Photograph by Whit Richardson, Aurora Photos
Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, the country’s largest national park, operates on an entirely different scale than the Lower 48. Let’s just review the numbers: Six times the size of Yellowstone, it’s home to the country’s largest collection of glaciers and peaks over 16,000 feet (4,879 meters), including nine of the 16 tallest mountains. Parts of the national park are so remote and unexplored that mountains, glaciers, and passes remain unnamed, and only two roads—both gravel—enter it at all. Few visitors ever set foot into the backcountry. All of this adds up to that rarest of finds: true solitude.
Because there are limited well-trod trails in the park, backpackers usually forge their own routes, which is why a guide can come in handy. Enter Greg Fensterman, the author of the FalconGuides to trekking in the park and owner of the outfitter Trek Alaska. After exploring the park for the better part of a decade, Fensterman now offers choice guided treks, ranging from several days of bush-plane-accessed base camping and pleasant day hikes to nine days of serious climbs, swift river crossings, and bushwhacking. Either way, the rewards are indescribable: You’ll witness paper-white peaks that rise 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) out of valley floors, spot grizzlies that have likely never seen humans, and witness a place so remote and wild it could very well be the end of the world.