Logo bar of the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers which are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok and Ketchikan
A large momma polar bear and her two cubs stand on the bare hurt ground with the ocean in the background.
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Statewide FAQs

For more location specific questions regarding one of the four Alaska Public Lands Information Centers, you can visit each center's own FAQs page:

Anchorage FAQs
Fairbanks FAQs
Ketchikan FAQs
Tok FAQs

Interesting Facts About Alaska:

  • Alaska is 596,412 sq. miles... that's 1/5 the size of the rest of the United States.
  • Alaska's flag consists of eight gold stars (The Big Dipper and the North Star) on a field of blue. It was designed by a seventh grade student named Benny Benson in 1926.
  • Alaska has the highest mountain in North America (Mt. McKinley - 20,320 ft.) 
  • Alaska has more coastline than than the rest of the United States combined (33,904 Miles) 
  • Alaska has the longest salmon run in the world... 2,000 miles up the Yukon River.
  • Alaska's state bird is the willow ptarmigan. Its feathers turn from brown in the summer to white in the winter.
  • Alaska has the only state capitol that isn't accessible by road (Juneau).
  • Alaska's official state sport is dog mushing.
  • Alaska has the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world... more than 3,500 bald eagles come to the Chilkat River, north of Haines, in the fall and winter to feed on the late salmon runs. 
  • Alaska's state flower is the forget-me-not.
  • Many animals that are endangered elsewhere live in abundance in Alaska, such as the bald eagle, grizzly bear, humpback whale, wolf, and more.
  • Alaska had the largest oil strike in history (Prudhoe Bay).
  • Alaska has Northern Lights, 40-foot tides, active volcanoes, frequent earthquakes, 3 million lakes, half of the world's glaciers, tundra, rain forests, mukluks, totems, potlatches, migratory whales, fish wheels, and 27 species of mosquitoes!
  • Alaska's state motto is "North to the Future."

Five men in heavy coats work to load supplies onto a small government jet while snow and wind limit visibility. An airplane hangar and another small jet can be seen in the background.
Alaska's weather can pose unique challenges for travelers. Here NOAA researchers fight wind and snow to load their supplies onto a plane.

What is Alaska's weather like?
The weather in Alaska can vary greatly depending on latitude, altitude, proximity to water and time of year. Alaska may be known best for its cold weather but certain regions of Alaska, especially the interior, can see large seasonal temperature ranges. In fact the record cold temperature for the state (-80oF) and the record warm temperature for the state (100oF) were both recorded in the interior of Alaska. From the frequent storms of the Aleutian chain to the balmy summer days of the interior to the seemingly constant rain of the southeast, Alaska's weather is not easily described in a paragraph. Ultimately, each individual community or area that you plan on visiting should really be assessed independently. Always be prepared for poor weather conditions wherever you travel in the state, especially if you plan on going into the backcountry. For current weather advisories in Alaska visit the National Weather Service's Alaska Webpage at:

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A wide shot of a low sunrise over the ocean. Scattered white clouds obstruct the light.
USGS/Helen Gibbons
The sun rises over the ocean near Barrow, Alaska.

What time zone is Alaska in?
Since 1983, most of Alaska and 90% of its people set their watches (or cellphones) to Alaska Standard Time which is one hour less than Pacific Time or nine hours less than UTC (8 hours less during Daylight Saving Time). There are a few areas in the Aleutian Island Chain however that are part of the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone and are therefore one hour behind Alaska Standard Time.

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A tiny village clings to the side of a steep, snow covered hill which meets abruptly with the ocean. This is Diomede Village on Little Diomede Island
Diomede village on Little Diomede Island has a very good view of Russia. 

How close is Alaska to Russia?
The narrowest distance between mainland Russia and mainland Alaska is approximately 55 miles. However in the body of water between Alaska and Russia, known as the Bering Strait, there lies two small islands known as Big Diomede and Little Diomede. Interestingly enough, Big Diomede is owned by Russia while Little Diomede is owned by the US. The stretch of water between these two islands is only about 2.5 miles wide and actually freezes over during the winter so you could technically walk from the US to Russia on this seasonal sea ice.  

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A group of warmly dressed visitors stand on the bow of small cruise boat, called the Tanaina, as it approaches the face of a large tidewater glacier.
NPS/Kent Miller
Many privately operated cruise ship companies partner with the National Parks in order to give visitors a unique glacier experience. These visitors are getting a close up view of a tidewater glacier in Kenai Fjords NP.

Does it cost money to visit public lands in Alaska?
Some of Alaska's public lands do have entrance fees and those fee amounts can usually be found on the website of each individual park or refuge that you're interested in visiting. There are also some fees associated with camping, cabin rental, concessionaires, and tours. Its also worth considering the cost of reaching the park, especially if you're planning a trip to one of the more remote public land units in Alaska where the only access option may be private air charters. If interested in other special use activities such as mountaineering or commercial filming, special use permits may need to be acquired as well. 

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An image of the America the Beautiful annual federal lands pass. This card shows a young man in shorts and a t-shirt jumping wildly above a mountain trail.
The America the Beautiful Pass is a great deal if you are a frequent visitor of National Parks and other federal lands. 

