McCarthy Road

Old Mar 8, 13, 8:06 am
  #1  
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McCarthy Road

Hello,
We would like to spend two days in Wrangel- St. Elias national park in August, and sleep in McCarthy on the night between.
I read that most of the car rental companies don't allow driving on the McCarthy road.
what is the best and chipest way to get to McCarthy? considering we're renting a car for 3 weeks, and have to leave it somewhere, and pick it up two days later.
Thank you in advance!
Ziv.
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Old Mar 8, 13, 1:45 pm
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"Best" is relative. Cheapest is probably the shuttle that operates (I think it is called McCarthy Shuttle but am not positive). You can also take the shuttle one way and fly the other.

Depending on where you overnight, you might be able to use Enterprise and be allowed to drive the McCarthy Road. I know I saw that on one of the lodging websites last year. Not sure if it is still allowed.

When I visited McCarthy a couple of years ago I took the risk and drove my rental car there, knowing I was fully responsible for any and all damage, breakdowns, etc. The cars really do get filthy when driving that road, so it took a while to clean the car inside and out before returning it. My guess is that one main reason rental companies don't want their cars driven on such roads is that it takes a long time to clean up them once they are returned.
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Old Mar 29, 13, 10:28 am
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McCarthy Road

Hi,
When the rantal company (Hertz for example) says: "driving on Mccarthy road is forbidden", from which exact point does this restriction refers to?
Is it possible to drive as far as Chitna? of Chitna is already on the Mccarthy road? where does this road begin?
Ziv.
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Old Mar 29, 13, 7:24 pm
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Originally Posted by Zivco09 View Post
Hi,
When the rantal company (Hertz for example) says: "driving on Mccarthy road is forbidden", from which exact point does this restriction refers to?
Is it possible to drive as far as Chitna? of Chitna is already on the Mccarthy road? where does this road begin?
Ziv.
They mean the unpaved road from Chitina to McCarthy.
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Old Mar 30, 13, 12:54 am
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So i Can drive my rented car up to Chitna, leave it there, and from Chitna use some mean of public transportaion to get to McCarthy? is that correct?
Thank you in advance,
Ziv.
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Old Mar 30, 13, 1:51 pm
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Correct. There is a shuttle and there are flights that leave from Chitina.
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Old May 1, 13, 9:53 am
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Here's what the Kennicott Lodge website says about the McCarthy Road:

The last 60 miles of road before you reach Kennicott (between Chitina and McCarthy) is a State maintained gravel road, passable by any passenger car, that follows the path of the historic Copper River and Northwestern Railroad. The State did extensive work on the road during the summer of 2012 and it is now in better shape than ever before. Here are a couple of tips for driving on the road.

It usually takes 2 - 2 hours to drive the McCarthy Road.
The speed limit for the McCarthy Road is 35mph. If you stay under the speed limit, the risk of a flat tire or car damage is minimal.
The road is wide enough for two lanes in most places and the State has brushed most of the road to increase visibility. However, the road is still narrow in some places, so you should to watch out for other traffic.
The number of flat tires on the McCarthy road has decreased drastically in the last few years, but it is still a good idea to carry a good spare tire. There is a tire repair shop at the end of the road during the summer months if you do have a problem.
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Old May 2, 13, 10:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Reindeerflame View Post
Here's what the Kennicott Lodge website says about the McCarthy Road:

The last 60 miles of road before you reach Kennicott (between Chitina and McCarthy) is a State maintained gravel road, passable by any passenger car, that follows the path of the historic Copper River and Northwestern Railroad. The State did extensive work on the road during the summer of 2012 and it is now in better shape than ever before. Here are a couple of tips for driving on the road.

It usually takes 2 - 2 hours to drive the McCarthy Road.
The speed limit for the McCarthy Road is 35mph. If you stay under the speed limit, the risk of a flat tire or car damage is minimal.
The road is wide enough for two lanes in most places and the State has brushed most of the road to increase visibility. However, the road is still narrow in some places, so you should to watch out for other traffic.
The number of flat tires on the McCarthy road has decreased drastically in the last few years, but it is still a good idea to carry a good spare tire. There is a tire repair shop at the end of the road during the summer months if you do have a problem.
One big issue with the McCarthy Road is whether the driver is willing to violate the rental contract if renting a car from a company that prohibits driving on such roads. This also means that any coverage one might have (credit card protection, personal auto policy, CDW purchased from the rental company) would not be valid if in violation of the rental contract. Each person needs to assess their own tolerance for such risk and liability. I know from experience that the cars get filthy inside and out when driving on such unpaved roads, so it is pretty difficult to hide the fact you have driven on such roads. If you don't clean the car yourself, you will probably be hit with a cleaning fee.
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Old May 3, 13, 10:22 pm
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Cars typically don't break when travelling on unpaved roads, especially when driven carefully. I have years of experience with that.

By the same token, one could argue that there is significant risk in renting a car and staying on pavement without purchasing the CDW. After all, even with one's own insurance and supplemental credit card coverage, there's always the possibility of a hassle....if something goes wrong.

Having rented cars for 35 years, including many trips on unpaved roads, as well as on "forbidden roads" on Maui as well as the Big Island's Saddle Road, I have had a total of one incident involving a rental car. That occurred while the car was parked on a (paved) residential street in San Diego, and a resident carelessly backed out of his driveway. Presumably that person's insurance paid for the damage, because I never again heard from the car rental company. I'm still waiting for someone to claim the $500 I received from a credit card which they sent me after I reported the incident; it's being held in escrow, likely in perpetuity.

