Everything to Know About the Wrangell Mountains

Last Updated on December 3, 2023 by Jess

When you think of the mountains in Alaska, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? We’re guessing it’s probably Denali. But if that’s the only peak you visit during your road trip, you’re missing out on even more rugged beauty.

If you’re visiting Alaska, be sure to check out other sights, including the incredible Wrangell Mountains.

Today, let’s take a closer look at the Wrangell Mountains, how big they are, where they are located, and what you can do there. They are about a five to six-hour drive from Denali on the southeast coast of Alaska. But they are worth the visit. Let’s dive in!

Where are the Wrangell Mountains?

The Wrangell Mountains are located in southeast Alaska. The Denali Visitor Center is located approximately 247 miles northwest of the Copper Center Visitor Center in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Most of the Wrangell Mountains lie within this national park. Anchorage is less than 200 miles to the southwest, and Tok is about 150 miles to the north.

The Wrangell Mountains lie directly northwest of the Saint Elias Mountains. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest national park in the United States, covering 13.2 million acres. You can find out more about this huge park in our article “What’s so special about Wrangell-St. Elias National Park?”.

Who was Ferdinand von Wrangel?

Ferdinand von Wrangel was born into the nobility in Pskov, Russia. He was a Baltic German explorer and officer in the Imperial Russian Navy. In 1829, he was appointed governor of the North American settlements, today’s Alaska. He was later promoted to admiral and appointed Minister of the Navy in the mid-1850s.

During his retirement, he wrote about the people of the American Northwest and his various expeditions. He did not believe that Russia should have sold Alaska to the United States. Wrangel died in 1870.

Wrangel Island in the Arctic is named after him. Wrangell Island off the south-eastern Alaskan archipelago is also named after him. The town of Wrangell, Fort Wrangel, Cape Wrangell, Mount Wrangell, and the USS Wrangell were all named in honor of this important explorer.

How big are the Wrangell Mountains?

Denali is the highest mountain in North America. But two of the ten highest mountains in the U.S. are in the Wrangell Mountains. Mount Blackburn is 16,390 feet high, and Mount Sanford is 16,237 feet above sea level.

These are also the second and third-highest volcanoes in the US. The Wrangell Mountains are volcanic in origin, with Mount Wrangell being the only volcano still active. This massive shield volcano is 14,163 feet above sea level.

The Wrangell Mountains include 12 peaks higher than 13,000 feet. These 12 peaks are on the list of the 80 highest mountains in the United States. Mount Jarvis, Atna Peaks, Parka Peak, and Regal Mountain are some of the most notable peaks in this mountain range.

But the Wrangell Mountains aren’t just home to some of America’s highest peaks. The entire mountain range stretches 100 miles long and 60 miles wide.

Are any of the Wrangell Mountains active volcanoes?

Currently, the only active volcano in the Wrangell Mountains is Mount Wrangell. A large portion of the Wrangell Mountains lies within the Wrangell Volcanic Field, which extends about 160 miles through south-central Alaska into the Yukon Territory.

Unlike the volcanoes in Hawaii, Mount Wrangell is almost completely covered by an ice field. The largest glacier, the Nabesna Glacier, is the longest valley glacier in North America and the longest valley glacier in the world. It stretches for 53 miles.

Although Mount Wrangell has not erupted in over 100 years, the geothermal heat released by the volcano has increased for about 30 years in the last century. The heat even melted the ice around the craters. In the last 40 years, however, the heat has subsided and the ice has accumulated again.

View of the Wrangell Mountains.

Are there glaciers in the Wrangell Mountains?

Mount Wrangell is not the only peak with glaciers in the Wrangell Mountains. According to the National Park Service, there are over 3,100 glaciers in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park covers 35% of the area. The Bagley Icefield is 127 miles long, 6 miles wide, and up to 3,000 feet thick.

The Malaspina Glacier would cover the entire state of Rhode Island; it is the largest foothill glacier in North America. The Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America at 76 miles long and 7 miles wide.

Don’t forget: If you want to experience a glacier up close, consider a tour with Glacier JetSki Adventures!

What is the Kennecott Mine?

The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark is located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This small town is one of the best examples of 20th-century copper mining.

At the Kennecott Mines, visitors can tour the historic buildings. There is the General Store, Post Office, Blackburn School, Recreation Hall, Railroad Depot, Power Plant, and other places to learn about the history of Kennecott.

The National Park Service is currently renovating and restoring many of the old buildings in Kennecott to protect the historic integrity of the mill town. A partnership with the local community and the Friends of Kennicott has been formed for this preservation project.

View of the mines in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

About the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve – which contains much of the Wrangell Mountain Range – is the largest national park in the United States. It covers 13.2 million acres from the sea to over 18,000 feet. Within the boundaries of this national park, you could erect six Yellowstones.

It is rugged but beautiful with its huge glaciers and towering peaks. This national park includes not only the Wrangell Mountains but also the St. Elias Mountains, the Chugach Mountains, and the Alaska Range. As already mentioned, there are over 3,100 glaciers here, including some of the largest in the world.

Remember: So what makes Denali National Park so popular? Let’s find out!

Things to do in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Many visitors enjoy first-class scenic flightseeing and boat tours as well as rock climbing, swimming, and fishing. Informational programs and guided hikes are offered from mid-May to mid-September, providing an excellent opportunity to learn more about the history and geology of the region.

As Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is also a nature reserve, you can hunt and trap here. You can also spot wildlife in this national park.

It has one of the largest concentrations of Dall sheep in North America. You may also see moose, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, caribou, and even two herds of transplanted bison.

A grizzly bear in a flower bed near the Wrangell Mountains.

Visit Alaska’s largest national park in the Wrangell Mountains

The Wrangell Mountains may not be as well known as the Alaska range where Denali towers into the sky. But this mountain range is also full of towering, rugged peaks and ice fields that never seem to end. This part of Alaska is a wonder and well worth a visit.

So the next time you’re planning a road trip to the Last Frontier, consider visiting the Wrangell Mountains and National Park. Marvel at the majesty of creation. Be mesmerized by the grandeur and beauty of this Alaskan wilderness.

Have you ever visited the Wrangell Mountains in southeast Alaska?

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