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Camping in Denali National Park: The Ultimate Guide to All 6 Campgrounds in Denali

Pink alpenglow on Denali, covered in snow.

Pixabay Photo

Denali National Park is one of the largest parks in the country, and it can be challenging to decide where to stay. Camping in Denali National Park allows you great proximity to some of the park’s best attractions.

There are campgrounds all over the park in addition to lodges and campgrounds outside the park borders. Each one has its own appeal depending on the type of campsite you’re searching for.

I lived in the Denali area for four years and stayed in many of its campgrounds. Below, you’ll find a complete guide to camping in Denali National Park with every detail you need to know about booking, locations, prices, and more. That includes the campgrounds in Denali and everything else you need to know about Denali camping.

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Denali Camping Regulations

The following list of regulations is from the park’s official website. Make sure you follow these regulations carefully during your visit.

  • Check-in for each campground takes place at the Riley Creek Mercantile, not the individual campground. You must check-out (vacate your campsite) by 11 a.m.
  • Pets are allowed in campgrounds. They must be on a leash at all times. Pets are not allowed on Denali’s hiking trails (except for the Roadside Trail and Bike Path) and cannot be brought into buildings or designated Wilderness. Learn more about pets in Denali.
  • Fires are permitted only in established grates at your campsite in Riley Creek, Savage River, and Teklanika. Firewood is available for purchase at the Riley Creek Mercantile. You may also collect wood that is dead and on the ground. There are no fires permitted at Sanctuary River, Igloo Creek, or Wonder Lake; cook with a stove only.
  • All campgrounds in Denali National Park observe quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • You cannot choose your campsite in advance; choose your site when you arrive. Some sites are designated by letters A or B depending on vehicle needs. Please camp only in the type of site you have a reservation for.
  • There are no hook-ups in any of Denali’s campgrounds.
  • All campgrounds have potable water with the exception of Sanctuary River and Igloo Creek. Bring a water filter if you are camping at one of these more primitive campgrounds.

For more details about regulations in Denali campgrounds, click here.

Furthermore, while camping in Denali National Park it is crucial that you abide by food storage regulations. Each campground has lockers where you can store your food and other scented items. In Denali, you may also store these items inside your vehicle or RV. Never feed, approach, or harass wildlife in any way.

A backpacker camping in Denali National Park stretches outside his tent.

Unsplash Photo

Reserving a Campsite

Beginning December 1 the year before you’re like to camp in Denali, reservations are accepted. For example, for June 2021 you would be able to make reservations as early as December 1, 2020.

Reservations can be made online or over the phone at 800-622-7275. All sites that are not reserved are first-come, first-served. Reservations are strongly encouraged, but not always necessary.

The National Park Service does not handle campground reservations in Denali National Park.

Denali National Park Campgrounds

Below you’ll find a brief overview of each campground in Denali National Park.

Map of Campgrounds in Denali National Park

A map of the campgrounds in Denali National Park

Igloo Creek Campground

A young grizzly bear stands next to the sign for Igloo Creek Campground, a great place for camping in Denali National Park.

NPS/Emily Mesner

Igloo Creek is one of the most primitive places for camping in Denali National Park while staying in a campground. There is no potable water available and no fire grates, therefore campfires are not permitted.

The campground is located 35 miles from the park entrance and only accessible by bus. I recommend taking a Camper Bus, which will allow you to pack all the gear you need to camp at Igloo Creek. You cannot drive your private vehicle to Igloo Creek. Therefore, no RVs are permitted.

There is no potable water available at Igloo Creek. Bring a water filter or purification tablets with you.

Reservations are not accepted at Igloo Creek Campground. Upon arrival, visit the Denali Bus Depot or Riley Creek Mercantile to inquire about camping in Denali National Park and Igloo Creek Campground.

Because pets are not allowed on park buses, pets are not permitted at Igloo Creek.

Cost: $17 per night

Facilities: Pit toilets, food storage lockers, trash/recycling collection

Ranger Programs: None

Reservations Accepted?: No, this campground is first-come, first-served.

RVs?: No, Igloo Creek is a tents-only campground.

Season: Igloo Creek is open in summer, generally May 20 to mid-September.

Sites: 7

Riley Creek Campground

Riley Creek Campground

Riley Creek is the largest and most popular campground in Denali National Park. It is also the only campground that is open year-round.