In 1986, I drove extensively on unpaved roads in the Yukon and Alaska in a Buick Skylark, including the then-unpaved Klondike and Eagle highways, and a portion of unpaved road in Denali National Park. At one point, the car did look rather dirty, but 2 days of rain on the Kenai Peninsula at the end of the trip washed it clean...just in time to drop it off at ANC.

For some, a one-mile walk in a city park is strenuous; for others, it's just a walk in a park. It all depends on how you look at it. Perhaps most FT members are reckless drivers, and would get into trouble on unpaved roads, because they just can't avoid it. Likely that's not the case.
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Old May 4, 13, 5:39 pm
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Originally Posted by Reindeerflame View Post
Cars typically don't break when travelling on unpaved roads, especially when driven carefully. I have years of experience with that.

By the same token, one could argue that there is significant risk in renting a car and staying on pavement without purchasing the CDW. After all, even with one's own insurance and supplemental credit card coverage, there's always the possibility of a hassle....if something goes wrong.
True that cars typically don't "break" when traveling on unpaved roads. My point was that driving on such roads is in violation of most rental car contracts. Having an accident and needing to avail oneself of one's own insurance and/or supplemental credit card coverage is not. You are comparing apples and oranges.
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Old May 23, 13, 4:45 pm
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McCarthy road is just fine for traveling. I've driven it in the past and thought it was an easy drive.

You just have to steel yourself to driving a long ways on a gravel road.

Will be driving it again in July. Kennicott is worth the drive.

jb
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Old May 26, 13, 3:28 pm
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I drove the McCarthy road in a 1984 Toyota Tercel with no issues. On the other hand, my old boss and a buddy drove the same road in lifted off-road 4WD trucks and BOTH trucks got railroad spikes (the road follows the course of the old railroad bed) impaled through their tires (fortunately, they were both carrying full-size replacement spares). Hopefully with ongoing improvements and maintenance, those risks have been minimized, though.

Originally Posted by fti View Post
I know from experience that the cars get filthy inside and out when driving on such unpaved roads, so it is pretty difficult to hide the fact you have driven on such roads. If you don't clean the car yourself, you will probably be hit with a cleaning fee.
Cleaning fees are pretty much never charged in ANC. Cars get dirty in lots of places, not just on the restricted roads. The only time cleaning fees are charged is if you return the car with spilled fish guts in the trunk (or, more commonly, in the back cargo area of a minivan--fishermen love minivans), as the car is pretty much out of service for two weeks while the rental agency tries (mostly in vain) to rid the car of fish odor. Cleaning fees are never assessed for simple mud/dirt--the dirtiest cars that get returned might take 30 minutes to clean (versus 5-10 for a normal return), but that's not nearly enough to assess any penalties against the renter.
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Old Aug 5, 13, 1:01 pm
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McCarthy Road Now in Good Condition

I drove the 60-mile McCarthy Road on August 1 and 3, 2013, and found the road to be in excellent condition for an unpaved road (A-). We rented an SUV from one of the major car rental agencies at the Fairbanks airport and just drove it on the road without any concern for contract issues; that appeared to be the standard operating procedure for visitors using that road. With barely 16000 miles on the vehicle, the tires were in excellent shape. The road was relatively smooth and generally wide enough for 2 vehicles to easily pass each other. Dust control surfacing had been applied. There was no evidence of railroad spikes, and the State of Alaska clearly has invested millions to improve the road, with lots of new culverts and lots of road maintenance equipment parked along the way.

A reasonable overall speed might be 35mph, but on the return trip, having become used to the road, I found myself reaching 45mph on certain stretches.

The vehicle did get some dust on it, but part of that was due to unpaved portions of otherwise paved highways that were under construction this summer. We used an excellent self-service touchless carwash in Delta Junction to wash the car to demonstrate that we are responsible rental car users. In this condition, even a Smart Car would have done just fine on the road.

I would expect purists about rental car contracts to have turned back upon reaching lengthy unpaved portions of the construction zone on Alaska Route 3 north of Denali Park. However, their efforts to reach Anchorage entirely via pavement on Alaska Routes 4 and 1 would also have been thwarted, due to unpaved portions in construction zones on that routing.

Last edited by Reindeerflame; Aug 5, 13 at 10:58 pm
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Old Aug 5, 13, 3:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Reindeerflame View Post
I would expect purists about rental car contracts to have turned back upon reaching lengthy unpaved portions of the construction zone on Alaska Route 3 north of Denali Park. However, their efforts to reach Anchorage entirely via pavement on Alaska Routes 4 and 1 would also have been thwarted, due to unpaved portions in construction zones on that routing.
I agree with you about the way some car rental companies restrict driving to "no unpaved roads" which would mean not even traveling the Parks Highway or Seward Highway in spots. Some companies name specific roads that are forbidden (Avis in Fairbanks comes to mind) and when they do this, roads like the McCarthy Road are always listed.

Best to use the names of the roads, not the numbers. Only visitors use the numbers and most Alaskans have no idea which road number is which. I have no clue myself about many of them either.

In the end it is up to each person to decide their comfort level when violating the car rental contract.
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Old Aug 5, 13, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
Best to use the names of the roads, not the numbers. Only visitors use the numbers and most Alaskans have no idea which road number is which.
I'm sitting here scratching my head trying to figure out which roads he was talking about.
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