Backpacking in Alaska: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Alaska: Two tents set up at a campsite near a scenic lake

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Alaska offers an unparalleled wilderness experience for outdoor enthusiasts, from the towering peaks of the Alaska Range to the glacial landscapes of Denali National Park, including remote destinations like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And that’s what this post is all about – backpacking in Alaska. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking in this vast and rugged state, as well as showcase the TOP 5 multi-day trails.

Intrigued? Let’s begin the adventure.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Alaska

  • What to expect: Anticipate challenging terrains like mountains, creek crossings, and muddy trails, requiring route finding through open tundra. With the right gear, careful planning for changing conditions, and respect for the vast landscape, backpacking lets you explore the majestic and remote wilderness.
  • Essential gear: Important items to bring include a bear canister, bear spray, durable waterproof hiking shoes, a water filter, weather-appropriate synthetic clothing, mosquito protection, navigation tools, and a satellite communicator for emergencies.
  • Wildlife: In Alaska’s wild areas, potentially dangerous wildlife such as bears (grizzlies and black bears), moose (especially with calves), wolves, wolverines, polar bears in the far north, bison, and muskox are present. It’s essential to stay alert and cautious at all times.
  • Wild camping: In Alaska’s backcountry, wild camping is allowed in many areas, but there are important rules. National Parks need camping in designated spots. State Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, and some places may allow dispersed camping with limits. For private lands, you need permission.
  • Best times to go are from June to early September. There is more daylight, warmer weather, fewer bugs, clear trails, and good views of wildlife. But there are also trade-offs like changing weather, crowds, and seasonal conditions. In June there is constant daylight and active wildlife but more mosquitoes and maybe snow. July-August are warmer but can be crowded. September has fewer bugs, pretty fall colors, and fewer people, but it gets colder with shorter days and possible storms.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Alaska

Discover the most stunning long trails in Alaska for amazing wilderness adventures:

1. Resurrection Pass Trail

A backpacker stands in awe before the towering Chugach Mountains in Alaska, taking in the majestic beauty of the Alaskan wilderness

Length: 37.4 mi / 60.2 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 4901 ft / 1494 m
Location: Chugach National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 10 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Hike this spectacular 37-mile point-to-point from Hope to Cooper Landing, Alaska. A challenging multi-day trek through rugged backcountry along Resurrection Creek. Pass secluded cabins and pristine alpine lakes surrounded by peaks. Remote but rewarding for experienced backpackers seeking solitude.

2. Kesugi Ridge (Curry Ridge) Trail

The snow-capped peaks of the Polychrome Mountains stretch across the horizon, creating a majestic backdrop to Denali National Park's stunning Alaskan wilderness

Length: 30.1 mi / 48.4 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 6003 ft / 1830 m
Location: Denali State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 8200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Trek the scenic 30-mile Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park, considered one of America’s most beautiful trails. Experience epic mountain vistas and solitude on this challenging Alaska backpacking adventure. A rewarding wilderness hike offering breathtaking views June-September. Permits required.

3. Knik Glacier via Jim Creek

The massive Knik Glacier sprawls between snow-capped mountain peaks in Alaska, its icy blue waters contrasting dramatically with the surrounding wilderness

Length: 40.2 mi / 64.7 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2746 ft / 837 m
Location: Knik River Public Use Area
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 10 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Hike 40 miles through remote valleys to the mighty Knik Glacier in Alaska. A moderately challenging multi-day trek offering solitude and stunning scenery. Spot moose and get close to massive glaciers on this rewarding wilderness adventure from May to August.

4. Chilkoot Pass Trail

A glacial river winds through the valley below Inspiration Point in Skagway, Alaska, with towering mountain peaks framing the pristine wilderness landscape

Length: 31.2 mi / 50.2 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 6128 ft / 1868 m
Location: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 8250 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Backpack the stunning 31-mile Chilkoot Trail through remote Alaskan wilderness. A challenging multi-day hike offering epic mountain scenery and solitude June-September. Prepare for rugged, muddy terrain but be rewarded with majestic views of pristine backcountry. An unforgettable adventure for hardy backpackers.

5. The Goat Trail

A crystal clear lake nestled amidst dense pine forest reflects the rugged Alaskan mountain peaks rising majestically in the background of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Length: 39.9 mi / 64.2 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8733 ft / 2662 m
Location: Wrangell – St Elias National Park and Preserve
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 13 300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Proceed with caution on the remote 40-mile out-and-back Chitistone Trail in Alaska. A highly challenging route through rugged wilderness terrain. Epic scenery but potentially dangerous river crossings. Only for experienced backpackers seeking solitude April-October. Allow ample time to fully experience this unforgettable yet demanding trek.

Annual Weather Averages

Alaska has diverse weather throughout the year. It usually has cold winters and milder summers due to its subarctic or polar climate. Yet, the weather can be unpredictable:

  • Summer (June to August): Mild temperatures (50°F to 70°F or 10°C to 20°C), longer daylight hours.
  • Spring (April to May): Transitional period, temperatures around 30°F to 50°F (-1°C to 10°C), possible snow in some areas.
  • Fall (September to October): Cooler temperatures (30°F to 50°F or -1°C to 10°C), increasing unpredictability, potential snow.
  • Winter (November to March): Freezing temperatures (-20°F to 20°F or -29°C to -6°C), significant snowfall, challenging for backpacking.

Before making your gear selection, take a look at the weather statistics for Alaska (Anchorage):

High °F242836475865676556422924
Low °F131621324351555244311914
Rain/Snow (D*)754457911111078
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Alaska is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guide for Alberta.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Alaska?

You can have campfires while backpacking in Alaska, but there are some restrictions you need to follow. In general, campfires are only allowed below tree line and away from flammable vegetation. You must clear an area around the fire site and have water and tools available to fully extinguish the fire. Campfires are not permitted on Alaska state park lands when the fire danger is high to extreme. On federal lands, campfires may be restricted based on location and fire danger.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Alaska?

The best way to deal with wildlife is to avoid surprising them. Make noise as you hike to alert animals of your presence. Be extremely cautious around bear cubs or moose calves as mothers are protective. Give animals a wide berth and detour around them if possible. Avoid camping and cooking near animal trails. Store food properly by hanging or using bear-resistant containers. Carry bear spray and know how to use it safely. If charged, stand your ground, speak calmly, and deploy bear spray. Report aggressive animals to land managers.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Alaska?

Head into Alaska’s remote wilderness for an exciting backpacking adventure immersed in nature, but take precautions in this rugged landscape. Acquire detailed maps and make others aware of your route before following isolated trails. Pack layers, first-aid supplies, a compass, flashlight, whistle, bear spray and plenty of food in case you become stranded. Watch for loose rock, melting snowfields, and slippery stream crossings. Make noise to avoid surprising bears, moose and other wildlife. With adequate provisions and preventative measures, you can revel in Alaska’s stunning natural beauty while backpacking. Focus on preparation, caution and responsibility so your desire for adventure can be fulfilled smartly when immersed in Alaska’s vast wilderness. Stay alert, be ready for the unexpected, and prioritize safety to maximize your backpacking experience in The Last Frontier.

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