Recreational Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Use

ORV permits are required for all recreational users. Recreational ORV use is restricted to designated ORV trails. Users may apply for FREE permits in-person at the Slana Ranger Station, the main park visitor center in Copper Center, or online.

UPDATES for 2024:

  • Self-registration permits are no longer available at the Nugget Creek trailhead.
  • ORV permits are now available through an online application process.

Online Application Process:

The ORV permit application and permit form must be emailed to (wrst_permits at e-mail us. The approved special use permit will be sent back to the ORV permit holder. Allow a minimum of 2 weeks for processing. All ORV operators listed on the permit must have a copy (hard or digital) of the permit signed by the NPS them at all times.

10-933 Recreation Application for Vehicle Special Use Permit
(fillable pdf 356 KB)

View the Interactive Hunting, Fishing and Backcountry Planning Map

This interactive map includes information about land status (park, preserve, wilderness, non-NPS lands), trails, GMU boundaries, and key hunt area boundaries. You can zoom into areas of interest, turn on and off layers relevant to your trip, and download customized georeferenced PDF (Portable Document Format) maps that can be printed, displayed on a PDF reader, or uploaded to a GPS-enabled mobile device, such as a smart phone.

Trails OPEN to Recreational ORV Use with required permit


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.


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 managed 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 park lands accessed by the Kotsina easement.


McCarthy/Kennecott area

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 unavailable to motorized visitors to Kennecott) are private and reserved for the use of present owners of lots in the subdivision and their guests.

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. Otherwise. 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).

McCarthy Road Map
McCarthy Road map


Nabesna Road Map
Nabesna Road map


Last updated: June 4, 2024

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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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