FAQs: What to Know Before You Go Camping in Alaska
To help you prepare for your trip, we’ll answer a few common questions we hear about camping in Alaska. Along the way, we’ll drop in some tips and must-knows to help you maximize your outdoor time in the state.
Is Alaska Good for Camping?
Camping is amazing in Alaska, and we can’t think of a better way to experience Alaska’s incredible landscapes first-hand. You’ll find people camping in tents and RVs in all across Alaska’s five regions. Tent camping fees are usually minimal, making it a budget-friendly experience for most. For the budget-sensitive, you’ll even find a few spots that are completely free. (More on that below!)
In short, Alaska is an excellent camping destination, one we think everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
Can You Camp Anywhere in Alaska?
You can’t quite camp anywhere in Alaska. Camping on private lands without the owner’s permission is off limits, for example. However, in Alaska, you’ll find a broad range of camping options, both on public land—including national parks, state parks, and national forests—or within organized private campgrounds.
Can You Free Camp in Alaska?
There are a couple of completely free campsites in Alaska, including:
• Salmon Lake, located north of Nome
• Lower Skilak Lake Campground on the Kenai Peninsula
• Lake Lorraine Campground near Anchorage
• Galbraith Lake Campground in North Slope Borough
It’s also legal to sleep along the highway in Alaska and in rest areas—another free option for you. That said, keep an eye out for signs that prohibit overnight parking. If you see those, you’ll want to choose another spot.
Is It Legal to Sleep in Your Car in Alaska?
There are no laws on the books in Alaska preventing you from sleeping in your car. It’s also legal to sleep in rest areas or along the highway in Alaska, although you’ll want to pick your pullout carefully so you’re completely off the road.
Watch for signs forbidding overnight parking. If you don’t see one of these, you’re golden.
How Much Does It Cost to Camp in Alaska?
Some campsites in Alaska are free. Fees for camping on public lands can be as low as $15-20/night. You’ll also find campgrounds with fees that go much higher – $60, $80, or even $100/night, depending on the equipment you’re camping with and the services at the site. In short, you’ll find camping options for all budgets in Alaska.
How Long Can You Camp in One Spot in Alaska?
When you’re on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), you can camp for up to 14 days at a time in a 28-day period. There’s also a 14-night maximum during a summer season at the campgrounds in Denali National Park and Preserve. Other camping locations will have their own individual limits. Make sure you do your research before planning your itinerary.
Do You Need Reservations to Camp in Alaska?
Most of the campgrounds in Alaska’s state parks are first come, first served. (Check this list to see which ones take reservations.)
If you’re looking for more certainty in your camping trip, you can reserve spots at a few via Recreation.gov. Additionally, most private campgrounds accept reservations.
If you prefer flying by the seat of your pants and taking your trip as it comes, the state park system or dispersed camping on BLM lands will be your best bet.
The Best Places to Camp in Alaska
Now that you’ve got a good lay of the land for camping in Alaska, let’s cover some of our favorite spots in the state.
Chena Lake Recreation Area
3780 Laurance Rd.
North Pole, AK 99705
Tents & RVs
None; first come, first served
Hiking, fishing, and boating
This expansive recreation area offers two separate areas for camping—the Lake Park and the River Park. Both feature potable water stations, restrooms, boat launches, and recreation facilities.
There’s plenty to do at the Chena Lake Recreation Area. The Lake Park offers boat rentals to explore Chena Lake, and fishing is available year round. A series of nature trails allows campers the opportunity to explore the area by foot in the summer and via cross-country skis in the winter. Keep your eyes out for muskrat and otters in the river areas, as well as woodpeckers and songbirds in the woods.
Denali National Park & Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve, AK
Tents & RVs up to 40′
Explore the park at your own pace
You’ll find six campgrounds within Denali National Park & Preserve—all of which are summer-only, with the exception of Riley Creek. Fees and facilities vary from campsite to campsite, and some are only open to tents. All of the campgrounds have toilets, and none have electrical or water hookups for RVs.
Note that the park enforces a 14-night maximum for visitors in the summer season, so plan your time in Denali carefully.
Note: Unlike in the rest of Alaska, within the park, campers need to stick to established, open campgrounds. Camping in pullouts or alongside the road is not permitted.
Outside Denali Park, you’ll find a few options for tent and RV camping, including Denali Grizzly Bear Resort, Denali RV Park and Motel, Nenana RV Park & Campground, and Denali Rainbow Village Motel. Each of these spots can act as a solid basecamp for all the hiking, fishing, and wildlife spotting opportunities the park has to offer.
Brushkana Creek Campground
Cantwell, AK 99729
Tents & RVs
None; first come, first serves
Excellent grayling fishing
As one of only two developed public campgrounds along the Denali Highway, Brushkana Creek is a popular destination. Tents and RVs are welcome, though there are no hookups for RVs. The campsite does have toilets and potable water, as well as excellent fly fishing at Brushkana Creek.
Brooks Camp at Katmai National Park & Preserve
King Salmon, AK 99613
Brown bear viewing
More than 2,000 brown bears are estimated to make their home in Katmai National Park and Preserve, making it one of the best brown bear viewing spots in the world. At Brooks Camp, visitors get the chance to share space with these amazing creatures, while the bears enjoy the space they need to go about their natural activities.