Is there an annual pass I can get if I plan on visiting multiple public lands?
If you're planning to visit more than one National Park this year of if you just plan on visiting your favorite National Park several times, there are a few options available to you. There are several types of America the Beautiful passes which grant the pass holder access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites nationwide including Alaska's National Parks. There is also an annual parking pass available for Alaska State Parks. Both the America the Beautiful Pass and the Alaska State Parking Pass are available for purchase at each of the four Alaska Public Lands Information Centers. Certain individual Parks, such as Denali National Park and Preserve, also offer their own annual passes for visitors planning on visiting that Park several times throughout the year.
For more information about the America the Beautiful annual passes visit:
For more information about the Alaska State Park annual parking pass visit:

For more information about annual passes offered by an individual National Park, visit that Park's website.

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Four mountaineers carry large duffle bags toward a small, red, single engine ski plane which has landed on a glacier in a rugged mountain valley.
NPS/Kent Miller
Many of Alaska's public lands can only be accessed by air.

Can I drive to the public lands in Alaska?
Part of the beauty of Alaska is in the vast stretches of undeveloped land that remain extremely remote and relatively untouched. This is why Alaska has so many public lands that have been set aside for current and future generations to enjoy. The relatively small road system of Alaska however leaves many of these public lands inaccessible by car. In fact, of the 17 National Park units in Alaska, you can drive to only 6 of them (one by ferry) and of the 16 National Wildlife Refuges in the state, only 2 are road accessible. Those public land units not accessible by road are usually reached by air.

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A man in winter weather gear cross country skis across a frozen lake. The snow is pristine except for his tracks. Large white mountains and a blue sky are in the background.
Visitors can access miles of backcountry in Denali National Park and Preserve with cross country skis.

Are Alaska's public lands only open during the summer?
During the winter months many of the public lands in Alaska have seasonal road and facility closures and do not offer concessions. However, the parks themselves are usually still open for you to experience and winter recreational opportunities are plentiful. Certain parks, such as Denali NP&P, still offer the occasional guided interpretive hike, and many parks have groomed and ungroomed trails open to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even dog-sledding. Be sure and check for information about closures and openings on the website of the park you're interested in before venturing out to enjoy the snow.

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Image of an America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass. This card shows a New England style lighthouse on the edge of a rocky cliff with a beautiful sunset in the background.
If you volunteer more than 250 hours in a calendar year you can earn an America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass.

How do I volunteer on public lands in Alaska?
If you're interested in volunteering on one of the many public land units in Alaska, visit our Volunteer page for more information. There you will learn what opportunities await, which partner agencies are seeking volunteers and what the process is for applying to become a volunteer. The volunteer experience can be very rewarding and we would be excited to hear from you.

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The mystical green lights of the aurora borealis swirl high above snow covered mountains, a spruce forest and a frozen lake.
Alaska's long winter nights offer a treat in the form of the Aurora Borealis.

Is it dark all winter long in Alaska?
Alaska's northern location means that Alaska experiences greater seasonal changes in the amount of daily sunlight it receives compared to regions closer to the equator. That beautiful summer that Alaska experiences where the sun never quite seems to set is matched by the long winter with its periods of dark that seem never to end. The amount of daily sunlight received by certain communities in Alaska can vary quite drastically as you go from Ketchikan in southeast Alaska to Barrow which lies at the northern tip of Alaska. During the winter for example, Ketchikan will experience days with as little as 6 hours of daylight around their winter soltice (20-21 Dec). Barrow however will not just get short days in winter, the city actually experiences over two months of no sun at all. Every year though, the days eventually grow longer as spring returns until Alaska is once again the land of the midnight sun.

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A distant shot of a silty, grey, braided river in a mountain valley. In the foreground are green hills. In the background are two large, rocky mountains covered in patches of snow.
Alaska DNR
A remote cabin site near the Kuskokwim River.

Can I get free land in Alaska?
The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed for pioneering folks to gain ownership of undeveloped land in the American west and later Alaska. However, the Homestead Act was repealed in 1976, and although there was an extension for homesteading in Alaska, that extension period ended in 1986. Today, federal and state agencies in Alaska do not offer free land. The State of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources however does have a Public Land Sale program and some other organizations in Alaska may occasionally offer land for sale to private citizens.

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ADFG/Larry Aumiller
The lucky few who receive permits to the  sanctuary may get to view a sow and her cubs enjoying an afternoon at the falls.

How do I get a permit to visit the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary?
A visit to the road-less McNeil River State Game Sanctuary offers one of the best wildilfe viewing opportunities in the world. A large number of brown bears gather at the McNeil River Falls each summer to feed on the plentiful salmon found there. This annual event allows visitors to travel in small guide-led groups to the falls and view and photograph the bears from relatively close distances. The key to keeping the relationship at the falls between humans and bears a neutral and safe relationship has been strict regulations that govern the number of visitors allowed to the area each day and how food is handled by these visitors. To restrict the number of visitors, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game implemented a lottery permit system that allows the winners of a permit to visit the falls for a 4 day period in the summer. You can learn more about applying for a permit at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge web page.

Close up image of the striated and curving rock layers of Calico Bluff. Did You Know?
Millions of years old bedrock and stratification are exposed all along the Yukon River in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, both in massive cliff faces and bedrock elevated above the surface of the river.