Post Summary: cost to visit the Alaska National Parks; Alaska Budget
I sort of chuckle every time I see this question in a National Park Facebook Group. I’m not chuckling because it’s a dumb question, it is a perfectly valid question. I know what they are really asking when they say “How much does it cost to visit the Alaska National Parks?” They are asking if they need to sell a kidney in order to afford to visit those parks. They have done a bit of research and are finding prices like a 7-day backpacking trip in Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley to be over $6,000 or day trips to Katmai for $700 and are experiencing a bit of sticker shock and wondering if those prices are real.
I don’t blame them. There are a lot of parks to visit in Alaska. In total there are 8 and there is no cheap way to see them all, but that doesn’t mean it can be done in an affortableish manner.
This article is meant to give you an idea of what your options for visiting these parks are and how much those options cost. So as you are working your way down the list of 63 National Park, you can sort of plan your budget accordingly. I will also show you some real examples of how real people visited the parks and how much it cost them to visit Alaska’s National Parks.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with planning your Alaska adventures, I am happy here to help. Check out my 21-Day Alaska National Parks itinerary for one easy to follow plan to visit all eight Alaska National Parks.
If you are looking for a custom itinerary that will help you make the most of your time and budget. Click here for my custom itinerary service.
- Quick Guide to How Does it Cost to Visit All of Alaska’s National Parks
- How much does it cost to visit the Alaska National Parks?
- What Have People Spend visiting Alaska’s National Parks?
- Final Thoughts on the Cost to visit Alaska’s National Park
- Pin to Save for Later: How much does it cost to visit the Alaska National Parks?
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. As of February 2021, all my Alaska travel has been at my own expense. Additionally, I worked for Northern Alaska Tour company for a summer. Unless mentioned under the “my recommend” section, I am not endorsing tours or travel from companies mentioned or linked. I am simply providing links to the companies’ websites I used as sources for this article.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Read the full disclosure policy here
Quick Guide to How Does it Cost to Visit All of Alaska’s National Parks
There is no straight answer to this question. I wish there was but there isn’t. Your costs will vary based on how many people you are going with, what you want to do in the park, and how long are you spending in the park.
At the BARE minimum, a couple (2 people) should plan on spending two weeks and expect to spend $6,300 (hotels) / $5,900 (camping).
I can’t stress enough that this is the MINIMUM you should expect to spend per person just to STAND in each of Alaska’s National Parks.
Here is a quick break down of bare minimum costs to visit the Alaska National Park for 2 people:
- Kenai Fjords National Park – $36
- Day trip from Anchorage and do some hiking on Exit Glacier Trails
- Denali National Park – $66
- Day trip from Fairbanks and explore the first 15 miles of the Denali Park Road.
- Wrangell – St. Elias National Park – $335 (Hotels) / $165 (Camping)
- Overnight trip from Fairbanks or Anchorage, drive down one of the park’s scenic roads, and do some hiking.
- Glacier Bay National Park – $764 (Hotels) / $514(Camping)
- Overnight from Juneau; Hike in Barlett Cove.
- Lake Clark National Park – $1,080
- Take a day trip to Port Alsworth from Anchorage and do some hiking.
- Katmai National Park – $1,450
- Day trip from Anchorage to Brooks Camp for some bear viewing.
- Gates of the Arctic National Park – $700
- Flightseeing with landing in the park from Coldfoot.
- Kobuk Valley National Park – $2500 plus for a 1-day charter flight.
- Scenic Flight with short landing in the park
- Many of the charter operations keep a list of people who want to visit and when they would like to go and can arrange a flight share. So it’s possible to combine groups with someone else and bring the price down.
These are rough prices for physically standing in each park. If that’s all you want to do when visiting Alaska’s National Parks, that great. But if you are looking to actually do things in these National Parks, and explore them your budget needs to be significantly larger How much you spend and what you do when visiting these parks is up to you. I’d suggest planning on at least 3 weeks and a park exploration budget of $15,000 – $20,000 depending on what kind of visit you’d like to do.
How much does it cost to visit the Alaska National Parks?
These prices are accurate as of February 2021 and are subject to change. According to Kayak.com, rental cars average about $36 a day in Alaska. This is the rental car cost we used when factoring in rental cars.
IMPORTANT NOTE, there are a million different ways to visit these national parks. In most cases, this Alaska National Park cost breakdown focuses on independent travel and with occasional guided day activities. There are many options for guided adventure trips such as backpacking in Gate of the Arctic National Park or packrafting in Kobuk Valley or a cruise to Glacier Bay.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park protects the Harding Icefield, its coastal fjords and islands. This national park has at 38 named glacier and is home to a range of wildlife including moose, sea otters, harbor seals, brown bears, black bears, humpback and killer whales. Kenai Fjords is a a water focused park that is accessible from the Alaska Road and Rail system.
