Explore Adventures & History in McCarthy, Alaska
McCarthy is the perfect stop on your ultimate Alaska Vacation itinerary. It sits at the terminus of the Kennecott and Root Glaciers in the shadow of the Chugach Mountains. This unique, quaint small town in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve moves at a slower pace. The only way to access the historic sections of McCarthy and the Kennecott Mill Site is by footbridge, which adds an adventurous touch to your stay. But don’t worry, shuttles are available across the bridge from McCarthy to Kennecott. We may move slower here, but there are PLENTY things to do in town. Check out some of our favorites below.
Day trips are the perfect way to immerse yourself in our little slice of paradise’s natural beauty and human history. Whether hiking on a glacier, rafting down a river, or even kayaking on a glacial lake, there is something for everyone to add extraordinary outdoor adventure to your trip to McCarthy!
Explore McCarthy works with McCarthy River Tours to offer an array of affordable, active one-day Alaska adventures that are suitable for folks of all ages and adventure levels. McCarthy River Tours pioneered the Kennecott Glacial Lake & River Raft, the first one-day whitewater rafting trip in McCarthy that does not require an airplane pick-up, and thus we were able to offer a raft trip that all can afford. We are excited to immerse you in the natural beauty and human history of our little slice of paradise. All of our day tours are loaded with local knowledge of the natural & human history of the Kennecott Valley. Our fun, knowledgeable guides are excited to take you on a journey through our valley that you won’t soon forget.
We think the perfect McCarthy experience entails spending a few nights in town to explore and then launching on an epic river adventure! There are many multi-day tour options provided by McCarthy River Tours. Trips vary in length, route, and difficulty level, but there is something to fit every crew! Float down our beautiful Alaskan rivers by day and lose yourself in the sheer beauty of the stars at your campsite by night. This is the best way to truly immerse yourself in the remarkable Alaskan wilderness, an experience that you won’t soon forget. Alaska rafting expeditions are unlike any other rafting multiday trip you’ve ever done. Alaska glacial fed rivers and huge land expanses are impossible to understand until you’re here in the middle of them!
No trip to McCarthy is complete without a dive into frontier and mining history going back to the 1800s. Our local McCarthy-Kennecott Historical Museum is a treasure-trove of historical artifacts and the best historic photo collection we have seen in the valley. Run by a private, non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of McCarthy and neighboring Kennecott the town, and Kennecott the mill site. Learn more about the McCarthy-Kennecott Historical Museum.
No trip to McCarthy is complete without exploring the now abandoned Kennecott Copper Mill Site via a very cool self-guided walking tour. This site is now the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark. The town of Kennecott was founded when copper deposits were discovered high up on the hillside in 1900, and they turned out to be the purest copper ever found on the planet (to date!). Kennecott the town boasting of having the first X-ray machine in the Alaskan territory; the site will please the biggest of history buffs. Start at the Kennecott Visitor Center, run by the National Park Service. Learn more about Kennecott, the mining town, and Kennecott, the mill site.
Enjoy exploring historic McCarthy – the “vice” town, to Kennecott, the “company script” mining town. McCarthy, Alaska really took off when the purest copper was found in the mines 4000 feet up in the mountains above Kennecott. McCarthy was right out of the stereotyped movies: with bars, gambling halls, and a red light district. In fact, McCarthy never adhered to prohibition, the train coming into town had a special whistle code that let everyone know when a US Marshall was on board! Learn more about McCarthy, Alaska.
Boasting the highest concentration of glaciers outside of Antarctica, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is over 30% covered by ice! At over 9 million acres of designated wilderness protections, the park contains more wilderness than all other U.S. states combined. Due to its massive size (13 million acres total), the park features numerous climate zones, temperate rainforest, sub-arctic desert, high alpine tundra, ice fields, and large broad river basins. Visit America’s Largest National Park and see the wonder for yourself!
Viewing the Northern Lights in Alaska is one of life’s coolest experiences. From simple greens and whites to intricately dancing hues of reds, purples & greens, they are equal parts awe-inspiring and humbling to witness. Inspiring various cultures throughout human history, the northern lights show sticks with you forever. Learn when, where, and how to see them in McCarthy, Alaska.
Finding great lodging options in McCarthy Alaska can often be the most difficult part of planning your McCarthy trip. We have you covered with a variety of lodging options. Comfortable cabins with glacier views, riverside campsites, and large, quiet campsites for RVs and tents. Discounts are available when you book your Cabin accommodations and activities together, See all our amazing camping and lodging options.
Local chefs show off their culinary expertise at two of the best local eateries, in McCarthy. While McCarthy is indeed a small town, you will find great options in town and at Explore McCarthy’s own Glacier View Grill and As the Glacier Melts Cafe. Across the bridge in town, The Potato has been a staple for over 2 decades! Starting as a food truck, they now have the finest restaurant in town. Simple, good food, they also have a fine selection of beer, wine, and cider. In Kennecott, make sure to grab a meal pre or post-glacier hike at The Meatza Wagon, a food truck with the best glacier side views in Alaska.