Recreational Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Use

ATV/ORV permits are required for all recreational users. ATV/ORV use is restricted to established ATV trails.

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.

Recreational ORV permits are available FREE of charge by calling Visitor Services at (907) 822-7250.

Download the park ORV Guide (pdf format, 419 KB)

Trails OPEN to Recreational ORV Use with required permit


NABESNA ROAD

Nabesna Rd Map

Trail Creek Trail

Trailhead: Milepost 29.8 Nabesna Road
Distance/Time: Approximately 5 miles / 2 –3 hours by ORV
Land Status: National PRESERVE
Trail Condition: Gravel stream bed. Rain and snow melt can cause dramatic increases in water levels. High water in Trail Creek can make travel hazardous. Stay alert to changing weather conditions.
Ranger Tips: Hikers can continue north up Trail Creek to a pass and cross over to the Lost Creek drainage. Follow Lost Creek back to Nabesna Road to create a loop trip.

Lost Creek Trail

Trailhead: Milepost 31.2 Nabesna Road
Distance/Time: Approximately 5 miles. 3 miles to Soda Lake Trailhead. 2-3 hours by ORV
Land Status: National PRESERVE
Trail Condition: Gravel stream bed and packed dirt. The trail follows the Lost Creek stream bed and frequently enters the forest adjacent to the creek. Rain and snowmelt can cause dramatic increases in water levels. High water in Lost Creek can make travel hazardous.
Ranger Tips: Hikers can reverse the Trail Creek-Lost Creek loop and start at Lost Creek.

Soda Lake Trail

Trailhead: Mile 3 of the Lost Creek Trail (Park at the Lost Creek Trailhead)
Distance/Time: 12 miles to Soda Creek, 2.5 additional miles to Soda Lake. 4-5 hours by ORV
Land Status: National PRESERVE
Trail Condition: Varies with seasonal rains and amount of use. The first 3 miles are over hard packed ground.
Route: Trail begins at approximately mile 3 of the Lost Creek Trail. (After 2 miles you will see an old trail to the right. Do not take this trail, as the main trail has been re-routed and will veer off in another mile. The old trail is closed.) The trail heads east after leaving Lost Creek, along the Platinum Creek drainage. When reaching the confluence of Platinum and Soda Creeks the trail turns north and follows the Soda Creek streambed. After about one mile, signs indicate the end of recreational ORV use on the trail. You must continue on foot to Soda Lake, approximately 1.5 miles further.
Private Lands: There is private land located on the old trail to Big Grayling Lake.
Ranger Tips: Good for hiking. Allow several days to explore the Mentasta Mountains and Soda Lake.
Please note that the old access to the Soda Lake Trail at 1.7 miles up the Lost Creek Trail is now closed to all ORV use. The new re-route starts at 3.9 miles up the Lost Creek Trail and is open to ORV use.

MCCARTHY ROAD

McCarthy Rd Map

Nugget Creek Trail

Trailhead: The trailhead is located on the Kotsina Road. The Kotsina road turn-off is located at mile 14.5 on the McCarthy Road, on the north side of the road. After 2.5 miles, the trailhead is on the right. The best opportunity for parking is to go another 1.4 miles up the Kotsina road to the Dixie Pass trailhead. Parking at the Nugget Creek trailhead requires a permit from Chitina Native Corporation.
Distance/Time: Approximately 15 miles one way. 3 - 4 hours by ORV or 5 –6 hours hiking on foot.
Land Status: The first portion (approximately ½ mile) of the trail is on an easement that allows passage through Chitina Native Corporation private lands. Easements are for passage through to public lands - not for hunting, parking, or camping. The remainder of the trail is on NATIONAL PARK lands.
Trail Condition: The first ½ mile past the easement traverses wetlands. The NPS has made improvements to this section, but some mud/muck holes may still be encountered. Beyond this segment, the trail is in good condition.
Special Conditions: Because the trail is within national park (as opposed to national preserve), no sport hunting is permitted.

Kotsina Trail (Easement)

Trailhead: The trailhead is located on the Kotsina Road. The Kotsina road turn-off is located at mile 14.5 on the McCarthy Road, on the north side of the road. The Dixie Pass trailhead serves as the best trailhead for the Kotsina trail. The Dixie Pass trailhead is 3.9 miles up the Kotsina road.
Distance/Time: Approximately 20 miles along an easement to get to national park lands.
*Land Status: This trail is an easement through lands owned by Ahtna, Inc. and Chitina Native Corporation. Easements are for passage through to public lands - not for hunting, parking, or camping. Allowable uses on this easement include foot, ORV, four-wheel drive, and automobiles. However, the trail is NOT maintained for 4-wheel drives or automobiles.
Trail Condition: Vary from year to year, but includes brushy segments, wetlands, and challenging creek crossings.

*Special Conditions: The Kotsina trail is an easement that runs through private land. Because we don't have authority over the easement, we do not issue recreational ORV permits for this part of the trail (approx 20 miles). Once the trail reaches NPS-owned lands it continues into designated wilderness. All recreational ORV users must park their vehicles at the NPS boundary and continue on foot. Recreational ORV use and sport hunting are prohibited on NPS owned lands accessed by the Kotsina easement.


CLOSED to Recreational ORV Use (foot trails only).

  • Skookum Volcano Trail

  • Jacksina Creek Trail

  • Rambler Mine Trail

  • Kennecott River foot bridge

 

Off Road Vehicle Use in the McCarthy/Kennecott Area

The McCarthy road ends at the Kennecott River. Visitors should be aware that beyond this point, motorized access gets complicated. Land status beyond the Kennecott river is a mix of public and private lands. Visitor use of ORVs to access Kennecott (or points beyond, such as the Bonanza mine) is problematic for several reasons:

  • Legally, ORVs cannot be driven on the McCarthy road (state right-of-way). Alaska Statute 28.10.011 requires all motor vehicles driving "upon a highway or other public parking place" shall be registered. However, ORVs do not comply with Federal Department of Transportation standards for tires and rims. No ORV on the market today meets federal emission standards since no manufacturer has applied for such. Therefore, they are deemed unsafe for road use and cannot be registered as motor vehicles.

  • Legally, ORVs cannot be driven across the Kennicott River foot bridge. Alaska Statute 13 AAC 02.455(f) states that no snowmobile or other off-highway vehicle may cross or travel on a sidewalk, a location intended for pedestrian or other nonmotorized travel, an alley, or a vehicular way or area which is not open to snowmobile or off-highway vehicle operation. The Kennicott River footbridge was built with funds appropriated specifically for pedestrian access.

  • Kennecott subdivision easements are private and reserved for the use of the present owners and their guests.

  • Landowners in Kennecott have requested of the National Park Service and park visitors that property rights be respected where easements cross their private land.

  • Parking motorized vehicles, including ATVs, is permitted only in the lot next to the Visitor Center. Parking anywhere else on National Park Service and Kennecott Mines NHL land is prohibited. Only park on private property with permission from the owner.

Please respect private lands and be aware of land status in the McCarthy/Kennecott area. Access from McCarthy to Kennecott is provided by local businesses who run van shuttle services. You must walk across the Kennecott River foot bridge, then walk or ride a bicycle to McCarthy (0.5 mile) and to Kennecott town (5 miles).

Last updated: June 25, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

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

Copper Center, AK 99573

Phone:

(907) 822-5234

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