Travel Basics:

Camping and Cabins in Southeast Alaska

Tent Camping

Tent camping is the primary, and most flexible option for backcountry travelers in remote Southeast.

  • Equipment: Always take a rainproof flysheet for the tent. Plastic garbage bags are always useful for keeping the pack and other items dry. Very fine insect netting for doorways keeps out no-see-ums as well as mosquitoes and white socks.
  • Fires and Waste: At all camp sites please pack out garbage (whether going out for the day or the week!) and leave wood for others. Cut only dead or downed trees. Use the fire rings already in place; otherwise make your own ring out of stones before lighting a fire. Be sure the fire is completely out – douse it well with water when the party leaves. Dead wood is scarce at subalpine altitudes so take cooking stoves to high-level camps. Where there is no toilet, dig a hole far away from streams and lakes, and cover well afterwards.
  • Camping in Bear Country: Do not bury cans, this practice endangers future campers. A bear may investigate a cache of buried cans on which another party, ignorant of its existence, has set up camp. Also, follow Bear Country Precautions.
  • Beach Camping: For beach camping, look around for evidence of the high tide mark before pitching a tent and committing the group for the night. Also take care with securing kayaking and canoeing equipment.
  • Alpine Camping: The alpine zone is found at about 2,200 to 2,500 feet, where the trees diminish in size and then disappear altogether as heather, grasses, mosses, lichens, and certain flower groups gain the ascendancy. Be sensitive toward these fragile meadows; do not pick flowers, and pitch camp only on the heaths and coarse grasses. Even common varieties took years to establish themselves in this harsh environment.


Scattered through Southeast Alaska are remote, rustic U.S. Forest Service Cabins that can be reserved and used overnight. Permits must be obtained from the USFS (or the state in a few cases) before use. A fee is levied for maintenance costs. Most cabins have adequate stoves, wood on hand, axes, and brooms to clean the cabin after use.

Do not leave food behind. It attracts bears and mice. Bears have been known to break through windows to get to food and then demolish the interior trying to get out again. Also, be sure to latch the door when you leave, and ready the cabin for the next visitors (e.g., restore firewood supply). In the past, some cabins have been instrumental in saving the lives of lost hunters and hikers. The next life saved may be yours.

At some cabins the USFS leaves rowboats. Please be sure to bring the boat out of the water and turn it upside down. Towards the end of the season it is especially important to get the boat well above the waterline because of freezing temperatures.

Many of the backcountry improvements were done by citizens and local interest groups, and many of the cabins were built by voluntary labor. Please respect all private and public property found in the backcountry. Do not forget that damage done to USFS, state, or NFS property is taking money out of the public’s pocket.