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Alaska Camping in Wrangell-St. Elias, the Largest National Park in the US
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States. It is six times larger than Yellowstone, and four different mountain ranges connect within the park. The tall peaks seem infinite and create a beautiful scene. Nine of the sixteen highest peaks on US soil reside within the park, including the second largest peak, Mount St. Elias at 18,008'. The park also contains North America’s largest sub-polar ice field, many glaciers, an active volcano, rivers and historic Kennecott copper mines. It was established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is open year round. The most popular time to visit the park is early June through mid September. Winter comes early to interior Alaska and by September 15th, few services and facilities are available. As with other Alaska parks, there are no entrance fees. Winter is a long, dark season with temperatures rarely getting over 5 degrees and dropping as low as -50 degrees Farhenheit. Spring arrives with longer days, warmer temperatures and clear skies. The average highs reach 40-50 degrees, although cold weather and snow are always a possibility. Summer days can reach up into the 80's, but again, snow is common, as is rain, and the weather can be unpredictable. It is always a good idea to be prepared for all types of climate. Mosquitoes are also prevalent in the summer months and you should consider bringing a head-net. The fall season arrives early, in August, and offers clear skies and is mosquito free. However, fall is a short season, often slipping into winter by mid September. Whatever the season the remote Wrangell-St. Elias National Park takes effort to reach, but it is well worth it with beautiful scenery, a wide variety of wildlife, and numerous attractions.
One must see site in the park is the Kennecott mining town. It is one of the few examples of early century copper mining, and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark since 1978. Rehabilitation efforts have been ongoing since 1998 so that the buildings used in the early 20th century mining camp can be enjoyed by generations to come. It is a glimpse at our past, a past filled with innovation, evolving technology, and ingenuity. Some buildings have already been restored and are used for educational programs and community events. The rest of the buildings may take many more years to fully restore. You can see much of the park from the two roads running through the park, Nabesna Road and McCarthy Road. Both roads take you to remote parts of the park allowing for excellent hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities. An easy hike along the Root Glacier Trail takes you up close to an impressive river of ice. Air taxis from nearby towns can drop you off in the back country of the park, allowing you to enjoy some of the most spectacular and remote wilderness left on Earth.
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