Getting to Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is located near Seward. Seward can be reached one of two ways. You can either drive from Anchorage to the park or the Alaskan Railroad offers rail service to a station in Seward. It is a 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage along the Seward Highway. By rail, it is 4 hours from Anchorage. The train starts at $113 per person. Gold Star costs $224.
Kenai Fjords National Park Lodging
Campsites in Kenai Fjords National Park are free. Camping in Seward start at #20 a night.
Common Activities in Kenai Fjords National Park
- Boat Tour
Free Activities in Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords Hiking
Kenai Fjords has a network of 3 trails that can be accessed from the road system. If you do not have a rental car in Seward and want to hike these trails, there is a shuttle from Seward to the Exit Glacier Trailhead. The shuttle is $15 per person round trip.
- Glacier View Loop
- Exit Glacier Overlook
- Harding Icefield Trail
Paid Activities in Kenai Fjords
One of the best ways to see Kenai Fjords National Park is from the water. Boat tours take visitors into the heart of the park and give visitors the chance to see all the aquatic wildlife, glaciers, and fjords. Tours range from 3.5 hours to 8.5 hours. It is possible to day trip from Anchorage to Kenai and do a boat tour.
Boat Tours range from $94 to $239 per person.
Kenai Fjords kayaking tours combine wildlife boat tour with a kayaking tour. These tours start with a water taxi ride from Seward out to one of the bays. Once in the bay, kayaks are launched and the area is explored with the kayaks.
Kayaking Tours start at $360 per person (may have a minimum group size)
Taking a scenic helicopter ride is a great way to see Kenai Fjords National Park. You will get to explore the landscape from above. This is a great way to see wildlife such as mountain goats and check out some of the more remote glaciers or Bear Lagoon.
Flight Seeing Tours start at $219 per person for 15 minutes.
How much does it cost to visit Kenai Fjords National Park?
Kenai Fjords National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
A bare-bones visit to Kenai Fjords is easy. Rent a car in Anchorage and drive to Seward. Once in Seward, hike to Exit Glacier Overlook and then head back to Anchorage.
The Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people to day trip from Anchorage
- $36 – Car Rental Fee
Minimum cost to visit Kenai Fjords for 2 People – $36
My Recommendations for Kenai Fjords National Park
Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield are great hikes but it’s hard to appreciate Kenai Fjords without getting on the water.
My minimum recommendation for Kenai Fjords is 2 days and 1 night. Plan to arrive in Seward in time to make the 6-hour boat tour departure. Then spend the night in Seward and in the morning hike to Exit Glacier and/or Harding Icefield.
- $338 – Kenai Fjords Boat Tour
- $200/ $0 – 1 Night (Hotel / Camping)
- $72 – Rental Car (2 days)
Suggested Budget for 2 Days and 1 Night in Kenai Fjords for two people: $610 (hotels) / $410 (camping)
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is one of the easiest National Parks in Alaska to visit and the most popular by far. This massive 6 million acre park is famous as the home of North America’s tallest mountain. The park is located in interior Alaska along the Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Access to Denali is limited to a 92-mile road. Outside of the Denali Road Lottery, personal vehicles are only allowed on the first 15 miles of the park road. The rest of the road is only accessible by bus. Other than that, visitors can be flown in and dropped off in the backcountry for backpacking trips.
Getting to Denali National Park
Denali National Park can be reached one of two ways. You can either drive from Fairbanks or Anchorage to the park or the Alaskan Railroad offers rail service to a station inside of Denali National Park.
Denali is a 2 hour drive from Fairbanks and a 4 hour drive from Anchorage along the Parks Highway. These rentals are typically no approved for driving the Denali Park Road or Denali Highway.
By rail, Denali is 4 hours from Fairbanks and 8 hours from Anchorage. The train starts at $79 per person from Fairbanks and $176 per person from Anchorage for Adventure class. Gold Star cost $170 and $325 respectively.
Denali National Park Lodging
Campsites in Denali National Park range from $16 for a tent site to $34 for a 40 ft RV site.
Common Activities in Denali National Park
- Denali Bus Tours / Shuttle Bus
- Sled Dog Demonstrations
Free Activities in Denali National Park
Sled Dog Demonstrations
During the summer season, Denali Rangers and their Alaskan Huskies do a forty minute demonstration on sled dog and their use in Denali National Park. These demonstrations take place 1-3 times a day. There is limited parking at the kennels but there is a free shuttle from the visitor center to the kennel. Visitors are also welcome to tour the kennel when open at other times.
