You know that ride in the traveling carnival where you sit in a car or a boat or a plane and go round and round while going up and down? That is what the Tok Cut-Off Road feels like. Yeah, the ride is for little kids and it doesn’t go fast but, if you stay on it long enough, it can make you feel nauseous. So I was grateful when, about an hour and a half later, we turned off onto Nabesna Road.
Nabesna Road is one of only two roads that go into the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. We were hoping to be able to overnight here and check out the remote town of Nabesna. We stopped at the Ranger Station to get an idea of road conditions, but it was closed for lunch (12-1PM). It took us less than a minute to decide to chance it anyway. We knew the road was paved for a few miles and that there were waysides we could turn around in if needed. So we started down the road.
Nabesna Road, for the first 15 miles, isn’t any worse than the Tok Cut-off and in many ways it is better. There are pot holes but hardly any frost heaves. There are many pull offs, but not many that can hold (or even allow turnaround space) for a 35′ bus with a toad. We found three by mile nine and settled on the last – a large gravel area with enough room for four large rigs. We were the only ones there so we didn’t need the space but, since it was threatening rain, we wanted the most solid space we could find. If you are driving something smaller, a class B or small C, I would recommend continuing if you don’t mind rough roads to around mile 17. There are two sites that have nice views. But, miles 16-20, right now, are rough, soft, and rutted. There was road repair equipment around so the road might be fixed soon.
Once we parked we unhooked the jeep and went for a ride. We went all the way to mile 42: the ‘town’ of Nabesna and the end of the road. It was beautiful in how remote it was and the views are splendid.
Notes on Nabesna Road – Paved up to Mile 15. Miles 16-20 is rutted and soft. 20-29 is mostly good gravel. At Mile 29 is a stream crossing. It is mostly hard packed dirt after that, except where streams have crossed and gravel has been spread. A lot of gravel. When we went to Nabesna, we crossed two very shallow streams; even a corvette could cross them. When we returned, we crossed three – conditions there change quickly.
We over nighted in our gravel turnout and it was very quiet. There may have been three or four vehicles that passed all night and into the morning. One was a motor grader so I am pretty sure the road will improve over the coming weeks.
For those that don’t mind the rough road, there is a free developed campground at mile 27 or so. There are gravel sites that are mostly level and will hold a 35′ rig. the views are nice and there is a hiking trail – just beware of the mosquitos. Right next to the campground is a sportsman’s bar (yes, a bar). They sell food and were open, but we didn’t stop in.