A location of such beauty that its initial discovery—and the words written about it—singlehandedly changed America’s perception of the Alaskan wilderness from one of daunting danger to a landscape of beauty and wonder, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is one of the most highly rated and best-loved locations in Alaska…and it’s a fantastic place to camp! With everything you need to know about this stunning park’s camping features, wildlife, and more, our Glacier Bay National Park Camping Guide will help you make the most of your visit to this national treasure.
What to Expect While Camping at Glacier Bay National Park
Spanning over 3 million acres, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a sanctuary for animals and plant life, a preservation effort of the beautiful glaciers and terrains of the Alaskan wild, and a place for education and reconnection with the Tlingit people’s ancestral roots. It’s been noted that the climate in Glacier Bay is often on the warmer side for Alaska, seeing clearer days and less snow than many of its contemporary parks.
Within the park, you’ll find vivid glaciers, alpine heights, flower blanketed meadows, tundras and flats, lowlands and shorelines. Though this is by no means an easygoing landscape, much of it can be enjoyed by campers and visitors of every age.
During your Glacier Bay National Park camping adventure, you’ll have up-close views of the water from the park’s only designated campground, with vast, breathtaking coastal climes and so much wildlife and wilderness to see and explore from the waterside to the backcountry. It can take multiple visits to truly experience all of the scenic beauty that Glacier Bay National Park has to offer!
The Complete Guide to Glacier Bay National Park Camping
Boasting both a designated campground perfectly suited to a backcountry camping experience, as well as a lodge for visitors who prefer a bit more of a glamping lifestyle, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is ready to accommodate your stay, whatever your camping preferences may be!
Best Glacier Bay National Park Camping Spots
For traditional campers, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offers camping at its designated location, Bartlett Cove Campground—a free, walk-in campground accessible by foot only, located in a shoreside rainforest setting 1/4th of a mile south of the Bartlett Cove dock.
The campground has individual sites as well as designated group camping sites for parties of 12 or more; this location includes amenities such as bear-proof food storage caches, a fire pit on the beach, composting toilets, a small warming shelter, and wheelbarrows for the transportation of gear between the parking area or dock and the campground itself.
A permit and brief orientation are required for camping at Bartlett Cove, and camping here is first come, first served. In addition, food and scented items must be stored in one of the caches, with set places designated for campers to cook and eat on the beach between high and low tide lines. Bicycles and kayaks are not permitted within the campground itself, but racks are offered for both before walking into the campground.
For campers who prefer a glamping setup, the Glacier Bay Lodge—also located in Bartlett Cove—provides a bit more luxury, with a number of rooms, a restaurant on site, daily tours by boat, fishing, hiking, and kayaking opportunities, and a spectacular view of the wilderness from any one of its accommodations.
Booking Glacier Bay National Park Camping
Booking is not required as Bartlett Cove Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For availability during the time of your stay, you’re encouraged to contact the Visitor Information Station at (907) 697-2627 about space prior to arrival.
Please note that stays at Bartlett Cove are limited to 2 consecutive weeks, with a maximum of 30 days permitted in a calendar year.
To reserve a room at the Glacier Bay Lodge, you can visit their website.
Things To Do While Camping At Glacier Bay National Park
As a premier Alaskan wilderness location, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy!
Though there are no laid-out roads or trails in the Glacier Bay wilderness, that serves as no deterrent to great lovers of backpacking and mountaineering, who love to traverse this landscape with skill and experience put to the test! Please be aware that an understanding of wilderness survival and full self-sufficiency are necessary to ensure the safest possible excursions into Glacier Bay, as this is a remote wilderness setting and outside assistance may take hours or days to reach you in the event of a mishap.
For those who prefer a more structured wilderness exploration adventure with assistance along the way, guided trips are also available at Glacier Bay, with outfitters who provide logistical support, keep groups safe, and share local knowledge of the wilderness.
For those who are drawn to the water, kayaking, boat tours, and sea rafting are tremendously popular recreations at Glacier Bay. There are also opportunities to enjoy the landscape via flightseeing, and for those preferential to fishing and hunting, both activities are made available in select locations and by following local guidelines for hunting and fishing within the preserve.
