Planning Your Time
From Anchorage, it is an easy day trip by car or train to the town of Whittier, where state ferries provide connections to the remote town of Cordova as well as Valdez, which is on the road system. A fun one-week loop (it could be done in three days if you saw everything in a blur) would allow time to see Cordova, Valdez, and Wrangell–St. Elias National Park before circling back to Anchorage.
The Glenn Highway connects Anchorage with the town of Glennallen, passing Matanuska Glacier (a fun spot for guided glacier hikes) at Mile 102. The mighty Copper River and 13-million-acre Wrangell–St. Elias National Park lie just east of Glennallen. For a wonderful taste of this country, turn east on the Edgerton Highway to the dusty and rusty collection of old buildings called Chitina, then out the gravel McCarthy Road for 60 miles to the heart of the Wrangells.
The route follows an old railroad bed, with an amazing high bridge and fine vistas en route to the tiny town of McCarthy, accessible from a footbridge across the Kennicott River. Vans will shuttle you to Kennicott, where colorful old copper-mine buildings are wedged between glaciers and mountain peaks.
Back out on the Richardson Highway, the road climbs south through the alpine area at Thompson Pass and past Worthington Glacier before dropping through narrow Keystone Canyon, where high waterfalls plummet off cliffs. The road ends at Valdez, terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and a jumping-off point for touring Prince William Sound.
The ferry system provides access to the fishing town of Cordova near the mouth of the Copper River. A 50-mile gravel road, the Copper River Highway ends near the Million Dollar Bridge. A short distance away is Childs Glacier, where icebergs thunder into the river; this may be the most dramatic glacier in Alaska.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition