Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park

Camping at Kenai Fjords

BACKCOUNTRY

Most of Kenai Fjords National Park's 600,000 acres is roadless, rugged backcountry. The Harding Icefield, which dominates the inland portions of the park, is a vast expanse of snow and ice and interrupted only by an occasional "nunatak" or lonely peak. To explore this icy backcountry wilderness, you must be prepared to face sudden storms, blinding sunlight, high winds and extreme temperatures. This section is designed to provide you with backcountry basics for the park, but make sure you speak with rangers about your trip before setting out.

Access

Most people access the coastal backcountry by air taxi, water taxi, charter boat service or private vessel. Kayaking from Seward is not recommended unless you are an experienced paddler.

Backcountry Beaches

Camping and landing beaches are few and remote within the backcountry of Kenai Fjords National Park. Despite the rugged terrain, there are some designated beaches and camping areas. See a ranger at the visitor center or visit www.nps.gov/kefj/ planyourvisit/backcountry.htm for detailed maps of these beaches and camping spots.

Bear Safety

The coastal backcountry of Kenai Fjords is coastal bear country. See "Park Regulations & Safety" on pages 10—13 of this guide for vital information about bear safety tips.

Campfires

When camping, use a cook stove rather than making a campfire. Wood is scarce on the coast and campfires leave scars on the beach; a camp stove is much more environmentally friendly. If you must have a fire, build it below high tide line or use a fire pan. Use only dead and downed wood, and choose small pieces that will burn completely. Dead standing trees are unique features of the Kenai Fjords coastline, and they're not meant to be cut up for firewood. If you do have a fire, be sure to disassemble your fire ring before leaving camp.

Campsite Selection

Allow yourself plenty of time and energy at the end of the day to select a good campsite and be sure to survey the area carefully before you unpack or set up equipment. Check to see there is no indication of bear activity and make sure you have a suitable place to store food properly, or better yet, camp in an area with a food storage locker (or carry a bear-resistant canister). Black oystercatchers and other shorebirds nest on Kenai Fjords rocky beaches, so be certain there are no nesting shorebirds nearby who may be disturbed by your camp. Avoid camping on beaches within two miles of a tidewater glacier, since calving ice can cause sudden and hazardous surf. Also make sure there is room to store all of your gear, including small boats such as kayaks, well above the high tide line so it won't get swept away if the wind or weather changes.

Hiking

Be prepared to bushwhack, since there are few readily designated trails in Kenai Fjords backcountry. Much of the terrain is steep and requires scrambling through dense vegetation.

Leave No Trace

Please adhere to "Leave No Trace" principles to ensure that the park's backcountry remains pristine and untrammeled. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and act in a way that's considerate of other visitors. For more information on proper camping etiquette, speak with a ranger or visit www.lnt.org.

Maps

Trails Illustrated produces a topographic map of both the park and Chugach National Forest that covers Kenai Fjords backcountry; it is available at the visitor center or at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center.

Permits

Before setting out, you should pick up a coastal backcountry permit from the visitor center (please note that backcountry registration is suggested, but not required). People staying in a public use cabin need not register for a backcountry permit. As part of the permitting process, you will be asked to give an itinerary and emergency contact information. This is a good time to inquire about current weather conditions, hazards or any closures. The National Park Service also encourages backcountry users to check in with rangers after their trip to fill out wildlife observation forms and provide feedback about their experiences. For more about permits, visit www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/ index.htm or call (907) 224-7500.

Public Use Cabins

There are four public use cabins in the park. The three rustic summer public use cabins—Aialik, Holgate and North Arm—are located along the coast; these provide opportunities for exploration, wildlife viewing and relaxation. Most visitors access coastal cabins by floatplane, private vessel or charter boats. For those interested in kayaking to the cabins from Seward, advanced skills are a must because the seas are subject to strong currents around the cape. A fourth cabin at Exit Glacier, Willow, is available during the winter months. Willow Cabin is open as soon as enough snowfall closes Exit Glacier Road. At that time, access is by snow machine, dog sled, cross-country skiing and skijoring. A minimum of 18 inches of packed snow is needed to use a snow machine. The cost is $50 per night. For reservations, please call (907) 271-2737. Information and photos of the cabins can be found at www.nps.gov/kefj/ planyourvisit/public-use-cabins.htm.