Steese National Conservation Area is largely undeveloped with no campgrounds and only a few developed access points.
For backpackers on the 27-mile Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail, two emergency trail shelters located approximately 10 miles from each trailhead are available on a first-come basis.
To protect resources, camping is limited to 10 days in one spot and is prohibited in the area’s two Research Natural Areas: Mount Prindle and Big Windy Hot Springs.
Popular activities in the summer include hiking and backpacking, hunting and wildlife viewing, bird-watching, watching the midnight sun, canoeing and rafting, fishing, and rock climbing. Most rock-climbing occurs on Mount Prindle, located within the Mount Prindle Research Natural Area. This area is closed to motor vehicles but can be reached on foot from Nome Creek valley in the White Mountains National Recreation Area or from Zephyr Creek, a tributary to Faith Creek.
In winter the Steese NCA provides solitude and untouched scenery to those intrepid travelers who explore it by ski, snowshoe, dog-sled, or snowmobile. Sled dog racers in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race traverse the western corner of the South Unit each February.
Off-Highway Vehicles Use
Off-highway vehicle limitations vary for winter and summer seasons.
For each season, trail and area designations include size limitations for off-highway vehicles.
- Up to 1,000 pounds curb weight and up to 50 inches wide
- Up to 1,500 pounds curb weight and up to 64 inches wide
See the Alaska Travel Management Interactive Map for detailed information about trails and areas open to the operation of off-highway vehicles. Use the layers menu to toggle between winter and summer travel limitations.
Winter season: October 15 – April 30
During the winter season, when there is adequate snow depth, the entire conservation area is open to the use of snowmobiles, not to exceed 1,000 pounds curb weight and 50” and or less in width, except the Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail, which remains closed year-round to motorized use.
The BLM does not maintain any winter trails in the Steese NCA, so visitors must be prepared for challenging riding conditions that may include drifted snow, poor visibility, extreme cold, and thin ice on frozen rivers and streams.
Summer season: May 1 - October 14
During the summer, a few primitive 4x4 roads within the Steese NCA are open to all modes of motorized travel: Harrison Creek - Portage Creek Road and Fryingpan Creek Road. Off-highway vehicle travel is strictly on designated routes unless in areas designated open to cross-country travel.
Caution: In October 2022, user made routes became part of Steese NCA’s designated trail network. Many designated trails may be very rough or challenging to locate. Off-highway vehicle use may be suitable only for advanced riders. We appreciate your patience as we work on trail improvements and signage.
Under certain conditions, the use of off-highway vehicles for the retrieval of legally harvested big game animals is allowed within designated game retrieval areas in the Steese National Conservation Area. To retrieve game, hunters may use up to 3 OHVs weighing up to 1,000 pounds curb weight or 1 OHV up to 1,500 pounds curb weight. Individuals must have a completed harvest ticket in possession. Searching to locate downed animals is not considered game retrieval. OHVs may not be more than one mile from the designated trail during retrieval of big game. Travel off the designated trails for game retrieval is allowed only within 24 hours of legal harvest. Game retrieval is not allowed in areas designated “No Summer Use of OHVs,” including but not limited to Birch Creek National Wild and Scenic River corridor. Game retrieval areas include:
- The portion of the south Steese unit that lies north of the Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River Corridor and is accessed from the Fryingpan Creek Road and Harrison-Portage Creek Loop.
- The BLM routes along the boundary of the north Steese unit that repeatedly cross from state to federal land that are open to OHVs weighing up to 1500 pounds curb weight and up to 64 inches width. This does not include the non- motorized Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail.