Alaska Visitor's Guide

Denali National Park Alaska
Why It’s Cool: Six million acres of open land? Check. Unbelievable wildlife? Check. Trails to please even the most experienced of hikers? Check. It doesn’t get cooler than Denali—literally. The central draw to the park (especially for mountaineers) is Denali itself, known as Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak. Still, the park offers hikes for pros and beginners alike: Most trails start near the visitor center and are considered easy to moderate in difficulty. A few trails start deeper in the park, beyond the first three miles of the access road. Be sure to do your research before embarking on any backcountry camping trip here—this park is not for the inexperienced.

Where to Camp: The park has six established campgrounds with a combined 291 sites and also allows backcountry camping with a free permit. Riley Creek is the only campground reachable by car (and requires a minimum three-night stay to reduce traffic). The other two sites are reachable only by bus. One campground is also open year-round, and no fees are charged in winter.

When It’s Open: It depends on the weather. Parts of the park are open year-round, but generally, the park opens to private vehicles starting in mid-April. Summer bus service begins May 20 and operates through two weeks after Labor Day. Fall and winter may bring some road closures, but there's still plenty to do in the park, from skiing to dog mushing.

Cost: There's a $10 entrance fee per person, which is valid for seven days. Annual and national passes are also available and accepted. For more information, visit the park's website.

Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Why It’s Cool: Glacier Bay National Park is mostly water: The bay itself serves as the passageway to the inner section of the park, which is (awesomely enough) a glacier. After spending the night under the stars, try cruising the bay on a tour, charter, or private boat. There are no marked trails in the park, so backpacking is pretty strenuous. Rafting one of the park’s two rivers is a great alternative that allows campers to easily tow supplies, but make sure you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing. Park rangers also lead a variety of tours and talks daily during the summer.

Where to Camp: The park has only one campground in Bartlett Cove, which has outhouses, a warming shelter, and safe food storage. Permits are free but required for campgrounds and backcountry May 1 to September 30.

When It’s Open: Year-round, but accessibility and services are very limited in winter. The visitor center is open late May to early September.

Cost: No entrance or camping fees for private visitors. Reservations are required for boating, camping, rafting, and other visitor services. For more information, visit the park's website.

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