1- Budget Sea and Sky with a Donoho Wilderness Backpack. This option is more strenuous with a beautiful glacier crossing. Great scenery and a variety of hiking options. This tour is below tree line, so there is some "alder exploration" to access the Donoho lakes. This is also your best bet if you'd like to integrate ice-climbing.
2- Sea and Sky with fly-in base-camp at Iceberg Lake. This is the guides choice! Or, fly up the Chitistone Gorge to Skolai Pass to hike the classic Alaskan-style open tundra and take in the expansive views.
Flight fee depends on group size.
B&B upgrade also available.
A "high" adventure trip is perfect for a sampling of Alaska's best! This is a camping tour designed to experience camping in Alaska's backcountry in a week's trip. This is our most popular trip because we have taken a kayak camping tour that visits our favorite destination in Prince William Sound and combined it with an unforgettable backpacking or base camping trip in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. There is also the option to integrate ice-climbing and/or rafting along the way. The Alaskan Sampler is a must do trip if you only have a week! It's a must if you have longer! It's basically the best of the best!!
This itinerary is for the preferred Iceberg Lake fly-in option.
The hike-in option to Donoho Wilderness is great if you are on a budget and would like to ice-climb and backpack across a glacier.
The fly-in is well worth the price to access some of the best hiking in the National Park.
- Meet in Valdez at our shop in the morning for a safety briefing and orientation. From there we board our water taxi for the brilliant cruise out to Heather Bay, our access to the mighty Columbia Glacier – the largest tide water glacier in Prince William Sound. Here we embark on our journey into the massive floating icefield and amongst its towering icebergs, eventually to a secluded moraine with a view of the glacier. As we paddle away from the Columbia we keep a look out for numerous marine mammals, possibly seeing harbor seals, sea otters, and perhaps a glimpse of an orca. On this night we make camp in Heather Bay and settle in for some tasty camp cuisine cooked by our guides.
(Lunch) ( Dinner)
- After our first night camping we're off towards Glacier Island. With the Columbia Glacier to our backs, we make a two mile crossing south to Glacier Island where we are treated to more ancient rainforest and icebergs grinding against the shore. There is a multitude of inlets and bays to explore on the north side of the island, plus numerous hikes and beach-combing opportunities. We may climb one of the spectacular ridges giving us wonderful views of Naked Island and the Columbia Glacier. The elusive snow covered peaks of Montague Island may even come into view. Our guides will provide another fine meal before settling in for the evening.
(Breakfast) (Lunch) ( Dinner)
- An early start will lead us around the corner of the island to Bull Head. Here we'll find a colony of Stellar Sea Lions which can be seen feeding, fighting, swimming and sleeping. As we watch these curious creatures, be on the look out for puffins and cormorants which inhabit the rugged caves found along the coastline. We stop at a secluded beach for lunch and a hike up through the rainforest. After lunch we're off to Chamberlain Bay for some more exploring before we are picked up for the water taxi ride back to Valdez. Lodging is included at a local hotel or B&B for a proper regroup and mid-trip shower.
(Breakfast) (Lunch) (Dinner on your own in Valdez)
Meet at the shop for the impressive van ride over Thompson Pass and into the rugged interior, to the forgotten town of Chitina on the western edge of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, rafting the dramatic Keystone Canyon of the Lowe River along the way. From Chitina, you’ll catch a scenic flight to the old mining remnant of McCarthy/Kennicott located in the heart of the park. There we have a bit of time to walk around town before taking the final flight even deeper into the park to the Iceberg Lake landing strip. We hike a short distance away from the air strip to set up camp. Remember, this air strip is basically the dried-up lake bed!
(Breakfast) (Lunch) (Dinner)
Day 5- 7
Iceberg lake is set in the alpine tundra above tree-line, yet still located at a fairly low elevation offering comfortable camping and no need to travel through snow or over ice. Enjoying the 3 days we have to explore, we will head off in various directions from camp on day hikes that will bring us to high ridges overlooking the valley. We will also have time to walk along the shoreline of Iceberg Lake, admiring the floating and beached ice and abundant wildflowers. We have witnessed grizzlies and wolverine traveling through the valley as well as a variety of birds.
Each time we visit Iceberg Lake we find a new hike so the guides leave a very open itinerary. Most trips take us up the valley and across an easily-accessed glacier. Other days we head down valley towards the face of the Tana Glacier where it meets Iceberg Lake. The lucky group will get to witness the power of the glacier lifting up and allowing the massive volume of water to drain from the valley.
Groups have the option of keeping a base camp or moving around the valley to enjoy various views. The guide will prepare backpacker-style meals which are always a good time. (Breakfast) (Lunch) (Dinner)
Day 8 -
Before the first plane arrives to pick everyone up, we have time to take short walks or just find a comfortable perch and reflect on the trip. These are our last moments of pure wilderness. The bush plane usually arrives just after lunch. A short flight brings us back to McCarthy where we once again may have a bit of time to explore the quaint town before boarding the second flight back to Chitina, from where we'll van back to Valdez. The flights and van rides themselves are a treat as they follow the landscape through the Chugach Mountains all the way back to Valdez. The trip ends in Valdez around 5:00 p.m., where a victory shower is always welcome. (Breakfast) (Lunch)
*With the kayaking, it is important to note, that now with the Columbia Bay opening up and its upper reaches becoming more accessible, the size of the area to explore out there has increased significantly. Therefore, while three days is still enough time to check out the old terminal moraine where icebergs have drifted out and gotten caught up in the shallows, as well as paddle south from there to Glacier Island, and weather permitting, around the south side to Bull Head to see the sea lion haul-out, it is not enough time to do all that as well as see the face. So there has recently become a bit of a fork in the road, and while some parties like to run that original itinerary (and rightly so!), some now choose to spend most of their time closer to the upper bay amphitheater where the faces of all the different branches dumping into the sea are located. This is a spectacular itinerary, too, but with it, unless your group is fit and eager to cover some distance, there is not really enough time to experience Glacier Island, as well. If groups are really intent on upping their chances for seeing both places (Upper Columbia Bay AND Glacier Island), one may consider making this a 9-day trip, overall.
We suggest planning to stay the last night in Valdez, as the weather in Alaska can sometimes delay flights. The tour includes a three day guided sea kayak camping tour, one night of lodging in Valdez on night 3, a van ride from Valdez to Chitina and back, all bush plane flights, 3 1/2 days guided backpacking, everything you need to kayak and camp, all park fees, and all meals while on tour. If choosing the Donoho route, you may also opt to include scenic fly-out rafting of the Kennicott, Nizina and Chitina Rivers for an extra $335 per person, ice-climbing on the Root Glacier for $155 per person, and/or an Historical Kennicott Mill Tour for $28pp.