A vast array of wildlife calls Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve its home, particularly due to its coastal nature and the efforts made to keep this wilderness preserved over the years.
While camping at Glacier Bay National Park, you’re sure to spot many unique species. On land, you’ll find moose, mountain goats, porcupines, bears, and more scattered across the various terrains that suit their individual needs; by sea, you may encounter sea lions and seals, otters, porpoises, and humpback whales, just to name a few!
Nearly 300 species of birds have also been reported in Glacier Bay, including a vast number of majestic eagles, and at the coast, the puffin and other waterbirds being a particular favorite among visitors. Many bird species, in particular, coexist near and in the waters which are teeming with fish of countless varieties.
Particularly in the undisturbed wilderness, or when sightseeing by boat, you could encounter some of the thrilling wildlife in Glacier Bay National Park at any time, though many species are most active at sunrise and sunset and during their individual feeding times.
Vegetation / Geography
With no slice of land within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve being more than 30 miles from the sea, this is a prime location to discover the beauty of both land and water!
No surprise due to its name, some of the greatest geographical attractions of this national park are the hundreds of glaciers scattered across it, absolutely remarkable in their beauty and in the shifts in the terrain that they leave behind!
Within this mosaic of landscapes, from mountain heights to coastal sweeps, you’ll find vegetation aplenty. Among the most prevalent are wildflowers and heath in the meadows and alpine hills and hearty lichen throughout, but you’ll also spot mosses, avens, horsetail, and fireweed, as well as trees such as alder, cottonwood, and even willows; meanwhile, near the bay mouth, spruce and hemlock thrive in a rainforest setting along with verdant, springy stretches of muskeg.
A real treat to the eye, Glacier Bay truly boasts an abundance of scenic landscape and floral beauty throughout its countless acres!
What to Bring for Glacier Bay National Park Camping
When planning your Glacier Bay National Park camping adventure, you’ll want to make sure you come prepared!
Of foremost importance for campers is to apply for your camping permit to stay in Bartlett Cove Campground, which can be found online.
Please ensure that all camping equipment is in good repair—no rips, tears, or other compromises in your tent or sleeping gear. A well-stocked first-aid kit and scent-proof, wildlife deterring containers for your extra snacks and water supplies are essential for backpacking and mountaineering in particular, as are clothes fit for the local environment—layers and insulation are key! If you’re planning to trek out into the wilderness, sturdy footwear is also a must, as well as a map, compass, and GPS, especially if you’re planning to travel alone.
Folks planning to fish and hunt should verify that all equipment is in good repair and that they are in possession of proper licenses and permits before striking off to hunt and fish in Glacier Bay. For those interested in birding and wildlife watching, a good working pair of binoculars is highly recommended!
Kayakers and rafters should examine their craft for any issues and ensure they are seaworthy before launching off into the bay.
Glacier Bay National Park Camping Fees
There are no entrance fees or camping fees for Glacier Bay National Park. Flightseeing and boating tours run at various costs depending on which vessel you book and the duration of your excursion.
Glacier Bay National Park Camping Reviews
Holding an average 5 out of 5 star rating among campers and visitors alike, Glacier Bay is considered a true gem of the Alaskan wilderness! Campers have praised this park and preserve not only for its breathtaking landscape and abundance of wildlife but also for how pleasant it is to stay within the park and how enjoyable the experience overall truly is.
It’s recommended to make your stay consist of multiple days in order to see and truly experience all that Glacier Bay has to offer; most reviewers have ranked this among one of the best, most thrilling parks they have visited in their lifetime.
Wrapping Up Glacier Bay National Park Camping
We hope our Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Camping Guide has you feeling prepared and excited for your adventure to this stunning park! If you’re looking for more information on all things camping to get the most out of your adventure, check out the camping section of our website for camping tips, reviews and recommendations for gear and equipment, and so much more!
Looking to trek out on more Alaska adventures? Look no further than The Ultimate Guide to Denali National Park Camping and The Ultimate Guide to Kenai Fjords National Park Camping!