Camping in Glacier Bay

four kayaks sit on a beach in the west arm of Glacier Bay, with water and mountains in the background
The vast wilderness of Glacier Bay is best explored by kayak. NPS/Lacy

2024 Backcountry Permit

  • An annual Backcountry Camping Orientation is required between May 1 and September 30 in-person at the Visitor Information Station. Orientations will be given daily at 10AM and 2:30PM. Please plan accordingly.
  • A permit is required for backcountry camping in Glacier Bay between May 1 and September 30.
  • Permits may be received in person.
  • Permits must be carried at all times. Return a permit to the black drop-box outside the VIS at the end of a trip and notify park staff of your returned.
  • Permits not marked as "returned" within 24 hours of the expected return date on a permit will be treated as an emergency.
  • In order to reduce paper, the VIS encouages online applications to be sent to no more than 48 hrs. before your arrival. Please do not send permit applications until plans are finalized. Permits must still be collected in-person before your departure from Bartlett Cove.
Planning a trip into the backcountry? Careful planning and consideration is required to ensure your safety while traveling in Glacier Bay’s immense wilderness. Remember, safety is your responsibility! Abiding by all rules and regulations while in Glacier bay is also your responsibility.

Visitor Information Station

The Backcountry and Boating Office, commonly referred to as the Visitor Information Station (VIS), serves as the permit office and information center for backcountry users. The office processes all backcountry, campground, and boater permits, monitoring public use activities in the Bay in order to protect park resources and provide for visitor safety. Rangers can guide visitors through up-to-date information on regulations, closures, safety, logistical information regarding their trip, and provide local knowledge for the areas visitors may be exploring.

If you would like to speak with a Ranger before your trip, please visit our office, give us a call at (907) 697-2627, or e-mail us

Camping in Bartlett Cove

Camping in Bartlett Cove is limited to the developed campground. Obtain a free campground permit from the Visitor Information Station between May 1 and September 30. Permits and detailed information is available on the Bartlett Cove Campground page.

Backcountry Permits and Orientation

From May 1 to September 30, all overnight backcountry users (including kayakers) must register for a free permit and complete a mandatory orientation in person at the Visitor Information Station. There is no limit to the number of permits issued per-day. The yearly orientation requirement is for your benefit: to answer your questions, inform you of special wildlife and safety closures, regulations, safety information, and to assist in planning your trip. The VIS has bear-resistant food canisters that you can check out for the duration of your trip. Please notify the VIS of any cannisters you may need when you apply for a permit. Please plan to attend your orientation in person at the VIS. 2024 backcountry camper orienations will be at 10AM and 2:30PM daily. Contact the Visitor Information Station at (907) 697-2627 for questions and additional information.

See Alsek River or Mountaineering in the Fairweather Range for permitting in those areas.

Bartlett Cove Campground
Bartlett Cove Campground

Glacier Bay's only campground is located along the shores of Bartlett Cove

a kayaker paddles through icy waters in Glacier Bay

Learn more about kayaking in Glacier Bay

a tent and a kayak sit on an island, surrounded by water, mountains, and a sunset sky
Leave No Trace

Keeping Glacier Bay wild while exploring the backcountry


Advisories and Temporary Closures

Wildlife, negative bear encounters, or other safety concerns will occasionally cause advisories to be issued or areas to be temporarily closed for overnight camping.

Nesting Bird Closure - From June 1 - August 31, Four islands in Glacier Bay are closed, and visitors & boats must maintain at least 100 ft viewing distance. The islands closed are two unnamed islands in Scidmore Bay and Tlingit Point, the Leland Islands, and Sealers Island. Read this press release for detailed information on the affected islands.

Johns Hopkins Inlet - Closed to all vessels, including kayaks, between 5/1 and 6/30 to protect essential seal habitat and nursery from disturbances.

There are a number of islands that are closed year round. See a guide to park waters for closed critical wildlife areas.



