Denali's Trailless Wilderness

To obtain a permit, follow these steps:

Check the quota board behind the backcountry desk to determine which units have openings. Denali's backcountry is divided into 43 units; only a limited number of backpackers are allowed each night in most units. During peak season, many units may be full for several days and others may be closed because of wildlife activity. Large hiking groups must be prepared to split up and visit different units.  

Read the backcountry description guides located at the backcountry desk. Backcountry Companion, for sale at the visitor center bookstore or by mail order (check back of the book for phone number and Web site), is also recommended reading. Please read one or both of these references before choosing a unit.

Consult a topographic map while planning your route through the backcountry. Keep in mind the immense scale of this trailless country where even a five-mile hike can mean an exhausting day. Map-reading skills are invaluable.

Watch the park's backcountry simulator, which describes bear safety, minimum-impact camping, river-crossing techniques, wildlife ethics, backcountry safety, and emergencies.

Finalize your plans with the backcountry staff and obtain your permit. Rangers can help with your initial planning, but in the end, the success of your trip rests with you.

Reserve a seat on a camper bus (the cost is $15) at the visitor center reservation desk. Camper buses are intended to transport campers and their gear into the park and will drop backpackers at their chosen starting points for wilderness trips. Bus passes are good for the entire time you are backpacking. Reboarding is on a space-available basis and backpackers should be prepared to wait up to an hour and sometimes more.

For more information, contact Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755, (907) 683-2294.


All overnight stays in Denali National Park's wilderness areas require a free backcountry permit. They can be obtained at the visitor center — Mile 0.7 of Denali Park Road — during the summer months, and at park headquarters the rest of the year. Permits are issued one day before a trip; advance reservations are not accepted. Most areas require the use of bear-resistant food containers (BRFCs), loaned free of charge with your permit. (BRFCs can also be purchased at the visitor center bookstore.) Containers should be returned promptly at the end of a trip. Note: Day hikers do not need special permits or BRFCs but must avoid areas closed to entry. Check with the backcountry desk for updates on wildlife closures.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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