McCarthy Road

SOME FACTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE DRIVING THE FAMOUS MCCARTHY ROAD:

  • The McCarthy road has had over $6 million dollars in improvements since 2006
  • The McCarthy road use to be the worst in America (or at least Alaska) not so anymore!
  • In Fact, there is no excuse to break a rental car contract as Enterprise, Budget and other car rental companies now allow many of their cars on the McCarthy Road.  In every case, be sure to ask if the rental agreement will be void if driving the McCarthy Road.  Check with us if you are having trouble finding a rental car, we will be able to find you options at competitive prices.
  • The McCarthy Road use to be responsible for 100+ flats a year, sometimes multiple flats from spikes – In 2010, McCarthy’s in-town Tire Repair expert, John Adams, says he only repaired about 2 dozen tires this past summer!
Antique Auto at McCarthy Lodge

Antique Auto at McCarthy Lodge

Today, it is unlikely you will get a flat if you follow this rule:  Don’t drive faster than 35mph, the speed limit for the McCarthy Road.  The road is still gravel, and sharp rocks can destroy tires if you drive too fast.

  • The road has been improved so much  that hardly a spike can be found anymore.
  • The McCarthy Road is now a two lane width instead of 1 lane for almost the entire length.
  • The “Hug-A-Boulder Bend” Notoriously famous for scary 1-lane blind traffic, is gone.
  • The line of sight is improved with the clearing of the brush along the sides of the McCarthy Road

THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO DRIVING!

  • THREE FLIGHTS per day from Chitina (About $250 round trip). Wrangell Mountain Air >>
  • Shuttle Vans are available from Kennicott Shuttle-BackCountry Connection >> & WSE Lodging & Tours Wrangell St Elias Tours >>
  • Flights & shuttles require advance reservations. A perfect alternative for those who just don’t want to drive a gravel road!
  • For some, the road is bumpy & dusty; for many others the McCarthy Road is a dramatic, significant part of an “adventure”.
  • Chances are you won’t get a flat if you drive the speed limit of 35mph or less.
  • If on the off chance you had to change a flat tire, and that would ruin the vacation, then don’t drive, it’s a vacation!

Unless you’re flying into the area, travel to McCarthy and Kennicott requires driving the 60 mile McCarthy Road. This road is essentially built on the old Northwest-Copper River Railroad bed right of way. Its had a bad reputation in the past but has been designated a scenic corridor and major upgrading began in 2006. Alaska’s Department of Transportation has made enormous progress in keeping the road in excellent shape through the summer months.

What used to take 5 or more hours, now takes two. While flat tires used to be common, in the past 3 years the state has improved conditions to where flats are now uncommon. (Like any dirt or gravel road, be prepared with a good spare tire just in case.) More substantial upgrades are scheduled to begin in the next few years as Wrangell-St. Elias National Park gains increased world wide exposure.

While most of the guidebooks have older descriptions of the roads, the road conditions can be verified by contacting either the Alaska Department of Transportation or the Convention & Visitors Center in Glennallen at (907) 822-5555.  Driving speeds of no more than 35MPH are recommended. Be prepared as there are no vehicle repair services on many of Alaska’s rural roads. Below are some items we suggest for all travelers on long road trips in Alaska.

Some towing and tire repair service is available from Chitina (at the beginning of the McCarthy Road). Contact Daniel Boone at (907) 823-2251.   Also some tire repair service is available in the McCarthy area during the summer months.