Getting to Glacier Bay can be half of the challenge! Bartlett Cove and the nearby community of Gustavus are not located on a traditional road system. There is a single paved road that runs 9 miles between the airport in Gustavus and the public dock in Bartlett Cove. Please be aware that this imformation may be subject to change for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel and quarantine restrictions to the state of Alaska may apply. Please contact businesses directly with any questions.

  • Alaska Marine Highway -- The only vehicle access outside of Gustavus is by ferry. The ferry runs multiple times per week, please check the ferry schedule for updated information as sailings are subject to change.
  • Flying-- The only other option to access Gustavus. Various air taxi services fly into Gustavus from Juneau all year. Alaska Airlines ("The Jet") operates in Gustavus seasonally during the summer months. Air taxis will charge by the weight of gear ($/lbs) and Alaska Airlines charges by the bag. Air taxis may also be chartered for backcountry pickups & drop-offs or for direct flights into Bartlett Cove.
  • Once in Gustavus, ground transportation and local taxi services are available to move you and your gear to Bartlett Cove.

Other Camper Resources

  • There is one grocery store in Gustavus that sells food and other provisions (e.g. bear spray, fuel, etc.), but be aware that food and other items will carry a high cost and low or limited selection. Remember you are traveling to rural Alaska.
  • If you have extra gear that you will not be using in the backcountry, the VIS has a secure, locking gear cache where you can store items during your trip. The gear cache typically has a selection of leftover food, fuel, and fuel canisters, which are available for campers' use.
Kayakers drop off

Camper Drop-off Service

During the summer months, kayakers can arrange with Glacier Bay Lodge to be dropped off and/or picked up by the daily tour boat at designated camper dropoff locations upbay. Advance reservations are recommended for kayakers as the number of kayaks the daily tour boat can carry is limited. To make reservations, contact the Glacier Bay Lodge at 888-229-8686.


Additional Reminders & Safety

There are a variety of park regulations that pertain to both campers and kayakers. You are responsible for knowing and abiding by these regulations.
Freshwater availability depends on where you travel, but is usually easily found except on islands. All water should be boiled, filtered or treated for Giardia.

Emergency Contact Information

In the event of an emergency in the backcountry it is important to have a reliable way to make contact with someone that can assist you. There is no cellular phone service in Glacier Bay. Many backcountry users now carry Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) and Satellite Emergency Notification Device like inReach or SPOT are also popular. Satellite phones provide a quick way to communicate. Please note that the Visitor Information Station does not have the capability to communicate directly with you using devices like inReach or SPOT. While satellite based devices are nice, carrying a simple handheld marine VHF radio will substantially increase your ability to make contact with outside help.
Emergency Contacts
National Park Service Dispatch (907) 697-2651
National Park Service Marine VHF 16
Glacier Bay Contacts
KWM20 Bartlett Cove Marine VHF 12
Visitor Information Station (907) 697-2627
Glacier Bay National Park (907) 697-2230
a tent near a tidewater glacier and mountains
Choose your campsite with care. Help to keep Glacier Bay wild. NPS Photo

Leave No Trace

Help us to ensure that future generations will enjoy Glacier Bay as it is today. Choose a campsite where you will leave little or no impact. A good campsite is found and not made. Campsites should be at least 100 feet from fresh water sources. Check at the Visitor Information Station for areas that are closed to backcountry use. Know these areas, and mark them on your maps and charts. Do not approach wildlife. Some animals are easily disturbed. You are responsible for knowing and following all applicable regulations during your visit to the park. Glacier Bay is wild, clean and unpolluted. Remember to carry out all trash (do not burn). Use the intertidal zone for campfires, and preparing and eating food. Generally, the next high tide will erase traces of your presence. Learn more about the seven principles of Leave No Trace in preparation for your trip.