Riley Creek Campground is located at the beginning of the only road in Denali, making it a prime location for camping in Denali National Park. It’s also the only campground in Denali with Wi-Fi at the Riley Creek Mercantile and cell service throughout the campground.

In summer, the campground is always buzzing with people and wildlife. Moose are frequently seen here, so remember to run between trees and in a zig-zag line if you are being chased by one.

The Riley Creek Mercantile is located here and is open from mid-May to mid-September. The Mercantile provides free Wi-Fi, a camp store, showers, and laundry in addition to other services. A network of trails provides easy access to the Denali Visitor Center and Denali Bus Depot.

Cost: Prices range from $17 to $49 per night. Click here for more information. In winter, camping at Riley Creek is free.

Facilities: Food storage lockers, camp store, cell service, dump station, showers, laundry, flush toilets (summer), pit toilets (winter)

Ranger Programs: Park Rangers deliver programs from mid-May to mid-September at the Amphitheater at 7 p.m. daily.

Reservations Accepted?: Yes, in summer. The campground is first-come, first-served in winter.

RVs?: Yes; no hook-ups. The maximum length is 40-feet.

Season: Riley Creek is open year-round.

Sites: 142 with 20 that are designated as tent-only.

Sanctuary River Campground

A river runs through orange shrubbery at Sanctuary River Campground, one of the best spots for camping in Denali National Park.

NPS Photo

If you’d prefer a more primitive experience while camping in Denali National Park, I recommend the Sanctuary River Campground.

Located 22 miles from the entrance to the park, Sanctuary is one of the smallest campgrounds in Denali. It’s often quiet with the exception of noises from passing bus traffic, often masked by the pleasant sound of the Sanctuary River.

Sanctuary Campground is only accessible by bus. I recommend taking a Camper Bus, which will allow you to pack all the gear you need to camp at this isolated location. You cannot drive your private vehicle to the Sanctuary River Campground. Therefore, no RVs are permitted.

There is no potable water, so you’ll need to bring a water filter or purification tablets with you. Furthermore, there are no fire grates, therefore campfires are not permitted. Cook all your food on your camp stove and store scented items in the food storage lockers provided.

Reservations are not accepted at the Sanctuary River Campground. Upon arrival, visit the Denali Bus Depot or Riley Creek Mercantile to inquire about camping here.

Because pets are not allowed on park buses, pets are not permitted.

Cost: $17 per night

Facilities: Pit toilets, food storage lockers, trash/recycling collection

Ranger Programs: None

Reservations Accepted?: No, this campground is first-come, first-served.

RVs?: No, Sanctuary River is a tents-only campground.

Season: Summer, generally May 20 to mid-September.

Sites: 7

Savage River Campground

Savage River Campground

Savage River might be my favorite campground in Denali National Park. It’s secluded enough that you don’t have cell service but isn’t too far from amenities such as restaurants or hiking trails. It also has gorgeous views, including the possibility of seeing Denali on a clear day.

Located about 13 miles from the park entrance, the Savage River Campground is one of the few campgrounds in Denali you can drive to. If you do not have a vehicle, the free Savage River Shuttle can drop you off here.

There are a few hiking trails in the area, including Mountain Vista, Savage Cabin, and Savage Alpine. The Savage River Loop is a short two-mile drive away as well.

One of the best things about camping in Denali National Park is experiencing the park when a majority of the visitors have left. This includes walking an old road to the Savage River and taking in the views of Denali and the Alaska Range while listening to the peaceful sounds of the water.

Cost: $27 to $49 per night, depending on the site. Click here for more pricing information.

Facilities: Water, picnic tables, flush toilets, trash/recycling collection, food storage lockers, picnic shelter

Ranger Programs: Park Rangers deliver programs from mid-May to mid-September at the Amphitheater at 7 p.m. daily.

Reservations Accepted?: Yes

RVs?: Yes; there are no hook-ups and the maximum length is 40-feet.

Season: Summer, generally mid-May to mid-September

Sites: 32

Teklanika Campground

A green tent with two pairs of boots outside. The tent is located at a campsite in the Teklanika Campground, one of the best places for camping in Denali National Park.

NPS Photo

Teklanika Campground (or “Tek” as the locals call it) is usually the crowd’s favorite. It’s easy to understand why.

Local Tip: Staying at Teklanika Campground is similar to camping in Denali National Park’s other campgrounds with the exception of its secret: you can drive beyond Savage River if you camp here.

That’s right; RVs and private vehicles are allowed (if you reserve for at least three nights). Otherwise, Teklanika is only accessible by bus.

