Alaska is a dream destination for many outdoor enthusiasts, offering endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. From mountain climbing to hiking, fishing to paddling, the state is a true paradise for those who love the great outdoors. But for many visitors, the highlight of their trip is the chance to experience the Last Frontier’s beauty up close and personal by camping in Alaska.
If you’re planning a camping trip to Alaska, you should know a few key things. First and foremost, it’s essential to be prepared for the elements. This means packing warm clothing, sturdy rain gear, and plenty of supplies. You’ll also want to be mindful of the weather, as conditions can change quickly in the state’s variable climate.
What you need to know about Camping in Alaska
Commonly asked questions about places to camp in Alaska
Should I camp my way across Alaska?
The honest answer is yes! I loved camping in Alaska and never felt threatened by bears – but we took the utmost care to keep our area clean. We spent half the time in a camper van, and the second half sleeping in tents. It’s far less expensive, you get to meet great people, and we even had a nice encounter with a young black bear who stumbled into our campsite.
Can you camp anywhere?
Just like in the Lower 48, you can camp on public lands or in established campgrounds. The only difference for camping in Alaska is there is a heckuva lot more public land to choose from. Furthermore, there are plenty of established campgrounds, especially on the Kenai Peninsula, to choose from if you want some low-level amenities.
When do established campgrounds open?
I recommend looking up the specific location you want to go to. However, based on experience, many of the campgrounds were not open before Memorial Day weekend. This is when locals joke summer and tourist season begin. For instance, we were driving south up the pass towards Cooper Landing, and one campground’s road was filled with snow.
So, keep this in mind when planning your camping trip.
Is Alaska good for camping?
Most definitely so. The vast landscapes are amazing for both established and dispersed camping. One of the best places to do dispersed camping is along the Denali Highway. It’s so incredibly remote but there are lots of places to pull over and pitch a tent/camper/RV.
Can you sleep on the side of the road in Alaska?
Fun fact, yes, you can. Unless there is a sign that says you cannot park there, you are allowed to sleep on the side of the road. This obviously goes for camper vans and not tents, as I don’t think that would be a safe experience.
What are the camping rules in Alaska?
According to the BLM, you can camp on public lands for up to 14 days at a time, with no need to reserve campsites. (Again, this is on BLM/National Forest land, not established campgrounds.
When choosing a campsite, Alaska offers a wide range of options. You can pitch your tent in a developed campground or go backcountry camping in the more remote regions of the state. Whichever route you choose, be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the land and its inhabitants.
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Staying Safe at Camp
Another important consideration when camping in Alaska is safety. Be aware of your surroundings and the potential for wildlife encounters, and take steps to protect yourself and your gear. This might include bear-proofing your campsite or carrying bear spray. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your plans and check in with them regularly.
Despite the challenges, camping in Alaska is an unforgettable experience that truly offers the chance to connect with the natural world. So pack your bags, plan your route, and prepare to escape into the wild on your next Alaskan adventure.
Related: Read up on my favorite places in Alaska.
9 of the best places to consider camping in Alaska
Denali National Park
With its stunning mountain views and abundant wildlife, Denali is a must-visit destination for any Alaskan camping trip. The park has a variety of campsites to choose from, including Riley Creek Campground (RV and tent sites), Savage River Campground (tent sites and backcountry campsites), and Teklanika River Campground (tent sites).
Camping in Alaska, especially Denali, will be an unforgettable experience!
The Kenai Peninsula is an excellent destination for camping in Alaska, with various options ranging from RV parks to backcountry sites. The area is known for its incredible fishing and proximity to Kenai Fjords National Park and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
The best sites are the Kenai Riverside Campground (RV and tent sites), Primrose Campground (tent sites), and Skilak Lake Campground (tent sites and backcountry campsites). This has some of the best-developed campgrounds, as this is where most people come to explore.
Tongass National Forest
In southeast Alaska, Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States. The forest offers a variety of camping options, including developed campsites, backcountry campsites, and rental cabins. Some popular campsites within the forest include Thorne Bay Campground and Echo Cove Campground.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
This massive park is home to some of the most remote and stunning landscapes in Alaska, making it a perfect place for backcountry camping. There are a few developed campsites within the park, including one at the historic Kennecott Mines and one at the end of the road before crossing the bridge into McCarthy.
Wrangell State Elias is the largest National Park in the US, boasting more backcountry camping opportunities than you can imagine. However, almost all of them require a plane to drop you off and pick you up. If this fits your fancy, you’ll love this style of camping in Alaska!
The city of Fairbanks is a fantastic base for exploring the surrounding wilderness, including Denali National Park to the south and endless natural beauty to the north. In addition, the area is known for its stunning summertime views of the midnight sun. Some popular locations include Chena Lake Recreation Area and Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.
Haines is an excellent spot for camping and outdoor recreation in the panhandle of Alaska. The area is known for its stunning mountain views and proximity to Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Take a look at Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site and Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site for great camping in Alaska.
Chugach State Park
Located just outside of Anchorage, Chugach State Park is a popular spot for camping, hiking, and fishing. The park has a mix of developed campsites, backcountry campsites, and yurts and cabins for rent. Some popular campsites within the park include Eagle River Campground and Bird Creek Campground.
Located off the coast of the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island is home to some of the best fishing and bear watching in the state. The island offers a variety of camping options, including Pasagshak River Campground (RV and tent sites), Pasagshak Point Campground (tent sites), and Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park (tent sites and cabins).
For the ultimate Alaskan adventure, consider camping along the Arctic Circle. This remote region offers a variety of backcountry campsites, as well as the opportunity to experience the unique beauty of the far north. Some popular spots for camping can be found off the Dalton Highway and in Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Car Camping in Alaska Gear
Five Camping in Alaska Items to have
- Puffy Blanket
- Reusable Propane Tank
- Five-gallon water container
- Four-person tent
- Double sleeping bag – 30 degrees
Five Car Camping Meal Items to add to your set up
- Two-burner stove – A reliable two-burner stove is crucial to running an efficient camp kitchen. These will last you 5-10 years and give you no problems if you treat them right.
- Lightweight table – This will fold up nicely and allow for effortless transportation.
- Full cookset – Just like the stove, getting a good set means you won’t have to worry about replacing them for years and years.
- Egg holder – Honestly one of my favorite food accessories as I never have to worry about my eggs getting crushed or having the egg cardboard disintegrate.
- Yeti Cooler – Keep all your food and drinks cold the entire weekend. Made for those going into the wild without access to ice for a few days
Wrapping up – Camping in Alaska
If you’re even considering camping in Alaska, you know you’ll be nearly on your own camping or backpacking in a wild landscape. But that’s the thrill of being in such a remote and beautiful area, unencumbered by other humans.
Enjoy your trip to the outdoors!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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