Driving Park Roads

There are only two roads that enter the park: The Nabesna Road and the McCarthy Road. Both are gravel roads that are owned and maintained by the state of Alaska and not the National Park Service. Both roads are usually passable to all vehicles during the summer months. For driving beyond Mile 29 of the Nabesna Road, a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Conditions can change quickly, so it's a good idea to stop by the Copper Center or Chitina visitor centers to check on current road conditions. You can also check with the Alaska Road Traveler Information Service for the latest conditions.

Driving a rental vehicle?
Most major car rental companies in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Valdez do not allow their vehicles to be driven on gravel roads. Several of the discount and independent rental companies do allow it, but may have added expenses or requirements. Do a thorough internet search for possibilities to drive on Nabesna or McCarthy Roads in the park. Check the vehicle spare tire, that it has aduquate air pressure for use and there is a jack and lug wrench included.

NOTE: It is NOT RECOMMENDED to drive an oversize vehicle such as RV (recreational vehicle), bus or motor coach on either road.

View along the McCarthy Road

The McCarthy Road: Born On Rails

The 60-mile McCarthy road follows the old Copper River and Northwestern Railroad route. Although traffic and weather often result in potholes and washboarded surfaces, under normal summer conditions most passenger vehicles can make the trip. Please check on current conditions before heading out. You can inquire about road conditions at the Chitina Ranger Station.

Although regularly maintained by the State of Alaska, the gravel surface makes for slow travel. It will take about 3 hours each way to drive this road. Other hazards can make it even longer: there are curves with limited visibility, heavy rain can cause ruts and potholes, sharp rocks can cause flat tires, and narrow, one-lane bridges make maneuvering large vehicles difficult. In fact, large vehicles are not encouraged to drive this road. Under normal summer conditions, most two-wheel drive vehicles can make the trip without difficulty, but be sure to carry at least one spare tire and an adequate jack. If you don't want to take your own vehicle on the road, you can take a shuttle or fly there.

Are you curious about what you'll be seeing as you tour? Follow the McCarthy Road Guide as you drive along the McCarthy Road. You can also download the McCarthy Road Audio Tour.

At the end of the McCarthy Road, you will find parking areas and the bridge that crosses the Kennicott River and leads to McCarthy and Kennecott. Access to McCarthy is by foot, bike, or shuttle. From McCarthy, it's a five mile hike to the Kennecott historic mine area. For those who would rather not walk, there are shuttle rides available during the summer months.The McCarthy road provides access to interesting geology, great hiking, fishing, and camping, as well as the wonderful historic communities of McCarthy and Kennecott. Once you get to Kennecott, visit the Kennecott Visitor Center for park information.

There is NO GAS available along the McCarthy Road. The closest places before entering McCarthy Road to obtain fuel is in Kenny Lake (at the store, mile 7.1 Edgerton Hwy) and in Chitina (self-serve).

View along the Nabesna Road

The Nabesna Road: The Road Less Traveled
The 42-mile Nabesna Road was originally built in 1933 by the Alaska Road Commission to supply Nabesna Mine and to ship out its ore. Today, the Alaska Department of Transportation maintains the Nabesna Road and, generally, the road is passable by most two-wheel drive vehicles. However, higher clearance and/or four-wheel drive are occasionally needed beyond Mile 29 due to stream crossings. Wet conditions such as spring run-off and heavy rain can make these stream crossings impassable. The last four miles of the road are not maintained and may be deeply rutted and wet. Vehicle travel on this portion of the road is not recommended.

Please visit the Slana Ranger Station for park information. Backcountry access by off-road vehicles (ORVs) on established trails is allowed with a permit obtained from the Slana Ranger Station.

Are you curious about what you'll be seeing as you tour? Follow the Nabesna Road Guide as you drive along the Nabesna Road. You can also download the Nabesna Road Audio Tour.

No gas or vehicle repair service is available along Nabesna Road. Fuel may be available south of Slana in Gakona at Posty's Trading Post (mile 34.6 Tok Cutoff Hwy) or in Tok (60 miles north of Slana).

Last updated: May 15, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
PO Box 439
Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway

Copper Center, AK 99573


907 822-5234

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