If you’ve read my tips for visiting Denali, then you know that private vehicles can only drive 15 miles into the park (to Savage River). The one exception is those with a permit to camp at the Teklanika Campground for at least three nights. With this, you receive a permit to drive the Park Road to Teklanika Campground at Mile 30. You can only do this if you reserve the campsite for at least three nights.

If you do drive to Teklanika, you cannot drive beyond the campground or toward the park entrance for the duration of your stay. The road permit you are given allows you to drive the road twice: once to Teklanika Campground and once back to the park entrance.

Once you’re at Teklanika Campground, you can use a “Tek Pass”, a bus ticket special for Teklanika campers, to board a park bus each day of your stay. As long as you don’t return to the park entrance, you can use your Tek Pass to ride the park buses as many times as you like while you’re staying at Teklanika Campground. This will need to be purchased in addition to the campground reservation fee.

The campground is remote with few amenities. It does, however, have the necessities, such as water, pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire grates.

Cost: $29 per night

Facilities: Water, picnic tables, pit toilets, trash/recycling collection, food storage lockers

Ranger Programs: Park Rangers deliver programs from mid-May to mid-September at the Amphitheater at 7 p.m. daily.

Reservations Accepted?: Yes

RVs?: Yes; there are no hook-ups and the maximum length is 40-feet.

Season: Summer, generally May 20 to mid-September.

Sites: 53

Wonder Lake Campground

Beautiful misty morning - Wonder Lake, Denali National Park, Alaska

Last but not least is Wonder Lake, one of the most popular locations for camping in Denali National Park. Visitors anticipate one of the best views of the mountain, such as the one above from Wonder Lake or the famous view from Reflection Pond a bit farther west.

Photos like the one above are taken from the other side of Wonder Lake; if you look at Wonder Lake from the campground, Denali will be behind you. Views like the one photographed here can be seen from the Wonder Lake Ranger Station.

Wonder Lake Campground is farther west than the other five campgrounds in Denali, 85 miles from the park entrance. It is accessible only by bus. I recommend taking the Camper Bus to ensure you have room for your gear.

Fire grates are not available, therefore fires are prohibited. To cook, you will need to bring a camp stove.

Wonder Lake is notorious for mosquitoes. Be sure to bring bug spray and a head net.

Note: Wonder Lake is part of a day-use area. Therefore, unless you have camping reservations in the Wonder Lake Campground, you cannot camp at Wonder Lake (even if you have a backcountry permit).

Cost: $22.50 per night (including reservation fee)

Facilities: Water, picnic tables, flush toilets, pit toilets, food-storage lockers, trash/recycling collection

Ranger Programs: Park Rangers deliver programs in the Wonder Lake Amphitheater every night.

Reservations Accepted?: Yes

RVs?: No, Wonder Lake is a tents-only campground.

Season: Summer, generally June 8 to early-September.

Sites: 28

Private Campgrounds Near Denali National Park

Autumn 2018 in Denali

NPS/Katherine Belcher

Within 30 miles of the park entrance, there are many private campgrounds perfect for camping in Denali National Park. If you’re seeking more amenities, such as electricity or hook-ups, these may be the best option for you. For a complete list, click here.

Cantwell RV Park

Official Website: click here

Phone Number: (907) 888-6850

Address: PO Box 210, Cantwell, AK 99729 (27 miles south of the park entrance)

Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Official Website: click here

Reservations: click here

Phone Number: (866) 583-2696

Address: Mile 231.1 Parks Highway, Denali Park, AK 99743

Midnight Sun RV & Campground

Official Website: click here

Phone Number: (907) 683-1200

Address: Mile 248.5 Parks Highway, Denali Park, AK 99743

RV Camping in Denali National Park

An RV parked and camping in Denali National Park

NPS Photo

Remember, there are no hook-ups at any campgrounds in Denali.

The following campgrounds can accommodate RVs in Denali National Park.

  • Riley Creek (maximum length of 40 feet)
  • Savage River (maximum length of 40 feet)
  • Teklanika (maximum length of 40 feet; must reserve at least three consecutive nights)

Backcountry Camping in Denali National Park

Camping Out

Backcountry camping in Denali National Park is extremely unique. There are a lot of things to know before you go, and it’s important to follow the regulations. The best source for backcountry camping information is the official website. I have summarized many of the logistics below, however, I still recommend reading the park’s official webpage.

Denali National Park Camping in the Backcountry

Fees: Backcountry camping in Denali National Park is free.

Permits: Permits are required. They must be reserved in-person at the Denali Visitor Center’s Backcountry Desk. You can only obtain a permit the day before or the day you begin your backcountry travel. Getting your permit usually takes at least one hour.

Safety Video: All backcountry users are required to watch a backcountry safety video, about 30 minutes long, upon arrival. You can watch the video at home, but you are still required to watch it at the park before you are given a permit.

The Quota System: In order to provide all of Denali’s visitors with solitude, there is a quota system in the park. Denali’s Wilderness is divided into numbered areas, known as units. Each unit has its own limit (or quota) to the number of individuals who can camp inside its boundaries per night. You can hike outside the unit your permit states, but you must camp in your designated unit.

Where to Go: I recommend choosing a few different units that interest you before arriving. This will speed up the process of obtaining the permit. Have multiple itineraries in mind in case the units you are interested in are full when you arrive. Research all of Denali’s backcountry units here.

camping in denali

Food Storage: All backcountry users are required to use a bear-resistant food container while camping. If you don’t have your own, one will be loaned to you for free. Clean it and return it to the backcountry rangers once you complete your trip. If you do have your own, make sure it is approved for use in Denali National Park.

Golden Triangle: You must abide by the golden triangle while backcountry camping in Denali National Park. This rule states that your tent, cook site, and bear-resistant food container must each be at least 100 yards apart from one another.

Campfires: Fires are prohibited outside of designated fire pits in the campgrounds in Denali. There are no established campsites in the wilderness. You cannot camp in any of Denali’s campgrounds with a backcountry permit; you must have a campground reservation.

Pets: Pets are permitted only in developed areas and park roads. Pets are not allowed off roads, on trails, or in Denali’s designated Wilderness areas. Pets cannot accompany you into the backcountry.

Be Prepared: There are no backcountry trails or campsites in Denali. You should know how to use a compass and read a topographic map. Maps are available for purchase at the Backcountry Desk in the Denali Visitor Center. Be prepared for hiking off-trail for the entirety of your backcountry travel.

What to Pack for Camping in Denali National Park

The following list of items should be included in your pack.

An image of a blue tent below a sky filled with stars. The text on the image is encouraging you to download a backcountry camping gear packing list by signing up for e-mail notifications.

Lodging Inside Denali National Park

Camp Denali

If the campgrounds in Denali National Park are full, consider staying at one of the lodges within the park. Each of the lodges listed below is accessible by bus or plane only. They are located in Kantishna, an old mining community at the end of Denali’s 92-mile road.

These are all privately owned and operated. The National Park Service does not handle reservations or customer service requests for these or other private businesses.

Camp Denali/North Face Lodge

Phone Number: (907) 683-2290

Official Website: click here

Denali Backcountry Lodge

Phone Number: 1 (800) 808-8068

Official Website: click here

Kantishna Roadhouse

Phone Number: (907) 374-3041

Official Website: click here

Skyline Lodge

Phone Number: (907) 644-8222

Official Website: click here

Denali...

Where to Stay if Everything is Full

Here are the hotels I recommend outside of the park if everything above is full.

Pin My Guide to Camping in Denali National Park

The complete guide (by a local) to camping in Denali National Park. Learn about all 6 campgrounds, RV camping, backcountry camping, and more in Alaska. | Camping in Denali National Park | Denali Camping | Camping in Denali | #denali #denalinationalpark #camping #alaska #nationalparks The complete guide (by a local) to camping in Denali National Park. Learn about all 6 campgrounds, RV camping, backcountry camping, and more in Alaska. | Camping in Denali National Park | Denali Camping | Camping in Denali | #denali #denalinationalpark #camping #alaska #nationalparks The complete guide (by a local) to camping in Denali National Park. Learn about all 6 campgrounds, RV camping, backcountry camping, and more in Alaska. | Camping in Denali National Park | Denali Camping | Camping in Denali | #denali #denalinationalpark #camping #alaska #nationalparks The complete guide (by a local) to camping in Denali National Park. Learn about all 6 campgrounds, RV camping, backcountry camping, and more in Alaska. | Camping in Denali National Park | Denali Camping | Camping in Denali | #denali #denalinationalpark #camping #alaska #nationalparks

Visiting Denali National Park: Ultimate Guide from a Local

Friday 15th of May 2020

[…] Denali National Park offers two types of camping: backcountry wilderness and designated campgrounds. […]

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