Camping in Alaska this summer
The current travel restrictions and Canadian border closures have impacted the tourist season in Alaska, effectively halting one of the primary economic industries in the 49th state. Although out-of-state visitors have not yet been able to travel north to Alaska this season, local residents are taking to the road to travel their own state without the crowds this summer, urged by Governor Mike Dunleavy during recent news briefings.
“You’re going to be encouraged to go camping. Encouraged to go tent camping. Encouraged to go to campgrounds, private campgrounds. Encouraged to use your RV and go out and have fun. Take your family and have a great time,” said Dunleavy in an April 23rd briefing.
The governor is working with the State health department to make sure there are guidelines for camping safely, such as maintaining social distancing practices. RV parks around the state are working hard to implement spacing and cleaning protocols to keep visitors healthy.
Are campgrounds & RV parks open?
Many privately-owned campgrounds are open for business, and the 76 state-run campgrounds across Alaska are also open as access and staffing allow. Many campground hosts come up from the lower 48, so this year some campgrounds will either have local hosts or no hosts on-site.
The Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation has a current list of state-run campgrounds and facilities as they re-open for the 2020 season. Other open Alaska parks can be found on Campground Reviews.
Campgrounds are seeing a shift from longer stay reservations made well in advance to more last-minute weekend get-away reservations as locals start hitting the roads. Some campgrounds are targeting locals with incentives, such as discounts for residents. The Homer KOA campground is offering a deal where if you stay any 6 nights, the 7th night is free. They don’t have to be consecutive nights, so this deal is attractive to people who want to visit Homer for repeat weekends or fishing trips.
At the Mountain View RV Park in Palmer, the host estimates about 5-10% capacity. He kept the park open during the lockdown as he had several full-timers who had nowhere else to go to quarantine. With the Canadian border closing and fears of flying cutting into his normal clientele, there is considerable worry about long-term costs.
Other campground hosts echo the frustrations many are feeling with the confusion over what is expected for travelers coming into Alaska from other states. The rules for quarantining when flying into the state are different for different regions. For example, the rules for Anchorage are different and more restrictive than the statewide guidelines.
Not everyone is eager to open up to out-of-town visitors, even if they are resident Alaskans. Off-road communities are largely still closed to protect remote villages with few resources. Many smaller towns are also reluctant to embrace overnight visitors.
As the situation continues to evolve, the tourism industry will continue to look toward Alaskans to help salvage the travel season. Alaskans should expect to see more campgrounds open and offering deals to attract locals to their community. Some research should be done to ensure you are able to travel to and stay in the areas you want to visit.
For those in other areas with Alaska on their bucket list—keep an eye on the air travel situation and do your research as to areas you want to visit to make sure you are up to speed on local requirements and conditions.