Guide to Denali's Backpacking Units

In addition to the information below, which details the areas you can backpack, you should read our resources on planning your backpacking trip carefully before you arrive in Denali.


Backcountry Unit System

The six million acres of Denali are divided into 87 separate backcountry units. Forty-one units have a limit on the number of individuals that can camp in each unit per night. During peak summer visitation, many of these units are heavily used, so please come to the Backcountry Desk with several alternative trip itineraries. Don't become discouraged if your first choice is not available. Remember, there are six million acres to choose from, and all units offer excellent wilderness trips.

Note the following key information when planning a trek through Denali's backcountry:

  • Unit Quotas and Group Size Limits
    • Forty-one backcountry units have a specific quota. The quota is the maximum number of campers in that unit each night (e.g., if a unit quota is 8, there might be 8 solo backpackers, or 4 groups of 2 people, etc).
    • Every unit has a group size limit, too. The group size limit is how many individuals can travel and/or camp together as a single party. Generally, units west of the Muddy River have a group size limit of 6, while units east of that river have a limit of 12 (unless the unit quota is less than 12, of course).
    • Unit availability determines where you may camp each night, and you must camp in the unit for which you have a permit
  • Individual Limits
    • For each camper, there is a maximum of seven consecutive nights in a single unit.
    • For each camper, there is a maximum thirty nights in the backcountry during a summer season (April 15 - September 30).
  • Permits
    • Permits are issued only in person (no telephone or email reservations), and no more than one day in advance of your trip.
    • "Double booking" a night in two different units or a unit and a campground is not allowed.
    • All party members must be present to receive a permit.
    • Note: Permits are not required for day-hiking in the backcountry
  • Closures
    There are some areas closed to human entry, usually due to the presence of nests/dens, or heightened bear activity (e.g., the presence of a killed animal). Closures are indicated on the unit map, below.
 
Planning Your Denali Backpacking Adventure

The map below has two layers - the Denali backcountry units and the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) topographic quadrant maps. Use the USGS layer of this map to understand which paper USGS quad maps you might want to buy. Click on the Denali backcountry unit layer to learn more about each unit.

Places that are temporarily closed to human entry are also marked on this map. Any part of the park not covered by a backcountry unit is closed to overnight backpacking (e.g., around visitor centers) but is open for day-hiking.

Helpful resources:

 

Denali Backcountry Units

Backcountry camping units in Denali National Park and Preserve. Areas of the park not covered by a backcountry unit are always closed to summer backpacking. The red areas, which indicate wildlife closures, are closed to all human entry. The light yellow areas indicate United States Geologic Survey (USGS) topographic "Alaska series" quadrangle maps (1:63,360 scale). Use the USGS layer of this map to understand which paper USGS quad maps you need for your trip.
 

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755

Phone:

(907) 683-9532
General park information. The phone is answered 9 am - 4 pm daily, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. If you reach the voicemail, please leave a message with your number and we'll call you back as soon as we finish helping the visitor on the line ahead of you.

Contact Us