Most of the marked trails in Denali are around the park entrance and one can either access via a free shuttle or by driving to the trail head. Trail options include:
- Savage Alpine Loop
- Savage River Loop
- Mt. Healy Overlook
- Horseshoe Lake Trail
- Triple Lake – This 9 mile trail is best hiked one-way. You can use the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort shuttle to get from one trailhead to the other.
Paid Activities in Denali
Denali Bus Tours / Transit Bus
The bus tours and transit buses allow visitors to access the rest of the Denali Park Road. The bus tours are narrated tours that showcase the history of Denali and stop at several sites as they travel the park road. Transit buses are buses that transport people into the park. They will stop and let backpackers off at any point along the road and provide transportation for those camping at the park’s interior campgrounds. All bus stop when wildlife is sighted.
Narrated tour buses start at $100 per person.
Transit buses start at $50 per person.
Flightseeing in Denali
There are a range of companies in Denali and Talkeetna that offer flight seeing tours of Denali. These range from a sightseeing flight around the park to landing on a glacier in the park to a oxygen equipped plane that can fly up to the same elevation of as Denali.
Sightseeing Flights – Start at $220 per person
Glacier Landing Flight Seeing – Start at $320 per person
Summit Flight – Start at $429 per person
How much does it cost to visit Denali National Park?
If you don’t want to go more than 15 miles into the park, your trip to Denali should cost more than the park entrance fee and your transportation to Denali costs. Denali National Parks entrance fee is $15 per person for 7 days. This entrance fee is covered by the America the Beautiful Pass.
A bare-bones visit to Denali is best done from Fairbanks. Rent a car and make the two hour drive to the park. Once in the park, you can drive the first 15 miles and have a decent chance of seeing moose or caribou. There are several day hiking options such as Savage River Loop. Head back to Fairbanks in the evening.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people to day trip from Fairbanks
- $36 – Car Rental Fee (1 Day)
- $30 – Denali Entrance Fee
Minimum cost to visit Denali for 2 People – $66
My Recommendations for Denali National Park
It is really tempting with Denali to just say “Oh, I’ll do a bunch of stuff along the first 15 miles and call it good.” Which you can do but you are really missing something if you don’t get beyond Savage River especially if the mountain is out. So my recommendation is to get beyond mile 15 either via a flight see or a bus tour. I always recommend the Tundra Wilderness or Kantishna Experience. Both of these tours go deep into the park and give you a chance to see the whole mountain.
My minimum recommendation for Denali 3 days and 3 nights. Make the drive to Denali and if you have time explore the first 15 miles and maybe do some hiking. On the second day do a Denali Bus tour. On your last day in Denali, attend the sled dog demo and either do some hiking or a flight-see before you depart.
- $30 – Denali Entrance Fee
- $600 / $51 – 3 Nights (Hotel / Camping)
- $200 – Bus Tour
- $108 – Rental Car (3 Days)
Suggested Budget for 3 Days and 3 Nights in Denali for two people: $938 (hotels) / $389 (camping)
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States. This UNESCO World Heritage Site protects part of the high peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains and the tidewater area along the Gulf of Alaska. This massive national park is on the Alaska road system and has two road that run into the interior of the park.
Getting to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
Wrangell – St. Elias is on the Alaskan road system so it is drivable from Fairbanks and Anchorage. There are two roads into Wrangell both are maintained gravel roads of which standard rental cars are usually not allowed. So if you are driving to Wrangell, expect to pay at least $75 per day for a vehicle that is allowed on the park roads.
The Nabesna District is the northern region of Wrangell – St. Elias and is about 4.5 hours from Fairbanks and Anchorage. The Yakutat District can only be reached by ferry.
The Kennecott District is 7 hours and 8 hour drive from Anchorage and Fairbanks, respectively. Shuttles from Anchorage are $175. There are regular flights from Anchorage to McCarthy in the Kennecott. These flights run about $275.
Cruise to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
Select cruise ships will stop at Hubbard Glacier which is located inside the park.
Cruise start at $600 per person.
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park Lodging
The average price of an Airbnb near Wrangell – St. Elias is about $158 a night. Airbnbs in McCarthy run about $185 a night. Click here to book an Airbnb.