Brooks Camp has no designated campground sites. Instead, the site is simply limited to 60 people—and reservations fill up fast. The campsite, located 30 miles from the park headquarters in King Salmon, is only accessible by small float plane or boat. With its remote location and bear viewing opportunities, the Brooks Camp campground offers a unique, only-in-Alaska camping experience.
Homer Spit Campground
4535 Homer Spit Rd.
Homer, AK 99603
Tents and RVs
Scenic views of Kachemak Bay
Tent campers can set up right on the beach at Homer Spit to enjoy unparalleled views of Kachemak Bay. Those looking for RV hookups will find them in the campground, in addition to hot showers, restrooms, and laundry facilities. The campground is also a perfect jumping off point to explore everything that the charming town of Homer has to offer.
Bird Creek Campground
Mile 101, Seward Hwy.
Anchorage, AK 99516
Tents and RVs under 35′
Available for some amenities
Fishing, hiking, whale & bird watching
You’ll find the Bird Creek Campground just south of Anchorage. Although it may not deliver the serenity of a remote campground, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife within Chugach State Park, including brown bears, moose, Dall sheep, lynx, beavers, river otters, and foxes. If tent or RV camping isn’t quite your style, Bird Creek also has two cabins available for rent.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
33398 Ski Hill Rd.
Soldotna, AK 99669
Tents and RVs, plus cabins
None; first come, first served
Fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing
Camping in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge means getting the chance to enjoy its more than 100 miles of trails. The refuge holds examples of every major Alaska habitat type, with plenty of diverse wildlife within each, so there’s a ton to see and explore. Visitors might encounter brown and black bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, mountain goats, eagles, shorebirds, and other waterfowl.
For tent and RV camping, sites are available on a first come, first served basis. If you’d like to try one of the refuge’s 14 cabins, reservations are available on recreation.gov.
Salmon Lake Campground
Tents and RVs
None; first come, first served
Serenity and scenery
Salmon Lake is one of Alaska’s free campsites, and, as you might guess, the facilities match the fees. (They’re minimal!) At Salmon Lake, you’ll find six campsites, an unimproved boat launch, and an outhouse. But you’ll also find one of the northernmost spawning areas for sockeye salmon. The location is remote and the amenities might be few, but the view across the lake is fantastic.
Glacier Nalu Campground
10200 Mendenhall Loop Rd.
Juneau, AK 99801
RVs, tents, and glamping setups
Plenty of amenities
When you need a night in the lap of (camp-style) luxury, pick a spot like Glacier Nalu Campground. You’ll choose from full-service RV sites with free cable TV; elevated glamping setups (just add cooking supplies); or deluxe tenting sites with private gazebos. Clean restrooms, laundromats, shared cooking areas, picnic tables, and more await you.
If that setup sounds a little too fancy for you, there’s always the nearby Mendenhall Lake Campground. It’s got full-service and partial-service RV sites, plus spots for tents—and an unbeatable view of the Mendenhall Glacier.
Safety Tips for Camping in Alaska
Camping in Alaska often means exposing yourself to rugged conditions and traveling in areas where cell phone coverage is spotty or non-existent. Take a few precautions before taking off, and you’ll enjoy a safe and stress-free camping experience.
Tip #1: Check the Weather
Alaska weather can change on a dime. Before you head out on a camping trip, check the weather forecast and prepare carefully for any inclement weather that might head your way. Better to have extra gear you don’t end up using than to spend an unpleasant night trying to rough it in wet or cold conditions.
Tip #2: Tell Someone Else Your Plans
It’s always a good idea to share your plans with a friend who’s not camping with you. Tell them where you’re going, and when you expect to be back. It’s also smart to discuss what your friend should do if you don’t return exactly as planned. Who should they call? And how soon? If you find yourself stuck in a location without cell service, this friend may become a literal lifesaver.
Tip #3: Ideally, Go with Friends
There’s serious serenity in solo camping. But if things start to go wrong, two heads (and sets of hands) are better than one. If at all possible, take someone with you when you’re camping so you can get out of any jams together.
Tips #4: Pack an Emergency Kit
A basic emergency kit can help you deal with everything from minor irritations like bug bites to bigger problems like fractures and sprains. Packing something like the Adventure First Aid Kit means you’re well equipped to act as the first line of defense if anything happens while you’re camping. (Adventure Medical Kits even has one designed for you and your dog!)
Tip #5: Be Bear Smart
Bears are a very real threat to campers, especially if you don’t manage your food stores carefully. It’s a good idea to pack bear spray, and take precautions with where you situate your cooking area. For a full run-down on bear safety, check out this article from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources: Bears and You.
See a Different Side of Alaska
If you want to steep yourself in Alaska’s natural beauty, there’s no better way than camping. Whether you prefer to sleep under the stars or simply give them a final gaze before crawling into your RV for the night, camping will get you as close to nature as it gets in Alaska—and allow you to appreciate a whole different side of the state.
Considering a move to Alaska? We’d be happy to help you get your belongings to the Last Frontier—camping supplies included. We do mainland moves, international moves, and moves within the state. Just reach out to one of our Alaska moving experts for a complimentary quote for your relocation.