McCarthy is located on the Kennicott River about 1.5 miles after the end of the McCarthy Rd, which is itself a continuation of the Edgerton Hwy/McCarthy Rd. It is about 60 miles east of Chitina and within the Wrangell-St Elias NP and Preserve.
The town developed after copper was discovered in nearby Kennicott. It is in a scenic area of glaciers and mountains and is at the end of the defunct CR&NW Railroad, known locally as "can't run & never will".
The town has no post office, TV or school. It does have a 1,500 foot gravel airstrip. The local museum has photos and artifacts from mining days and is located in the old railway depot. The Kennicott River joins the Nizina and then the Chitina.