Copper Center (pop. 500) is 15 miles south of Glennallen  on a side road (the Old Richardson Highway) that splits off at Mile 106 on the Richardson Highway. Settled in 1896, this was the first non–Native Alaskan town in the interior of Southcentral Alaska, opened up by all the exploration on the mighty Copper River.
This was also the point where the perilous trail over Valdez Glacier came down from the mountains. When the stampeders arrived, they found a score of tents, several log cabins, a post office, and the Blix Roadhouse, which opened in 1898 for $15,000 and featured spring beds and a modern bath.
Today the settlement has a handful of businesses and a mixed population, including Athabascans in the neighboring village of Kluti Kaah.
Just north of town at Mile 107 is the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center (907/822-7250, www.nps.gov/wrst , daily 9 a.m.–7 p.m. late May–mid-Sept., Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. mid-Sept.–late May). Rangers can help with trip planning, sell you books and topographic maps, or show an acclaimed film about the park.
The old Blix Roadhouse was replaced in 1932 by Copper Center Lodge (907/822-3245 or 866/330-3245, www.coppercenterlodge.com ), a charming two-story log building. Comfortable rooms cost $125 d; request one with a private bath. The restaurant (daily 5 a.m.–9:30 p.m. summer, daily 7 a.m.–8:30 p.m. winter, dinner entrées $17–30) serves sourdough pancakes—using a century-old sourdough starter—along with burgers, sandwiches, shrimp, halibut, and steaks. There are great homemade blueberry and rhubarb pies too.
Next door are two small cabins that form the George Ashby Museum (907/822-5285, daily 11 a.m.–5 p.m. mid-May–mid-Sept.). Exhibits trace the history of the Copper River Valley , including Athabascan Indian and early-settler artifacts. Gold rush and pioneer days are remembered with photographs, tools used to develop the area, and old Sears catalogs, the only way the local inhabitants could procure many necessary supplies from Outside.
Out on the loop road, Chapel on the Hill, the oldest log chapel in the Copper River Basin, was built by Army volunteers in 1943.
Enjoy a comfortable night at Sawing Logzz B&B (907/822-3242, www.sawinglogzz.com , $125 d) where the private suite includes a queen log bed, a futon couch, a stocked kitchenette for a self-serve breakfast, and a private bath.
Set on a hilltop, the modern 85-room Copper River Princess Lodge (907/822-4000 or 800/426-0500, www.princesslodges.com , $179 d) is at Mile 102 on the Richardson Highway. Upscale guest rooms are large and comfortable, but the view is the real feature, with vistas over the Copper River Valley to Mt. Drum and the Wrangells. Most guests are cruise ship passengers, but independent travelers are welcome, and discounted rates are often available. A restaurant and lounge are on the premises.
Park RVs at two seasonal campgrounds on opposite sides of the Klutina River: Klutina Salmon Charters (907/822-3991, www.klutinasalmoncharters.com ) and Grove’s Klutina Charters (907/822-5822 or 800/770-5822, www.groveklutina.com ).