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Currant Ridge Cabins

McCarthy, Alaska is known for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Kennecott Historic Mines. But that is not all! The McCarthy Road is famous in its own right. This roadway was given to the Federal government by the Copper River and Northwestern Railway Company in 1939 after the mines closed and the volume of freight and passenger traffic declined to unsustainable levels. The National Park Service has a great road description located here (NPS McCarthy Road Geology). Since then the road has seen many changes that have made it safer, smoother and easier to drive than ever before.

Over the years the State of Alaska has performed lots of work along the road and it is in great shape! There is a complete layer of new gravel over the old roadbed virtually eliminating any rail spikes or nails causing flats. This doesn't mean you won't have a flat tire but if you do it'll likely be caused by a sharp stone and not a rail spike. The new surface gives the State material to actually use in grading the road filling in potholes and providing a more consistent surface to ride on. The entire length of the roadway has had the shoulders brushed in the last few years although there are areas that could use another cutting. Besides all of this work, the State has replaced and added culverts in many places and made ditches along the roadway to prevent water from accumulating on the road bed and from washing out the road surface. There are still a couple of areas that have problems but they are few and far between now.

Please check with your rental car agency about their policy regarding taking their vehicle on the McCarthy Road.

Use caution when driving the road. Watch your speed so you don't get surprised by a corner or a bump or other traffic or even, if you're lucky, a moose on the road. Stop and check out the views at pullouts, go for a hike at the Crystalline Hills trail or along the Gilahina River. When you are here at the Gilahina check out the trestle just upstream. Supposedly, this trestle was built in 10 days in January of 1910 during brutal cold weather. It is about 880 feet long and over 90 feet tall in the middle. Not only that, but it burned down in a fire and was rebuilt in 1924, I think! We recommend GoNorth Travel and Car Rental and High Country Car & Truck Rental for vehicle rentals in the state if you choose to drive gravel roads. There are other firms that allow their vehicles on gravel roads and we'll post that information for you when we get it later this winter.

Try out our new Google Map below. I like to hit the "full screen - [ ]" button in the upper right corner and look at the larger map. You can zoom in or out for a more comprehensive view if you'd like. There are also two sets of directions for getting to us at Currant Ridge - one from Fairbanks and one from Anchorage. The drive from Valdez will take about 4 hours and involves making one right turn toward Chitina and not a single stop light or stop sign in the way! The driving times are conservative and it is likely you'll take a little less time to make these drives. I encourage you to take your time and enjoy the ride.

McCarthy Road Description

Mile 0.0Chitina Wayside. This wayside has the first of four state-maintained outhouse facilities on the road to McCarthy. The next available outhouse is at Mile 17.2 at the Kuskulana Bridge. Great news! The entire length of the McCarthy Road has been gravelled by the State of Alaska.
Mile 0.1This 16-foot wide road-cut was originally the only tunnel on the railroad between Chitina and Kennecott, but loose material kept collapsing on the railroad. After you pass through this road-cut, you are treated to panoramic views of the Copper and Chitina River confluence.
Mile 1.1Notice the fish wheels up river, operated by residents with subsistence fishing permits. The salmon runs include Copper River red, king and silver salmon. The original railroad trestle was washed out annually during break up and spring floods. The current Copper River Bridge was built in 1971 at a cost of $3.5 million.
Mile 1.5The Kotsina Bluffs are volcanic deposits, shaped by the winds.
Mile 5.5A nice Chitina River overlook.
Mile 10.1Public fishing access for rainbow trout and silver salmon via 0.3 mile trail to Strelna Lake.
Mile 10.8Public access for good rainbow trout fishing at Silver Lake and Van Lake.
Mile 11.9Sculpin Lake, with pedestrian access only, also has good rainbow trout fishing.
Mile 14.8The road to Nugget Creek is located across from the Strelna airstrip, which parallels the McCarthy Road.
Mile 17.2The Kuskulana Bridge, built in 1910, is 525 feet long and 238 feet above the Kuskulana River. Before 1988, vehicles had to pass over wide open gaps on the wooden decking of the bridge with only 18-inch safety rails on either side. Now, this 3-span steel bridge has solid wooden decking and sturdy safety rails, along with gorgeous views of a deep river canyon. There is a state maintained outhouse on the east side of the bridge.
Mile 25Chokosna Lake area has views of Mt. Blackburn. It is a great place to observe permafrost vegetation (black spruce forest) and wildlife including swans, eagles, and salmon (in late summer).
Mile 29The Gilahina trestle, which is 880 feet long and 90 feet high, was built in 1911 with a half million board feet of timber. There is a short hiking trail and a state maintained outhouse located on the downstream side of the road. On the north side, there are chances to view the trestle structure (please respect private property).
Mile 34.9The Crystalline Hills trail parking area.
Mile 35Moose Lake has views of the Crystalline Hills along with wildlife viewing.
Mile 41Crystal Lake has views of Crystalline Hills and Chugach Mountains.
Mile 44Lakina River.
Mile 46Wildlife refuge at Long Lake. Please respect private property along Long Lake.
Mile 51Views of Castle Peak and Mt. Blackburn.
Mile 55Department of Natural Resources wayside with information about local fire history and spruce bark beetle infestations. There is a state maintained outhouse at this wayside.
Mile 56.7Driveway to Currant Ridge.
Mile 59.5The end of the McCarthy Road. Parking and a pedestrian footbridge to McCarthy and Kennecott.