There is only one NPS campground in the park. It is along the Nabesna Road and campsites are free. There are private campgrounds along both roads cost is usually $15-25 per night
Common Activities in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
- Mine Tours
Free Activities in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
Wrangell – St. Elias Hiking
There are maintained trails in the Copper Center Area, Kennecott area, and along the McCarthy and Nebesna Road Trail options include:
- Boreal Forest Trail
- Copper River Bluff Trial
- Five-Mile Trail & O’Brien to Haley Creek Trail
- Erie Mine Trail
- Jumbo Mine Trail
- Bonanza Mine Trail
- Root Glacier Trail
- McCarthy Creek Trail
- Caribou Creek Trail
- Rambler Mine Trail
- Skookum Volcano Trail
Paid Activities in Wrangell – St. Elias
Several companies in McCarthy/Kennecott offer guided hikes within the park such as Root Glacier. These Root Glacier hikes include a trip out onto the glacier. There are also options to fly further into Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and day hike in remote areas.
Guided Hikes – Start at $95 per person
Fly In Hikes – Start at $915 per person
Minning is an important part of Wrangell – St. Elias’s history. Most of the park’s infustructure was developed to support the parks mining operations. Most of the mines are abandoned. The largest and most impressive mining operation in the park was Kennecott. Kennecott was a highly profitable copper mine whose operations required a massive mill and the construction of the town of Kennecott. There are guided tour offered of the area that include a visiting the inside of the buildings. Please stay out of other mining areas in the park. There may be open mine shafts and other hidden dangerous.
Mine Tours – Start at $28 per person
There are many glacier-fed rivers in the park. Most are easy floats with minimal rapids and perfect trips for beginners. Trips one day trips to expedition trips where you fly in and head towards the sea.
Rafting Trips – Start at $380 per person
Most of the flightseeing options depart out of McCathy and showcase the vastness of this amazing National Park. This is one park where flight seeing is a must.
Sightseeing Flights – Start at $250 per person
How much does it cost to visit Wrangell – St. Elias National Park?
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
Wrangell – St. Elias is just a little bit too far to day trip from Fairbanks or Anchorage. A bare bones visit would be make the drive into The park and take a scenic drive down one of the park roads and do some hiking. Camp or spend the night at a hotel and then head back.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people overnight trip from Anchorage
- $150 – Car Rental Fee (2 Days)
- $185 / $15 – 1 Night Lodging (Hotel / Camping)
Minimum cost to visit Wrangell – St. Elias for 2 People – $335 (Hotels) / $165 (Camping)
My Recommendations for Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
If you are only going to do one flightseeing tour in the easy-to-access Alaskan National Parks, this is the park to do it. It is hard to get the scope and size of this park without seeing it from the air.
My minimum recommendation for Wrangell is 4 days and 3 nights in the McCarthy area. On the first day, enjoy the scenic drive to McCarthy with some small scenic hikes to stretch your legs. On the second day, do a flightseeing tour and the Kennecott mine tour. On your third day, either hike on your own to Root Glacier or take a guided tour. Depart the following day.
- $555 / $45- 3 Nights Lodging (Hotel / Camping)
- $500 – Flight Seeing Tour
- $56 – Mine Tour
- $225 – Rental Car (4 Days)
Suggested Budget for 4 Day and 3 Nights in Wrangell – St. Elias for two people: $1,336 (Hotels) / $826 (Camping)
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects the Fairweather Mountain Ranger and the associated icefields and waters surrounding the peninsula. Glacier Bay National Park is not accessible from the road system but it can be reached by ferry, boat or air.
Getting to Glacier Bay National Park
Getting to Glacier Bay can be a little bit tricky as the park can’t be reached by the road system. The town of Gustavus is just outside of the park and is the main point of entry to the park.
The Alaska Marine Highway ferry runs between Juneau and Gustavus several times a week. The ferry takes 4-5 hours and round trip tickets $120 per person. Gustavus has an airport and there are scheduled flights from Juneau flights start at $212 per person round trip.
A range of cruise ships visit Glacier Bay National Park as part of their route. These cruise range from budget to luxury to adventure and come at a range of price points.
Cruise to Glacier Bay National Park
Most visitors to Glacier Bay National Park arrive via cruise ship. Cruise length typically range from 5-14 days and on average spend one day in Glacier Bay National Park. Cruises take visitors to a range of places and stop at different ports of call such as Juneau, Haines, Whitter.
Cruise start at $600 per person.
Glacier Bay National Park Lodging
The average price of an Airbnb near Gustavus is about $286 a night. Click here to book an Airbnb.
There is a campground in Bartlett Cove near the park visitor center. This campground is free.
Common Activities in Glacier Bay National Park
- Boat Tours
Free Activities in Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay Hiking
The only maintained trails in Glacier Bay National Park are the short trails in Bartlett Cove area.
- Forest Trail
- Beach Trail
- Tlingit Trail
- Bartlett River Trail
- Bartlett Lake Trail
Paid Activities in Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay Boat Tour
There is a full day cruise of Glacier Bay. This cruise is narrated by an NPS ranged and explores the park looking for wildlife and checking out one of the glacier arms.
Boat Tour – Start at $227 per person
Kayaking can let you get out on the water and explore without the crowds and moderized sounds of a boat. It can be a great way to see and explore the park near Bartlett Cove. Both guided kayak tours and rentals are offered.
Kayak Rentals – Start at $40 per person
Kayak Tour– Start at $95 per person
Flightseeing is available for Glacier Bay National Park but the flights operate out of Haines or Skagway.
Flightseeing Tour – Start at $350 per person
How much does it cost to visit Glacier Bay National Park?
Glacier Bay National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
A bare-bones visit to Glacier Bay National Park is an overnight trip from Juneau. Fly in from Juneau and head to the visitor center. The following day to do some hiking in Bartlett Cove and then head back to Juneau.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people to an overnight trip from Juneau
- $514 – Flight
- $250 / $0 – 1 Night Lodging (Hotel / Camping)
Minimum cost to visit Glacier Bay for 2 People – $764 (Hotels) / $514(Camping)
My Recommendations for Glacier BayNational Park
Glacier Bay is another park when getting out on the water is a must.
My minimum recommendation for Glacier Bay is 3 days and 2 nights. On the first day, fly into Gustavus. On the second day, take the park boat tour. On your third day, pending your return flight, enjoy some hiking.
- $500 / $0 – 2 Nights Lodging (Hotel / Camping)
- $554 – Boat Tour Tour
- $514 – Flight
Suggested Budget for 3 Day and 2 Nights in Glacier Bay for two people: $1,568 (Hotels) / $1068 (Camping)
Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park protects the rainforests along the coastline of Cook Inlet, a series of glaciers, glacial lakes, a range of waterways, and two volcanoes. Like its sister park, Katmai, Lake Clark is completely off the road system. While the park has coastline along the Cook Inlet, access can be limited due to tides and weather. Most visitors arrive via airplane into Port Alsworth.
Getting to Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park is completely off the road system and is only really accessible via air taxis. There are a few charter operations near Homer or Kodiak that will offer charters to the Cook Inlet shoreline but they are limited by weather and its a rough crossing. Most visitors will arrive in Port Alsworth on the shores of Lake Clark, but visitors can pretty much land anywhere that is suitable unless otherwise restricted.
Flights to Port Alsworth from Anchorage – Starting at $540 (includes lunch)
Lake Clark National Park Lodging
The average price of an Airbnb in Port Alsworth is about $279 a night. Click here to book an Airbnb.
The Farm Lodge offers accommodations in the Port Alsworth. They offer all-inclusive packages that include transportation and don’t break out the accommodation prices.
Camping is available near Port Alsworth from Tulchina Adventures. These sites cost $30 a night.
Common Activities in Lake Clark National Park
- Bear Viewing
- Dick Proenneke Cabin
- River Rafting
Free Activities in Lake Clark National Park
- Bear Viewing
Lake Clark Hiking
There are a couple of maintained trails in Lake Clark National Park. Most of these trails can be reached from Port Alsworth.
- Tanalian Falls and Kontrashibuna Lake
- Beaver Pond Trail
- Tanalian Mountain
Paid Activities in Lake Clark
Seeing the bears in Lake Clark is free. Getting to where the bears like to feed is the real cost. Tours can be arranged from Ancorage and Port Alsworth. Common bear viewing spots are Chinitna Bay, Silver Salmon Creek and Crescent Lake.
Bear Viewing Tour – Start at $795 per person
You can kayak or canoe on any one of Lake Clark’s lakes. Unless you have the small packable kayak’s, you are better off renting gear once you arrive in the park. Trip options range from day paddles from Port Alsworth to multi-day expeditions. You can design the trip that fits your wants.
Kayak Rentals – Start at $65 per person
Flightseeing is a great way to check out Lake Clarks many spectacular lakes. Planes are welcome to land anywhere that is suitable. These trip often include a stop at Dick Proenneke Cabin which was made famous by the book One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey.
Flight Seeing Tour – Start at $795 per person
How much does it cost to visit Lake Clark National Park?
