Mount Wrangell, Alaska’s Volcanic Giant
Mount Wrangell

Mount Wrangell, one of the highest and most active volcanoes in North America, commands attention in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. This towering stratovolcano, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, is a symbol of the rugged, untamed wilderness that defines Alaska’s landscape.

Constructed atop the ashes of a mid-Pleistocene volcano, modern Mount Wrangell has had small phreatic eruptions in 1884 and eruptions as far back as 750,000 years ago. At the top of Wrangell’s wide peak, the shield volcano has an ice-filled crater measuring 2.5 by 3.7 miles (4 by 6 km) in diameter. It appears that subsidence, not massive explosive eruptions, created the caldera. Three tiny craters round the caldera, and they frequently exhibit fumarolic activity with steam plumes that are occasionally visible from a distance. The west peak rises to 14,013 feet (4,271 meters), whereas the main top is located on the caldera’s north side.

The peak area stretches approximately 2 by 5 miles (3 by 8 km) at an elevation of above 13,000 feet (4,000 m). Rising over 1,000 feet (300 m) above the northwest flank of Wrangell, 13,009-foot (3,965 m) Mount Zanetti is a massive cinder cone and the source of several lava flows.

An icefield that covers nearly all of Mount Wrangell is a yearly feature. Nabesna Glacier, the source of the Nabesna River, is the biggest glacier on Wrangell. Dadina Glacier, Copper Glacier, Chichokna Glacier, Chetaslina Glacier, and Cheshnina Glacier are some of the other glaciers on Mount Wrangell. Read also about the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro

The Wrangell range’s first high volcano to be climbed was Wrangell. An aircraft fitted with skis may visit its top.

With its remarkable geology, glacial features, and ongoing volcanic activity, Mount Wrangell is a magnet for scientists, adventurers, and nature enthusiasts alike.

Key Features:

  1. Elevation: Mount Wrangell reaches an elevation of 14,163 feet (4,317 meters), making it the highest volcano in the Wrangell Mountains and the second-highest volcano in the United States.
  2. Location: Situated in southeastern Alaska, Mount Wrangell is part of the Wrangell Volcanic Field within the larger Wrangell Mountains. It’s a prominent feature of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the United States.

Activities and Attractions:

  1. Volcanic Activity: Mount Wrangell is known for its frequent volcanic eruptions, with the most recent occurring in 1900. Its activity generates plumes of steam and volcanic gases, making it a site of interest for geologists and volcanologists.
  2. Hiking and Backpacking: While reaching the volcano’s summit is a challenging endeavor, there are hiking and backpacking opportunities in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Explore trails that lead through pristine wilderness, offering glimpses of glaciers, wildflower-strewn meadows, and diverse wildlife.
  3. Glaciers: The region surrounding Mount Wrangell is rich with glaciers, a testament to the area’s dynamic geology. The Root Glacier and Kennicott Glacier are accessible for exploration, whether by foot or with the help of local guides.
  4. Kennecott Mines: Nearby, the historic Kennecott Mines, a designated National Historic Landmark, provide a fascinating glimpse into the copper mining history of the area. The well-preserved buildings and structures offer a unique blend of history and adventure.
  5. Wildlife Viewing: The park and preserve are teeming with wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and numerous bird species. Observing these animals in their natural habitat is a highlight for visitors.

How to Get There:

  • The town of McCarthy, located near the base of Mount Wrangell, serves as a gateway to the national park. Visitors can access the park via the McCarthy Road, a gravel road that connects to the wider road network.
  • While reaching the mountain’s summit requires significant mountaineering experience, hikers and explorers can access various parts of the national park and the scenic beauty that surrounds Mount Wrangell.

Mount Wrangell stands as a monumental symbol of Alaska’s wilderness, its geological wonders, and its wild, untamed character. Whether you’re drawn to volcanic exploration, glacier-filled landscapes, or the sheer adventure of Alaska’s backcountry, Mount Wrangell and the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve offer an unparalleled experience. As one of the nation’s most active and iconic volcanoes, Mount Wrangell’s towering presence and rich geological history beckon visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of Alaska’s wilderness.

When it comes to the mesmerizing world of volcanoes, two giants take center stage: Mount Wrangell and Ol Doinyo Lengai. These awe-inspiring geological wonders not only capture the imagination but also raise questions about their formation, activity, and impact on the Earth’s dynamic landscape. In this article, we delve into the depths of these volcanoes, exploring their unique characteristics, geology, and significance.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in USA

The largest national park in the United States is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, located in the state of Alaska. This vast and stunning park covers an immense area, making it not only the largest national park in the United States but also the largest in North America.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve spans over 13.2 million acres, which is larger than the country of Switzerland. This immense size encompasses a diverse range of landscapes, from towering mountain peaks, including Mount St. Elias, to immense glaciers, deep valleys, and pristine wilderness areas. The park is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, offering visitors the opportunity to explore some of the most remote and untouched parts of Alaska.

In addition to its remarkable natural beauty, the park also holds cultural significance. It includes historical sites and the remains of indigenous and early European settlements, providing a glimpse into the human history and heritage of the region.

