Backpack to Donoho Basin

Rate this Adventure Alaska McCarthy, Alaska

Added by Jacob W. Frank

Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest National Park in the US and is the park with the most designated Wilderness. This trip has it all, glaciers, lakes, wildlife, and spectacular views!

If you’ve never been to the park, Wrangell is 13.2 million acres, the largest national park in the United States, roughly the size of Switzerland. Access is limited. There is only one main road into the center of the park, which dead ends in the town of Kennecott, a historic copper mining area. I have marked on the map as far as you are allowed to take your personal vehicle.

In order to get to the trailhead there are a few logistics which the park has explained here.

Once you have taken the McCarthy Road, parked at the Kennicott River, walked across the footbridge, and grabbed a shuttle to the town of Kennecott (yes the river and town are spelled differently...), you are now ready to start your backpacking trip.

Start from the Kennecott Visitor Center and walk past the mill to the Root Glacier Trail. It's about 1.5 miles until you can make your way down to and eventually onto the glacier. From there you are required to traverse the Root glacier roughly 1 mile wide. There are no markers or trail on the glacier and conditions can change throughout the year. On the glacier you will see some awesome features, such as rivers, lakes, crevasses, and others. As you make your way across the glacier, you are aiming for a small saddle on the south side of Donoho peak. There you will find the first campground and the "trail" that takes you towards series of unnamed lakes. Even though I use the word trail, it is more of a route and will require some bushwhacking at times.

Eventually you will make it to the first unnamed lake, from there continue around the east side of the lake where you will eventually make it to the foot of the second unnamed lake. From there you will want to cross the stream at the foot of the second lake and continue around the south side of the lake as you continue west into Donoho Basin. From there the route continues into Donoho Basin as far or as short as you like. We camped at the second lake and enjoyed our spot very much. From our camp you can day hike further up into the basin where you will get spectacular view of Kennicott Glacier and 16K ft Mount Blackburn.

If you are looking to split up the trip in and/or out you can also spend a night along the west side of the Root glacier. If you have never hiked off trail in Alaska before or take a lot of pictures like I do, it may be a good idea.

Pack List

Good FAQ for the park:

Shelter from potential rain and bugs

Bear can


Trekking poles


Rain gear


Stove and cookware

20ºF bag and pad

Pants and longs sleeves for bushwhacking

Head net and gloves for mosquitoes


Water filter


Anything else you want and need to backpack

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:




Trail Type:



7 Miles

Elev. Gain:

600 Feet


Swimming Hole

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Added by Jacob W. Frank

Park ranger and photographer in Glacier National Park, MT. Happiest outdoors, camera in-hand.

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