Lake Clark National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
Lake Clark is a day trip from Anchorage. For a bare-bones trip fly into Port Alsworth and hike out to Tanalian Falls and Kontrashibuna Lake then head back to Anchorage.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people to day trip from Anchorage
- $1,080 – Flight to Lake Clark (2 Days)
Minimum cost to visit Lake Clark for 2 People – $1,080
My Recommendations for Lake Clark National Park (and Katmai National Park)
Yes, you can visit Lake Clark and do some activities out of Port Alsworth but there is so much more to this park. You really need to get up in the air and explore more of this park than just the little bit you’ll see as you fly in. So this is my splurge park where I suggest going a little bit big on the budget, but you get two National Parks, four scenic flights. all meals, plus a hotel room for that price from the Farm Lodge so its not a bad deal.
This trip is 4 days and 3 nights. On the first day, you’ll take an early morning flight into Lake Clark and will have the afternoon to hike on your own. The next day will be a Floatplane tour of Lake Clark with a stop at Dick Proennek’s cabin and get to see volcanos, glaciers, and the tundra. On day three, fly to Brooks Camp for a day of bear watching. On the flight back, do a scenic flight-see over the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. You will depart in the morning on day 4.
- $8,120 – Farm Lodge Package
Suggested Budget for 4 Day and 3 Nights in Lake Clark and Katmai for two people: $8120
Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park is really only famous for one thing, bears. There is actually a lot of different things to do in this national park but most people are here for the bears. Katmai is completely off the road system. The only way into the park is via a seaplane or boat. The main entry city for Katmai is King Salmon.
For this cost breakdown, we are assuming you will be heading into Brooks Camp and Brooks Falls. Because when you say Katmai that is what everything thinks of and is sort of a requirement to visit Brooks Falls (unless you are my mother who flew to Brooks Camp and didn’t bother to hike out to the fall. I will give her crap about this FOREVER).
Getting to Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park is completely off the road system and is only accessible via air taxis or boat.
There are no runways in Katmai so all flights into the park are done with floatplanes or small aircraft that can land on the tundra. These flights can be Dillingham, Homer, King Salmon, Kodiak, and other nearby Alaska towns and villages. Visitors coming from Anchorage will likely fly on a regularly scheduled flight from Anchorage to King Salmon then switch to a seaplane to head into the park.
Flights to Katmai/Brooks Camp from:
- Anchorage – Starting $725 round trip per person
- King Salmon – $290 round trip per person
- Homer – Starting at $795 round trip per person
There is a water taxi from King Salmon to Brooks Camp. The water taxi cost $195 round trip or $845 with airfare from Anchorage.
Katmai National Park Lodging
Katmai National Park lodging is expensive. The Brooks Lodge is currently $899 a night and reservations are done by lottery the year before so if you’d like to stay at the lodge in 2024 you need to be ready to book in January 2023. There are other lodges in the park have similar rates but more geared towards fishing or longer stays.
Brooks Camp Campground cost $12 a night per person.
The average price of a hotel in King Salmon is $300 a night. Camping may be available but I couldn’t find much on this.
Common Activities in Katmai National Park
- Bear Viewing
- Bus Tour
Free Activities in Katmai National Park
Bear Viewing is why most people come to Katmai. There are roughly 2,200 Alaskan Brown Bears in the park and they are known to cognate in several ears to feed. Brooks Camp is the best known of the bear watching areas but visitors may want to check out Hallo Bay, Geographic Harbor, Swikshak Lagoon, or Moraine Creek. A guide isn’t required to bear watching and once you are in the park the bear viewing is free.
There are only 4 miles of maintained trail in Katmai National Park. The rest of the park is open to backcountry hiking or backpacking.
Fishing is a sort of free activity in Katmai National Park as long as you have an Alaska fishing license. There are strict fishing regulations inside the park and certain areas are off-limits. These regulations are for your safety and for the protection of the bears. There are guided fishing options and lodges focused on fishing if that is something you’d like to do.
Paid Activities in Katmai
Katmai National Park has 1 road. The road connects Brooks Camp with the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is the site of the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. This massive volcanic eruption darken most of the northern hemisphere. The fissured floor of this valley is said to have had ringlets of smoking curing up from the valley floor. The is a daily bus tour that takes visitors to this valley.
Bus tour – $96 per person
If you fly to King Salmon you will get to see some of Katami from the air but to really see the park from the air flightseeing tours can be arranged to do a flying tour of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
Flightseeing tour – Start at $225 per person
How much does it cost to visit Katmai National Park?
