The drive down to Chitina was short, so we lingered awhile this morning enjoying the amazing view of the mountains. We finally left our comfy little pullout around mid-morning with our travel mugs topped up with hot coffee. We were surrounded by blue sky and white tipped mountains.
We slipped onto the Richardson highway and headed south. We then turned onto the Edgerton Highway. The Edgerton Highway loosely follows between the Copper River and the Tonsina River. If you want to, a short trip over to Copper Center might be worthwhile. This year we opted to skip Copper Center in favor of a leisurely stay on the Chitina River… or so that was the plan. But, as everyone one knows, plans can change with us at any time.
We wanted to visit McCarthy. It’s been on my "must visit list" for quite some time. A friend of mine has a cabin in the area. We planned on visiting her in mid-July, but then we heard horror stories about McCarthy Road. It is gravel over rail ties. People warned us to bring an extra tire and plan on a flat or two. These suggestions are from relatives who I trust, so we thought about skipping the trip entirely. We are adventurous souls, so we decided to nose out onto the McCarthy Road to take a look for ourselves. We figured that the road would be in decent shape to the bridge, and made that our turnaround point.
The gravel road was pitted, with plenty of wash boarding for the first mile, then it smoothed out. To our utter amazement, pavement! The pavement had its cracks and frost heaves, so it wasn’t perfect. Driving it was just fine as for our truck. We took our time and crossed the bridge. The scenery is stunning! We took a ton of photos and figured that our luck would run out as we continued. The road returned to gravel, but it was nice and smooth. We decided to keep going.
We passed several newly cleared mudslides along the way. The trees looked like they had some severe wind storms last winter because many were down and the tops of some were broken off completely. We rolled into McCarthy, 64 miles out of Chitina.
Cabins and private property are tucked into the woods along the way, McCarthy is small with just a few buildings. The campground, if you call it that, is a wide, flat parking lot. The interesting part is that the Kennicott copper mines. The mines are accessible only by a footbridge and a shuttle. They are ghost mines that were built in the early 1900’s. By 1938, the price of copper collapsed and the mines shut down. I really enjoyed reading the placards along the way explaining some of the ruins. I was impressed that parts the railway was built in a matter of days!
McCarthy is a road trip that is well worth the effort in that the scenery will blow you away. The people are super friendly when you arrive. There is an information center and a place to eat. The information center was closed when we were there for Memorial Weekend. Plan on bringing everything you need because there are no services. There is no internet or phone service, so plan ahead.
Tips about McCarthy:
As it turned out, We were incredibly lucky. We did not know that a grater had just finished repairing road blockages from the mudslides. It is usually a challenging drive. I would not take a large motorhome on McCarthy Road. We did see trucks, vans, class Cs and one older motorhome. When the weather is clear and dry, it is very dusty. Go slow and try to keep the dust down so that others may see.
Plan Before you go:
So, we bid McCarthy a sad goodbye with plans to return later in the summer.
Coming soon... videos and images of McCarthy Road and a post about Chitina.
writes for Iris Blume Publishing. She is an Alaskan who has a love for traveling and writing. Join her as she rediscovers and shares her home state.
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