More than a million acres await the backcountry traveler, however there are no trails in the Glacier Bay backcountry. Dense alder thickets and steep rocky cliffs can make foot travel very challenging and often impossible. The terrain is rugged by any standard. Be prepared to hike over rough and rocky ground. Shoreline and gravel streambeds usually offer the best routes.

Off Season Backcountry Travel

Most backcountry users visit between May and August. If you choose to take a trip during the off season, be aware that most services are closed and unavailable. You'll need to be self sufficient and prepared to visit with little or no support.


Both Black and Coastal Brown Bears are frequently seen throughout the park. These are wild animals and should always be considered to be potentially dangerous. When hiking, lessen your chance of a bear encounter by looking for bear signs, making noise, and traveling in groups. Consider carrying bear spray in the backcountry. It is important that bears never come in contact with human food, so NEVER leave food unattended. Keep a clean camp. Store food and any scented items in bear resistant food containers at least 100 yards from your campsite. Do all cooking and eating in the intertidal zone at least 100 yards from your campsite. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm, identify yourself as a human (talk to the bear) and stand your ground. Do not run. You can not outrun a bear and fleeing may trigger the bear’s chase response.
Help keep Glacier Bay bears wild by knowing park regulations and practicing proper food storage. Bear-resistant food canisters are provided to campers at no charge. Become familiar with bear canisters and food storage regulations in Glacier Bay.


You'll live and breathe by the tides here in Glacier Bay! A basic understanding of tides and currents is crucial to safely traveling in the backcountry. There is up to a 25 foot tidal offset and strong currents of up to seven knots. Standing waves, whirlpools and tidal rips are common in some parts of the bay (e.g. Sitakaday Narrows, Adams Inlet, Berg Bay, ect.) Familiarizing yourself with tides in Glacier Bay before you arrive is highly recommended.


An ever-present danger in cold climates is hypothermia, a condition created when you lose body heat faster than you create it. Early symptoms of hypothermia include slurred speech, trembling, exhaustion, stumbling, and impaired judgment. Unchecked, symptoms may progress to mental confusion, unconsciousness, and eventually death. Hypothermia can result from cold ambient temperatures between 30 and 60 degrees F, especially when accompanied by wind or rain. Should you get wet, you must be aware that hypothermia will likely follow.

Take preventative action:

Put on rainwear or warm clothes before you become soaked or cold. Ventilate or remove clothing layers before you sweat. Wrap sleeping bags and clothing in plastic bags. Eat high calorie food throughout the day before you become exhausted. Keep hydrated. Make sure all members of your party are aware of the symptoms of hypothermia and look out for each other.


The objective of hypothermia treatment is to rewarm as fast as possible. Begin by finding a spot out of the wind, removing wet clothing, and adding dry layers. "FEED AND HEAT." That is, first provide the body with quick calories that will enable it to produce heat (FEED). Simple foods such as candy bars and hot chocolate will be absorbed the fastest. Follow up with food containing more complex carbohydrates such as bread and fruit. "HEAT" means rewarm quickly by exercising and moving. Walk about or practice isometric exercises inside the tent or shelter. Body movement and exercise will usually affect rewarming considerably more than remaining still under piles of sleeping bags. Avoid alcohol as it increases heat loss.

If a hypothermic patient has ceased shivering, has exhibited a dramatic decrease in mental status such as hallucinations and unconsciousness, and their core body temperature is below 90 degrees, the patient has severe hypothermia. Field rewarming of severely hypothermic patients can be dangerous, and is usually not effective. Transport the patient to the nearest medical facility.


Mountaineering in the Fairweather Range

A black, cylindrical bear-resistant food canister with a clear plastic liner and some packaged food
Bear-Resistant Food Canisters

Details on park-issued canisters-- and requirements for personal canisters

a kayak sits in the shallow water of the intertidal zone
Tides in Glacier Bay

A safe, enjoyable kayak adventure begins with a solid understanding of tides

Last updated: March 8, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826


907 697-2230

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