Katmai National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
Katmai is a day trip from Anchorage. For a bare-bones trip fly into Brooks Falls and do some bear watching before heading back to Anchorage.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people to day trip from Anchorage
- $1,450 – Flight to Brooks Camp
Minimum cost to visit Katmai for 2 People – $1,450
My Recommendations for Katmai National Park
My formal recommendation for Katmai National Park do a combined visit of Katmai and Lake Clark and I break down the pricing of that under Lake Clark but if you are visiting Katmai independently of Lake Clark, My minimum recommendation for Katmai is 3 days and 2 nights. On the first day, fly from Anchorage to King Salmon and spend the night in King Salmon. On the next day, take an early flight to Brooks Camp and spend the day viewing the bears. You’ll have a couple of hours before the day trip from Anchorage crowds arrives. Return to King Salmon and spend the night. Depart on the third day.
You could possibly fly into Brooks Camp on the first day and either camp or stay at the lodge.
- $600 / $60 – 2 Nights Lodging (King Salmon Hotel / Camping in Books)
- $1,450 – Flight to Brooks Camp
Suggested Budget for 4 Day and 3 Nights in Katmai for two people: $2050 (Hotels) / $1510 (Camping)
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park is the northernmost National Park in the Untied States and lies entirely above the Arctic Circle. Gates is part of the largest contiguous wilderness when combined with the Noatak National Preserve. This park is a vast and undeveloped wilderness. There are no roads, trails or established campsites in the park. The only way to access the park is by foot or air taxi.
Getting to Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park is not attached to the road system. The eastern most park boundary is about five miles from Dalton Highway town of Weisman but there is no trail and unless you are skilled in Alaska outdoor survival, this isn’t a hike you should attempt.
Regular air service is offered to Anaktuvuk Pass from Fairbanks as well as guided tours to Anaktuvuk Pass. Flights are $396 per person and the guided tour is $599 a person. Flights into other sections of Gates of the Arctic are all charter flights and start at $2,500 for the plane. Planes used in Gates of the Arctic landing typically have a weight capacity of 800lbs so roughly 4 adults.
There are flightseeing tours from Coldfoot into the park for $350.
Gates of the Arctic National Park Lodging
The is no lodging in Gates of the Arctic National Park. If you wish to spend the night, you will be camping and camping is free.
Outside of the park your only real option is to stay in Bettles. The Bettles Lodge offers rooms for $250 a night
Common Activities in Gates of the Arctic National Park
- Hiking / Backpacking
Free Activities in Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic Hiking / Backpacking
There are no official trails in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Visitors to the park can hike where ever they would like in the park. A guide isn’t required to hike in Gates but it is recommended if you aren’t experienced at land navigation. The cost to hike in the park is free once you get there.
Paid Activities in Gates of the Arctic National Park
The Noatak River through Gates is a great river for a multi-day rafting trip.
Rafting tours – Start at $5,000
Just getting to Gates of the Arctic National Park will be a scenic flight.
Flightseeing tour – Start at $350 per person
How much does it cost to visit Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
Day trips to Gates of the Arctic can be arranged from Coldfoot. This bare-bones trip has you fly past Boreal Mountain and Frigid Crags and landing on a lake within the park for a short hike. This tour is through Coyote Air Service.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for two people to day trip from Coldfoot
- $700 – Flightseeing tour with landing in Coldfoot
Minimum cost to visit Gates of the Arctic for 2 People – $700
Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park is one of the most interesting places in Alaska. The park is home to three dune fields. These dunes are the largest active Arctic dune field in North America. Beyond the dunes, the park is home to the Kobuk River valley and the Baird Mountains. The park is a great place to see caribou migrations. This park is a vast and undeveloped wilderness. There are no roads, trails or established campsites in the park. The only way to access the park is by foot or air taxi.
Getting to Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park is not attached to the road system. The only way into the park is to fly in. As there are no towns in the park and no regular air service. The only way into the park is a charter flight. These flights usually come out of Bettle or Kotzebue. start at $1,500 for the plane. Planes used in Kobuk Valley landing typically have a weight capacity of 800 lbs so roughly 4 adults.
Kobuk Valley National Park Lodging
The is no lodging in Kobuk Valley National Park. If you wish to spend the night, you will be camping and camping is free.
Outside of the park your only real option is to stay in Bettles or Kotzebue.
The Bettles Lodge offers rooms for $250 a night.
The average price of an Airbnb in Kotzebue is about $155 a night. Click here to book an Airbnb.
Common Activities in Kobuk Valley National Park
- Hiking / Backpacking
Free Activities in Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley Hiking / Backpacking
There are no official trails in Kobuk Valley National Park. Visitors to the park can hike where ever they would like in the park. A guide isn’t required to hike in Kobuk but it is recommended if you aren’t experienced at land navigation. The cost to hike in the park is free once you get there.
Paid Activities in Kobuk Valley National Park
Just getting to Kobuk Valley National Park will be a scenic flight. These flights often have a fixed cost for the plane and many of the flight operators keep a list of people looking to visit the park to help combine groups to make the trip more affordable.
