-7 full-size vehicles, and often is filled early each day. Once the turnaround is filled, there is nowhere to park safely without blocking the intended use of the area as a shuttle turnaround.
- Parking on NPS lands elsewhere in the NHL is prohibited except for Federally qualified rural Alaska residents engaged in permitted subsistence activities.
- Subdivision easements (which are unavoidable to motorized visitors to Kennecott) are private and reserved for the use of present owners of lots in the subdivision and their guests.
Thank you for recreating responsibly and safely in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark.