Getting a Backcountry Permit
Permits are available at the Backcountry Information Center (BIC) located adjacent to the Wilderness Access Center. The BIC is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily during the summer - however, the permitting process takes about an hour, so please arrive by 5 pm to start the process. Advanced reservations are not available, and permits are only issued in person.
Pre-planning a trip before you arrive at the park is difficult, because there is no way of knowing which backcountry units will be available until you arrive at the Backcountry Information Center to obtain your permit. Instead, it is recommended you research the types of terrain the park offers so you can cross-reference the type of trip you want with the available units. Things to consider are: how many nights you want to backpack; how much time you want to spend on a bus, traveling to your unit; how much of the park you want to see, both while hiking and while on the bus; and how comfortable you are with challenges like river crossings, brush or steep snow slopes.
This informative, 30-minute video program is presented at the BIC and will answer many questions you have about negotiating the Denali backcountry. It covers topics such as campsite selection, bear and wildlife encounters, river crossings, Leave No Trace principles, Bear Resistant Food Containers (BRFCs), and much more. All members of your party must view this program.
Following the video, all party members must be present for a brief safety talk by a Backcountry Ranger. You will then receive your free backcountry permit and Bear Resistant Food Container that is required for proper food storage. You must sign your permit in recognition that you understand all backcountry rules and regulations. Violations of the conditions of the permit may result in adverse impacts to park resources and legal consequences.
You may hike anywhere in the park, but your tent must be in the backcountry unit indicated on your permit. Unit boundaries and wildlife closures are not marked in the backcountry. It is your responsibility to know their location and mark them on your map. Fifteen minute (1 inch =1 mile) USGS topographic quad maps are strongly recommended and are available for purchase at the BIC. While a GPS is a great tool for backcountry use, it should be used along with, not in place of, a map. After obtaining the proper map(s), delineate unit boundaries and wildlife closure boundaries so that you will know where to hike and camp during your trip.
Access to most park backcountry units requires use of the Visitor Transportation System (VTS), also known as the shuttle bus system. Camper buses are a type of shuttle, built to accommodate people and their gear. They depart from the Wilderness Access Center (WAC) several times a day. To secure space for your party, you should purchase tickets at the WAC soon after obtaining your backcountry permit.
Did You Know?
Did you know that in 1908, Charles Sheldon – a hunter and naturalist – described in his journal the idea of a park that would allow visitors to enjoy the beauty he saw while visiting Alaska. In 1917 his vision became reality, with the creation of Mount McKinley National Park.