Flightseeing tour – Start at $2,500 per plane
How much does it cost to visit Kobuk Valley National Park?
Kobuk Valley National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
Day trips to Kobuk Valley can be arranged from Kotzebue or Bettles. This bare-bones trip has you fly into Kobuk Valley National Park. You will land in the park and have a chance to take a few pictures before returning. These flights often have a fixed cost for the plane and many of the flight operators keep a list of people looking to visit the park to help combine groups to make the trip more affordable.
Minimum Cost Breakdown for a day trip from Kotzebue
- $2,500 – Flight and landing in the park
Minimum cost to visit Kobuk Valley for a plane – $2,500
My Recommendations for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Kobuk Valley National Park
My minimum recommendation for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Kobuk Valley National Park is that you do these two parks together. They are close together and if you are making the effort to visit one, doing the other makes sense. Bettles Lodge has a 3 day and 2 night National Park collector package that includes both parks, lodging, and food plus a boat trip and village tour.
- $5,080 – Bettles Lodge National Park Collector Package
Suggested Budget for 3 Day and 2 Nights in Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley for two people: $5,080
What Have People Spend visiting Alaska’s National Parks?
Jennifer, founder of National Park Obsessed
If COVID hadn’t have happened, I would have visited the last of my Alaska National Parks in 2020. But I did have the trip fully planned. I haven’t kept exact records of all my costs but I have estimated that I spent/planned to spend about $19,000 visiting Alaska National Parks as a mostly solo traveler. The three biggest costs for my trip at the $6,700 7-day backpacking trip in Kobuk and Gates, $4,500 3-Day custom itinerary at Lake Clark, and $4,800 7-Day small boat cruise to Glacier Bay.
I have been to Alaska 4 times including the 2020 cruise attempt but I only consider 3 of those trips Alaska National Park trips. The first trip was a one and a week trip for the Denali Road Lottery, a Kenai Fjords boat tour, and the Lake Clark adventure. My second trip was when I was working in Denali and I stopped and visited Wrangell – St. Elias on my way home. My third trip will be the big one if it goes as planned will be 4 weeks and Katmai, Gates, Kobuk, and Glacier Bay.
Linda is a full-time engineer from Malaysia who makes the most of her vacation and weekend travel. She discovered America’s National Park while in college and made it a goal to visit them all.
Linda estimates she spent about $6,700 visiting the Alaska National Parks. She traveled mostly solo but sometimes meet up with friends. Her trips tended to be short 2-3 day visitors and unusually included some time of big activity such as a boat tour or a scenic flight.
You can follow Linda’s adventures on Instagram at TheBucketListTraveler.
Marianne Buth Modl
Marianne Buth Modl is an independent mostly solo traveler over 2 weeks she visited 8 of Alaska’s National Park. She spent about $3,400 visiting the parks. She was solo for all but Glacier Bay and Wrangell which she visited as part of a cruise with her family. Her park visits were mostly day trips.
Jerry Hickenbottom is an independent explorer who did a 2 week trip in 2019 to 7 of Alaska’s National Parks. He spent about $12,000 visiting the parks and getting to Alaska. He traveled with his wife for the non-bush plane parks. He spent 1 day in Kenai, then did overnight trips to Katmai and Lake Clark. Then did 3 nights in Wrangell before heading to Bettles and doing an all-day flight tour to Gates and Kobuk. On the way back he stopped in Denali.
Mikah Meyers of Outdoor Safe Space
Mikah Meyers spent 2016-2019 road tripping through all of America’s National Park. Mikah is a travel journalist, LGBTQ rights advocate, and the founder of Outdoor Safe space.
He drove his van up to Alaska and then visited Alaska National Park. While in Alaska he visited more than just the National Parks, he hit all the other NPS units in the state. He estimates that he spend about $30,000 while in Alaska with about $12,000 being for National Parks. He spent about 5 days per National Park.
You can follow Mikah’s other adventures on Instagram at MikahMeyers.
If you have been to all the Alaska National Park and would like to share how much you spent, please comment below or send me an email at Jennifer@NationalParkObsessed.com and I will include you in this section.
Final Thoughts on the Cost to visit Alaska’s National Park
Getting to Alaska’s National Park isn’t the cheapest or easiest to plan adventure but when you visit these parks, you are visiting a landscape that only a handful of people have got to see and explore. If you are planning to visit all the US National Park, visiting these National Parks is a necessary evil. I hope this guide has helped you get an idea of what is required to visit these National Parks. If you’d like help planning a visit to these National Parks, click here for my custom itinerary service.