Visitors to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve can engage in a variety of activities, including hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and even backcountry adventures. The park’s vastness and wilderness make it an excellent destination for those seeking a true Alaskan experience.

Overall, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve not only holds the title of the largest national park in the United States but also offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with nature and explore one of the last frontiers of the North American continent.

Mount Wrangell: The Alaskan Behemoth

Mount Wrangell stands tall in the heart of Alaska, and at 14,163 feet, it’s the second-highest volcano in the United States. This colossal stratovolcano is known for its sheer size and incredible geological history.

Geology and Formation

At its core, Mount Wrangell is primarily a stratovolcano, characterized by its steep slopes and highly viscous lava. Its formation can be traced back to the tectonic interactions of the Pacific and North American plates. Over millennia, this colossal volcano has erupted repeatedly, shaping the Alaskan landscape.

Volcanic Activity

Despite its grandeur, Mount Wrangell has been relatively quiet in recent years. The last significant eruption occurred around 200,000 years ago, with the most recent minor eruption happening in 1900. This does not mean it’s dormant, but rather in a state of repose, keeping geologists and volcanologists on their toes.

The sole volcano in the Wrangell Volcanic Field with historical eruption records is Wrangell, which often results in minor bursts of ash and steam. There are records of activity from 1784 and 1884–1885. There is disagreement on the eruptions in 1784 and 1760.Local prospector Jon Bremner reported on the eruption of 1884–1885.Reports from 1890 suggest a discernible radiance.In [9] Occasionally, Wrangell also releases ash, which covers the snow at the peak. Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, massive lava flows formed the majority of the mountain. The top caldera may have fallen 50,000 years ago, although it is thought to have collapsed within the previous 200,000 years. The approximate age of Mount Zanetti is 25,000 years.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Wrangell released more geothermal heat, increasing the likelihood of another eruption. In the north crater, ice caves and tiny lakes were formed by the strong heat flow, which by 1986 had melted about 100 million cubic meters of ice around the craters. Since then, there has been less heat production and more ice accumulation.


Mount Wrangell’s significance goes beyond its impressive stature. It has a profound influence on the Alaskan ecosystem, providing essential nutrients to the soil through volcanic ash. Additionally, it attracts adventurers, hikers, and scientists alike, drawn by its geological splendor and its role in shaping Alaska’s unique terrain.

Ol Doinyo Lengai: The “Mountain of God”

Ol Doinyo Lengai, often referred to as the “Mountain of God,” is situated in the East African Rift Valley in Tanzania. Unlike Mount Wrangell, it’s a unique type of volcano known as a carbonatite volcano, making it a standout in the world of volcanology.

Geology and Formation

Ol Doinyo Lengai’s geological story is an intriguing one. It spews natrocarbonatite lava, which is noticeably different from the typical silicate lava found in most volcanoes. This rare composition results from the volcanic rocks’ unique interaction with the Earth’s mantle.


One of the most fascinating aspects of Ol Doinyo Lengai is its consistent, low-level activity. It is one of the few volcanoes that continuously erupts natrocarbonatite lava, creating unique landscapes and geological formations in its vicinity.


This Tanzanian marvel plays a vital role in shaping the local ecosystem, influencing the soil composition and providing an opportunity for scientific exploration. Its significance also extends to the local Maasai people, who consider it a sacred site, intertwining their culture with the volcano’s presence.

Comparing Mount Wrangell and Ol Doinyo Lengai

Size and Location

Mount Wrangell and Ol Doinyo Lengai, though vastly different in many aspects, share the commonality of grandeur and geological importance. While Mount Wrangell is a towering giant in the Alaskan wilderness, Ol Doinyo Lengai reigns supreme in the African Rift Valley.

Geological Differences

One of the most striking differences between these volcanoes lies in their geology. Mount Wrangell is a classic stratovolcano, characterized by its explosive eruptions and viscous lava, whereas Ol Doinyo Lengai is a carbonatite volcano, known for its unique natrocarbonatite lava.

Activity Patterns

Mount Wrangell’s history is marked by intermittent major eruptions and periods of rest, while Ol Doinyo Lengai maintains a constant state of low-level activity. These distinctive activity patterns showcase the diverse nature of volcanoes.

Ecological Impact

Both Mount Wrangell and Ol Doinyo Lengai significantly influence their respective ecosystems. Mount Wrangell’s eruptions contribute to the Alaskan soil’s fertility, while Ol Doinyo Lengai’s natrocarbonatite lava shapes the Tanzanian landscape and influences the local flora and fauna.

The comparison between these two volcanoes

In the world of volcanoes, Mount Wrangell and Ol Doinyo Lengai stand as monumental icons, each with its own unique characteristics and geological significance. While Mount Wrangell showcases the might of a classic stratovolcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai astounds with its carbonatite composition and consistent activity. These geological wonders not only fascinate scientists but also play a crucial role in their respective ecosystems. As they continue to shape the Earth’s dynamic landscape, Mount Wrangell and Ol Doinyo Lengai are testaments to the awe-inspiring forces of nature.

Here is a 3 days Mount Ol Doinyo Lengai Itinerary


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