When you visit McCarthy, AK, it's like stepping back into time. As I mentioned in one of my other posts for this journal, when you start doing research for this area and figure out how you're going to get there, it's a little tough to figure out what you'll do once you're actually there. The trick is to first get to the end of the McCarthy Road. It's a rough one, and you want to drive it slowly and carefully because it's been built along an old railroad track. Because of that, you'll see spikes and pieces of old track along side the road. While we didn't experience any flat tires, we understand that it's a fairly common occurrence. Once you do get to the end of the road, you'll need to park your car. There are several parking lots along the way—they are privately owned, and some do charge anywhere from $5 to 10 to park there. You'll see a footbridge at the end of the road. You'll need to walk over this bridge and about a ½ mile into the village of McCarthy.
After you cross the bridge, you'll see signs by the creek alongside the road. These bridges warn you not to throw anything into or swim in the water as it's the McCarthy residents' drinking water supply. While we were sitting there, a truck pulled up with a water tank and filled up.
McCarthy, is in and of itself, a charming place. It grew up alongside the mining town of Kennecott, which is just up the road and which is one of the biggest attractions in the area. The story goes that the mining company was very strict on the employees who worked for Kennecott. As a result, if they wanted to drink or carouse with loose women, they'd have to travel down to McCarthy. Today, McCarthy is home to about 100 or so residents and a few places of business.
If flight-seeing is your thing, check out Wrangell Mountain Air or some of the air flight-seeing services you'll see in McCarthy. A charming little hotel, Ma Johnson's, is also located there in McCarthy, along with the McCarthy Lodge. There are a few eating establishments in town, including "The Potato" which specializes in homemade curly french fries with various toppings. In addition, the McCarthy Merchantile makes a great sack lunch for $10 if you need a lunch for hiking. If hiking is your thing and you feel like glacier hiking or touring some of the old mines, the St. Elias Alpine Guides, the concessionaires of the park, are very helpful. (The only way you can go into the mines is on a tour with the St. Elias guides.) Their office is right inside the town of Kennecott, towards the glacier.
McCarthy also has a very informative little museum in its old railroad depot that tells its history. After seeing the town, if you decide to go to Kennecott, you'll either need to walk the 4.5 miles to the old city, or else take a shuttle van. We took a shuttle van provided by Wrangell Air, and it was $10 round trip per person. McCarthy is a very dog-friendly community, and several people on our shuttle had their dogs with them.
McCarthy has a small mercantile; however, as you can imagine, in a place this isolated things are expensive and choices are slim. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to pack your own groceries as well as outdoor equipment with you.