With Independence Day coming up and a run of good weather in our future, at least here in the Southcentral part of the state, campgrounds are probably going to get crowded. But if you’re willing to be a little creative and do a little advance planning, there’s no reason you can’t find a way to go camping away from the crowds and in your own little slice of Alaska heaven.
This summer, campgrounds are mostly full of Alaskans venturing out to explore the state on our days off, and as a result, most of the crowding is happening on the weekends, Friday and Saturday nights in particular. If you have a non-traditional job schedule, or can take some time off during the week, you’ll be able to show up at a first-come, first-served campground and find a space at your leisure, and not have to stress over trying to get to that last open spot. Still need to be gone over the weekend? Take a long one if you can, and head to the campgrounds on Thursday night.
Go Farther Away
Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Soldotna/Kenai areas are the population centers of the state. The farther away you get from a populated area, the fewer people you will see. This is true every year, of course, but especially this year, when everyone at the campgrounds only has a weekend to spend going camping. The campgrounds closer to home are in higher demand, so people don’t have to drive all night to get home before a Monday morning meeting. If you have any flexibility, or just don’t mind driving long distances, the farther you go, the further you’ll get from everyone else.
“Boondocking,” “free camping,” “wild camping,” or “dispersed camping” all mean the same thing: camping where there’s no campground. Boondocking is generally used in reference to RVs, while the other terms usually refer to backpacking. Either way, it’s free, and allowed on National Forest and BLM lands in Alaska, as well as in Alaska State Park lands. You can’t just stop anywhere, however; there are still some rules you’ll have to follow. You must be at least a 1/2 mile away from any facilities including developed campgrounds, you must be 100 feet away from a water source, and you must be near a road (but not directly on it). Try to camp where others have camped before (look for flattened areas and makeshift fire rings), and do not leave trash behind, or anything else you brought with you. Practice Leave No Trace wilderness ethics and be respectful. If you’re unsure if you should camp somewhere, find another spot. Check with the agency in charge of your chosen area to for more detailed info and to see if there are any areas you should avoid.
The only real way to guarantee you have a campsite at a popular campground is to make reservations—provided you’re going to one that accepts reservations, of course. Many Alaska State Parks campgrounds don’t take reservations, but many National Parks, National Forests and BLM campgrounds do—find open ones at recreation.gov. This summer, the campgrounds that take reservations are booked well in advance of the weekend, but if you’re willing to plan a trip several weeks out, you’ll have your pick of sites.
If you didn’t plan far enough in advance and all of the reservable campsites are taken, try HipCamp. Essentially the AirBnB of campsites, HipCamp allows landowners to offer campsites and cabins on private land. Offerings range from a small corner of someone’s property to mini-campgrounds set up by landowners to full RV parks and even yurts and cabins. Read the descriptions, read the reviews, and decide if any are right for you. Though the site is more popular in the Lower 48, a quick search still revealed plenty of options throughout this state as well.
Go on a Rainy Weekend
There’s no such thing as bad weather, as long as you have the right gear. Or so they say. If you pick a sunny weekend to go camping, you’ll have great weather but the rest of the state also is going to be outside with you, thanks to that whole “never waste a sunny day” attitude. But if you pick a rainy weekend, a few of us might just stay home and get some of those indoor projects done that we’ve been neglecting during good weather, and you’ll have the (wet) campground to yourself. But don’t worry—our rooftop tents are waterproof.
Ready to give it a go? Book your travel van today, and don’t forget about our Alaska Resident discount!