There is peace of mind knowing you can retreat to a safe, dry cabin at the end of a long day. In the summertime, you can avoid midnight surprises by wandering bears. In the wintertime, find warmth and comfort after biking through the snow with all of your gear packed on.
I always have an incredible time with my friends when we stay at public use cabins. So, here’s how you can have an incredible time too when you reserve a public use cabin in Alaska.
How to Reserve Public Use Cabins in Alaska
What is a Public Use Cabin?
Public use cabins are often referred to as rugged and rustic. They’re the next step up from sleeping in a tent in the woods and a step down from the luxury of a hotel. Maybe two steps. These bare-boned cabins typically have no running water, no mattresses, and an outhouse in place of a normal toilet.
I say typically because some cabins are insanely outfitted, like the newly-build Arctic Valley Cabin.
The choices for cabins are endless. Some cabins you can drive up to and some are only accessible by air or water. Most cabins need to be reserved in advance and some cabins are available on a “first-come, first served” basis.
Cabins vary in price from $50-$85 a night and typically sleep anywhere from 4 to 8 people. There are a few larger cabins. Dolly Varden Cabin sleeps 12 people and Serenity Falls Hut sleeps 13 people, both are perfect for a group adventure.
Where Are Alaska State Parks Public Use Cabins?
Alaska State Parks offers 84 cabins and eight ice huts across the state of Alaska. You can find cabin descriptions and availability in the different areas below on the Alaska State Parks site.
When Are Public Use Cabins Available to Use?
Most public use cabins are available to use year-round although certain times of the year make traveling to these cabins risky.
Always be prepared for all types of weather. Winter trips can be interrupted by avalanche dangers, icy roads, or even thin ice.
How Do You Get to Public Use Cabins?
When it comes to getting to and from a public use cabin, you’re on your own. This is what makes every experience unique and just super fun.
Access cabins by plane, boat, car, trail or a combination of these. You can trek with all of your gear or pack it all onto a fat bike. Ski in or paddle across a lake. Hop on a train to get in and pack-raft down a river on your way out.
With the amount of cabins available all around the state of Alaska, the options are never-ending. Always double-check the location of the cabin to ensure you have the means to access the cabin you reserve.
What to Pack For a Public Use Cabin
With most cabins being rustic, you’ll find primitive amenities, such as wooden bunks or sleeping platforms without mattresses, heat stoves or wood burning stoves for heating, table and chairs, and an outhouse.
You have to bring the main essentials: your own food, cook stove and cooking utensils, water, and bedding.
Be prepared to “rough it” but know that sleeping in a public use cabin means you can leave behind your tent. Consider replacing the weight of the tent you leave behind with other gear that can make your cabin cozy AF. I’m talking lights, down booties, wireless speaker, an entire Bota Box, and all the snacks you can carry.
During the winter, you won’t regret hauling some ready-to-burn firewood.
How to Reserve a Public Use Cabin in Alaska
Get ready for some friendly competition. The popularity of Alaska State Parks Public Use Cabins have increased in popularity over the last few years.
Alaska residents can book cabins seven months in advance. If you are a non-resident, you can only book cabins six months in advance.
Alaska State Parks public use cabin reservations usually can only be made through ReserveAmerica.com.
Alaska State Parks recently launched an updated reservation system for only Alaska! The new website will include the ability to book Serenity Falls Hut online… finally.
Here are the simple steps you can follow to reserve a public use cabin on Reserve America:
- On the new Alaska Reserve America site, click the “Make Reservations” tab;
- Change the drop-down for ‘Interested in’ to ‘Camping & Lodging’;
- Change the drop-down for ‘Looking for’ to ‘Cabins or lodgings’;
- Choose your arrival date;
- Add a length of stay greater than 1;
- Click on the ‘Search’ button.
In the search results, you can view as list or view as map, which is a great feature if you’re looking for a cabin in a specific area.
When you find a cabin you want to reserve, click on the ‘Check Availability’ button. Scroll down to find more information on each cabin, including a map, how to get there, and cabin availability.
You can stay from 3 to 7 consecutive nights depending on the cabin.
Read each description carefully to understand what is provided at the cabin and what you’ll need to pack in with you to have a super awesome time.
Once you finish your reservation, an email will be sent with your confirmation and permit. Be sure to have your permit available when you are occupying the cabin. You can print it out or simply know where to find it in your inbox (this is what I do).
Congratulations on booking a public use cabin in Alaska! Hiking to public use cabins make for some of my favorite adventures so you’re in for a really, really good time.
Tips & Tricks
Alaska is unpredictable. You can experience rain, snow, and clear skies in the same day. So before you head out, check in with the Alaska State Parks offices for updated conditions.
You should also plan on bringing extra food and the proper equipment to stay safe in the backcountry. And, as always, leave no trace! Make sure to take responsibility for everything you pack in to keep Alaska just as wild as you found it.
Huts & Yurts
If you’re looking for something a bit different, reserve a yurt or hut. There are huts and yurts located around the state of Alaska. Reservations are made outside of Reserve America.
Alaskan Yurt Rentals in Kachemak Bay. Take a quick boat ride from Homer across Kachemak Bay to the yurts in Kachemak Bay State Park. There are a ton of hiking trails and a lot of beautiful places for sea kayaking.
Manitoba Huts. Get off the grid and reserve a private yurt. This is a great winter option for backcountry skiers. Located south of Anchorage at Milepost 48.
Mountaineering Club of Alaska Hut System. You can find eight public use huts in remote locations throughout the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains. These huts are “first-come, first-served” with no reservations necessary. These huts are free to use, however, consider signing up for a yearly membership for only $20. These fees help cover maintenance costs.
Spencer Bench Cabin. Summer reservations for this cabin must be booked through Alaska Railroad. It’s a unique option because summer access is by train to the Spencer Glacier whistle stop, followed by a 2.4 mile hike.
Alaska Cabin Cancellations Facebook Group. If you weren’t able to get the cabin of your dreams, you may be in luck. There’s a Facebook Group dedicated to re-selling cabins that need to be cancelled.
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Have any questions about Alaska public use cabins? Leave them in the comments below!